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Italian sociologist Francesco Morace on the new normal: «The right distance has arrived»

Morace
Francesco Morace, sociologist and chairman of Future Concept Lab

MILAN, Italy – After Covid-19, nothing, or hardly anything, will ever be the same again. Although it is also true to say that Coronavirus has reinforced trends and paradigms that were already emerging before the pandemic. “Business models will have to be rethought, starting from values such as responsibility, reciprocity, recognition, wellbeing and health.” So says Francesco Morace, sociologist and chairman of Future Concept Lab, which already at the end of 2019 had rather prophetically entitled a series of seminars “2020 What’s Next”.

So “We are convinced now more than ever that the 2010s with their individualistic ways and the advent of social media really had run their course,” says Morace. “The relationship with the ‘truth’ was changing and a demand for authenticity over what was perceived as fake was appearing, as was the need for a return to skills.”

Professor Morace, how will reference values and business models change?

Covid-19 has accelerated the particles of this paradigmatic change. A series of values, from sustainability and human health to the central role of the Common Good, and a new quality of time and space, are emerging powerfully, beyond our intentions: and they are forcing us to shift gear.”

What sort of world lies ahead, including in the design sphere?

“It will be a world in which spaces and the things in them will need to be imagined differently,” continues Morace . One of the big things that has happened under lockdown is that the way we relate to space and time has been turned upside down. We were all living in a world in which we had little time and lots of space to move through: we were like neo-nomads who had forgotten that if the time in our life is without quality, then nothing makes sense. And then we were suddenly forced to spend a whole lot of time in our often very small domestic space. And that was the magic of lockdown: you start to have a more intense craving for what has been taken away from you.”

What role will designers play in the ‘new normal’?

“Designers will play a key role, because they will at last get the chance to do what they’ve always longed to do: change the world, dreaming up solutions and experimenting, together with sociologists and politicians, with realistic possibilities for a new world. Giving voice to new desires, since we are no longer going to be able to work or eat shoulder to shoulder. Desks, tables and interior spaces will have to be designed to ensure a kind of distancing that is not so much social as the creation, quite literally, of a breathing space around us, bringing us together psychologically and emotionally. This is a decisive factor in what will be a new design and manufacturing vision: we might describe it as a decongestion of space, among things through time that is programmed and subject to certain conditions.”

What should we expect from companies?

“Companies will be called upon to follow the indications that are set out. Time, like space, will be regulated, so that they don’t exceed certain limits (as in the case of public transport). This means that we are acquiring – however reluctantly – a new breathing space around ourselves. It is precisely because the virus attacks the respiratory system that we find ourselves compelled to pay more attention to our breathing, around all the things, people and places in our lives. Especially when we are travelling or are in places that are new to us. We can call it ‘the right distance’, and companies will have to understand this and transform maximisation into valorisation. So we will be able to respond to the need for physical social distancing with a coming closer together psychologically that is about reciprocity and exchange, leading us at last to a common destiny.”

What part will technology play in all of this?

“Technology will be the enabler of this new vision: digital technology will have to adapt to demands for quality of life and focus on a use of algorithms and Big Data to this end, more in line with a civil economy that knows how to be inclusive rather than divisive. This is the challenge for a new sustainable utopia,” conclude Morace