In the vortex of the Web, the editorial of Franco Michienzi

The Perini Navi saga I described in March’s editorial provoked a series of reflections from my readers. I don’t consider myself to be a beacon of truth: I simply did what any commentator does and put a few thoughts down on paper

by Francesco Michienzi

SOCIAL NETWORKS HAVE CHANGED THE WORLD WE ALL LIVE IN, turning it into a house made of glass and demolishing the wall between the real and the virtual. My March editorial prompted a strange debate, one mostly waged online.

I will leave the compliments to one side, and focus on the criticisms, which were a mixture of vehement and ironic. We now live in an infosphere, where we are all interconnected and interdependent, where information is accessible, communication is immediate and judgments are transparent. Individuals, institutions, businesses, and media organizations are all on the same level, all equally and inevitably subjected to collective value judgments. Nobody can escape this fate any longer – not even us old dinosaurs who provide information slowly and reflectively.

I was struck by the words of one of my followers, who complained that I had wasted time discussing the bankruptcy of a company without mentioning the biggest news of the month: the joint venture between the Ferretti Group and the Sanlorenzo shipyard, which he described as a “historic event”. I completely agree. Indeed, it is exactly what I was hoping for in my March editorial (written and printed before I knew about the initiative from the two Italian shipbuilding groups). It is an excellent industrial move that surpasses the standard competition model, giving rise to a partnership that could reshape the nautical landscape. For now, however, let’s stick to the specific facts of today.

There was another reader who complained I did not mention the names of those involved due to the risk of losing advertising revenue. If you look at this story closely, you will notice there are no longer any potential advertisers to protect. Moreover, the fact that the top shareholder of Perini Navi invested – and presumably lost – € 100 million, and couldn’t do anymore, does not explain why the company went bankrupt. I merely hypothesized that one of the main reasons could be the fact that the shipyard sold its boats at prices that did not generate enough revenue to turn a profit, thereby accumulating losses on a scale that meant collapse could not be avoided.

My March editorial sought to shine a spotlight on the general perception from overseas of Italian superyacht production.

For years I’ve been writing that we need more collaboration on the key aspects that set Italian shipbuilding apart, and so I was extremely pleased to hear the news of the joint venture between the firms managed by Alberto Galassi and Massimo Perotti. As for Perini, meanwhile, there is to be an appeal against the bankruptcy ruling. If the judge looks at the overall picture, he could allow the application and ensure this saga is resolved in the best way possible, given the substantial interest in saving the company. Events like this can sometimes irreparably and unjustly tarnish a firm’s image.

Daniele Chieffi’s book La reputazione ai tempi dell’infosfera (‘Reputation in the infosphere age’), published by Feltrinelli, is an excellent tool for understanding why humans beings have always sought – and needed – the respect of others. Nowadays, ‘the things you say about someone’ can determine the destiny not only of individuals but also of institutions, businesses, organizations, state bodies, and media companies. The web has no filters, and it often allows unjust judgments to be made, with those on the receiving end powerless to avoid them. The digital revolution is not merely a technological innovation; it represents a complete transformation of our society and everyday life.

Alberto Galassi and Massimo Perotti’s initiative has the enormous merit of shaping a new and very positive way forward for the entire Italian boating industry. Regardless of how the Perini saga pans out, it is not unreasonable to imagine it could be the first step towards the industry acting as a network, in a major process touching on many different aspects.

Reputation follows the psychological, cognitive, and sociological rules of human groups, but digital dynamics have changed and amplified it. That’s why we must avoid immediately jumping to conclusions, and instead study each situation more analytically. Various shipyards have made a comeback and found it easy enough to restore their prestige and reputation, based merely on the fact they are considered iconic brands.

However, information providers need to remember their history, so they can distinguish between the various cases. To the reader who asked why a shipyard that has lost € 100 million is considered prestigious and wondered how a shipyard that has earned 100 million in the same period can come to be defined as such, all I can say is that the answer is complicated, and prestige is not always linked to financial value. Reputation – that most intangible of things – is something that can very rarely be bought. However, acting properly, ethically, honestly, and with respect for people is undoubtedly a good start if you wish to be a model for others that do the same job as you and aspire to your success.

(In the vortex of the Web – Barchemagazine.com – April 2021)