Nexa Center Annual Report 2023

Presented in 2023 during the Board of Trustees meeting of the Nexa Center


The last year, the Nexa Center celebrated 16 years since its founding. When it began its activities in 2006, there was a limited understanding of the implications of the digital revolution in Italy.

Despite the ever-increasing speed of technological progress, which also sadly manifests in the ongoing war in Ukraine, and the emergence of new technologies that seem to require innovative and multidisciplinary study methodologies, there is still a lack of serious interdisciplinary research in this field, at least in Italy.

The renewed military use of applied science, as well as new tools, like AI, and new methods of interpreting sociality, such as the Metaverse, inherently require a multidisciplinary approach. The concerns on the potential and concrete use of these technologies, that we already harbored last year, convinced us even more of the need to devote the specific multidisciplinary attention for which Nexa is known when addressing today’s challenges. It is therefore in this sense that the work of Nexa has unfolded this year.

During the reporting period, the Nexa Center has undergone some significant changes that have broadened its horizons and solidified its collaborations with Turin’s University (UNITO). With the arrival of Maurizio Borghi, the Nexa Center now has three directors leading the center’s research endeavors. The Law Department of the University of Turin (UNITO) has actively increased its involvement in this year’s research projects. We have officially recognized and solidified our collaboration with UNITO through the signing of a Collaboration Agreement in April. Marco Rondina joined the center as a Ph.D. student, bringing new perspectives, specifically in the field of responsible AI, for the Nexa Center’s research activities.

Three important European projects, Strategyhack SIFIS-Home and CLIKC, in which the Nexa Center has been involved during the past years are nearing completion, and the Nexa Center is actively seeking new European projects where it can excel and secure funding, while being committed to continuing its interdisciplinary approach to research. Despite participating in numerous proposals, the success rates have been decreasing, leading to potential budget risks for Nexa. Additionally, European projects often only partially align with Nexa’s scientific and cultural interests, limiting the ability to conduct research in areas deemed most important and compelling.

In a context of economic and social decline in Italy and Turin, the Nexa Center’s focus on the social aspects of digital technologies has however been strengthened. The exploration of countervailing powers against the dominance of information giants, primarily oriented to maximising their profit, must now become a priority, as the public purpose and general interest remain central to the Center’s critical independence.

This year, a new research center called Theseus has been launched at the Polytechnic of Turin. Theseus shares research interests that are connected and akin to those of Nexa. The two centers have already initiated their first collaborative initiatives, laying the foundation for a fruitful partnership in the future.

The Nexa Center has continued to focus on technology and society this year, with a particular emphasis on science fiction’s role in shaping humanity in a world increasingly driven by digital technologies. The Nexa Annual Conference held on December 2, 2022, titled “Science Fiction From Around the World,” was a success. The conference involved writers from Africa to America, from China to Italy, and attempted to imagine how digital technologies would shape art, identity, spirituality, affectivity, life, death, and humanity in the near future.

The renewal of the course “Politica e Tecnica” for this year is a testament to the Polytechnic’s commitment to providing high-quality education and its recognition of the importance of the relationship between politics and technology in shaping the world we live in today. The course, held by Prof. Juan Carlos de Martin, is designed to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between politics and technology, and its impact on society.

It is clear that technology will continue to have a significant and increasing impact on various aspects of our lives, from the way we work and learn to the way we commute and interact with the environment. As we continue to develop and advance technologically, it is crucial that we also consider the potential consequences and work to mitigate any negative impacts.

Furthermore, it is important to recognize and address global issues such as climate change, social justice, and political and geopolitical instability as all these issues, in one way or another, affect us all.

Overall, the importance of high quality ongoing education and awareness, as well as the need for collaboration and action to address the challenges we face as a global community cannot be stressed enough. The Nexa Center therefore continues to firmly believe in its interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to better face the challenges of the future.

Juan Carlos De Martin, Marco Ricolfi and Maurizio Borghi – Faculty Directors