Nexa Center Annual Report 2022

Presented in 2022 during the Board of Trustees meeting of the Nexa Center
This report was mainly curated by Stefano Boldi, Giacomo Conti, Giovanni Garifo and Anita Botta, with the contributions of the Nexa Staff, Directors and Community.
PDF icon annual_report_2022.pdf2.78 MB
June 2022

The annual report is available in PDF format.


‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎Growing inequalities, democracy in crisis, climate change, COVID-19 and now outright war in a country 700 km away from Italy’s eastern border (not to mention the war - still ongoing - that started in Lybia, 450 km from Sicily, in 2012), with a corresponding, unprecedented wave of military spending in many countries: in this context it is impossible not to hear the hinges of history squeak. After 30 years, the second globalization age is ending and something rather new, in large part unpredictable but certainly worrisome is taking its place.

‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎This highly troubling scenario inevitably has been affecting our thinking at the Nexa Center. Just like everyone else we are concerned about the future (when was the last time that the spectre of nuclear war was in the news?), but as Nexians we also focus on the role (actual and potential) of digital technologies regarding the many challenges of our times. Right now we have many more questions than answers, many more doubts than certainties, but we consider it normal: if you are in the middle of a storm, in fact, visibility is necessarily limited. Therefore, while we continue to strive to understand the big picture, we also want to make sure that the day-to-day activities of the center may continue unimpeded and fruitfully. Life must goes on, as they say, today perhaps ever more than before.

‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎In this regard, we would like to start by citing two EU-funded projects in which Nexa is involved: the StrategyHack project, which aims to offer higher education institutions innovative methodologies based on new technologies to improve their teaching, management and delivery of services, and the CLIKC project, an ERASMUS+ project that aims at the development of a new adaptive learning platform.

‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎Regarding the community, this past year Nexa has welcomed four new members: two Faculty Fellows, Giovanni Leghissa, associate professor at the Department of Philosophy and Educational Sciences at the University of Turin, and Luca Peyron, a catholic priest graduated in Law and in Pastoral Theology, interested in digital theology; two Fellows, Giuseppe Futia, Senior Data Scientist at GraphAware Srl and alumnus of Nexa Center, and Francesco Ruggiero, teacher, writer and alumnus of Nexa Center. The appointment of the four new members was announced during the 13th Nexa Annual Conference, which was held on November 30, on the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the center. This anniversary was also an opportunity for the Nexa Center to evaluate the work done since 2006, highlighting its strengths and weaknesses, successes, failures, methodologies, priorities and goals. The evaluation continued during two other meetings, held on December 2021 and May 2022, and it is still ongoing.

‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎Nexa, mainly via Prof. De Martin’s role as Vice Rector, has continued to influence the Politecnico at large by strengthening the role of humanities and social sciences in engineering. Besides Biennale Tecnologia (the major cultural initiative on technology and society inaugurated in 2019 and co-curated by Juan Carlos De Martin and Luca De Biase), during the past year the Politecnico has launched two additional important initiatives, one regarding education, the other regarding research and outreach.

‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎During the 2021-2022 academic year all 2nd-year engineering students (about 3,600) have attended a new, highly innovative megacourse titled “Global Challenges”. This megacourse is articulated in 24 parallel subcourses addressing 24 facets of six global challenges (energy, climate, digital, health, mobility and technologies and humanity). After a set of introductory lectures attended by all the students, each of the 24 course is co-taught by an engineering professor and a humanist or social scientist. The Nexa Center is explicitly represented by the course “Politics and Technology”, designed and taught by professor Juan Carlos De Martin together with the political philosopher Massimo Cuono (University of Turin).

‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎The second initiative is the University-wide Theseus Center for Technology, Humanity and Society, which was established at the Politecnico in Spring 2022. Coordinated by Prof. Stefano Sacchi, the Theseus Center brings at the University level and for all kinds of technologies the same approach of the Nexa Center to digital technologies since 2006. Nexa will offer assistance and collaboration going forward.

‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎The Center has also been contributing with the Italian Institute for Advanced Studies “Umberto Eco – Scienza Nuova”, a joint Politecnico-University center devoted to studying the digital revolution. Nexa, in particular, organized monthly meetings devoted to discussing books on the digital revolution considered especially relevant.
Besides its natural contribution to Biennale Tecnologia, Nexa also continued to contribute to Biennale Democrazia 2021, a cultural event organized by the City of Turin to which Nexa has been contributing since its first edition in 2009. This past year Nexa had again the opportunity to cooperate with TIM, the main Italian telecommunications company, for the drafting of two works on the next regulatory developments in the European Union, in particular related to the so-called "New European Data Strategy": a series of proposals by the European Commission regarding the future of the data market and data storage. In addition, work was carried comparing the current and future European legislative framework and its equivalent in the United States.

‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎The 2021 Nexa annual conference, titled "The Digital and the State", was a day of discussion on the ever-increasing impact, also due to the pandemic, that digital technologies have on the management of public affairs. The conference was opened remembering Philippe Aigrain, founding trustee of the Nexa Center. The Nexa Center community mourns the loss of Philippe Aigrain, esteemed colleague and friend, a man of great curiosity, depth of thought, and a gentle soul, whose ideas and deep humanity left an indelible mark in the memory of us all.

‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎In spite of all the hardships that this year has brought on us, or possibly because of them, we certainly carry with us a renewed awareness of the importance of real, face-to-face social interactions. On the other hand, we have further understood how deeply digital tools affect the life of all of us every day and, even more so during exceptional times like these. Also for this reason in the coming year we will renew our efforts to understand how to best protect individual and collective rights in the digital realm, rights which are now essential to ensure freedom, justice and democracy tout court.

Juan Carlos De Martin and Marco Ricolfi – Faculty Directors