#Cheritage: a literary journey across Italy

Last summer the Italian partner launched a social reading game on the app Betwyll to engage its community in the contents of the Cheritage project. Here’s a summary of their pilot.

Throughout the years, Associazione Culturale Twitteratura, has become quite popular in the Italian digital environment for having invented a social reading method and an app – Betwyll – to stir debate around cultural contents through the potential of social networking. The idea is quite simple: people are invited to read a text that is published onto the app, following a shared reading calendar, and to comment on it using short messages of 140 characters. On the app they also have the possibility to interact, starting threads of conversation, following each other and marking their favourite comments. 

A creative interpretation of the project goals

For the Cheritage project, the Italian partner decided to adjust its social reading method to the project goals, designing what they imagined to be a literary journey across Italy. Their list of national cultural heritage items took in fact the form of a selection of great works of the Italian literature combined with the places where they were set or that inspired their authors.

The list includes several UNESCO heritage items – such as the landscapes of the Langhe in Piedmont or the Cinque Terre in Liguria, the Po Delta and the Este ducal residences, as well as a Sardinian traditional polyphonic singing – that were celebrated by the works of some of the greatest Italian writers and poets, including three Nobel prizes in Literature (Pirandello, Deledda and Montale). Trying and selecting just a dozen items out of the huge amount of cultural heritage examples that Italy has to offer was quite a challenge for the team. Equally difficult was to identify just a few representative authors of the Italian literature with a strong connection with a specific city or area. Therefore, the final list is not meant to be exhaustive but rather as a starting point for further developments. 

#Cheritage: the item list and the reading calendar

Every summer, the TwLetteratura online community is invited to join a themed social reading game on Betwyll. What better occasion to launch the #Cheritage journey? The game officially started on 1 August 2019 and ended three weeks later, on 24 August. The project however is still available on the app and will remain open to comments for the entire duration of Cheritage. 

This is the shared reading calendar that was followed: 

  • 1-2 August: Cultural heritage
  • 3-4 August: Piedmont, Langhe – Cesare Pavese, The Moon And The Bonfires (1950) 
  • 5-6 August: Lombardy, Lake of Como – Alessandro Manzoni, The Betrothed (1827)
  • 7-8 August: Veneto, Arquà Petrarca – Francesco Petrarca, Canzoniere (1336-1374)
  • 9-10 August: Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trieste – Italo Svevo, As a Man Grows Older (1898)
  • 11-12 August: Liguria, Golfo dei Poeti – Eugenio Montale, Cuttlefish Bones (1925)
  • 13-14 August: Sardinia, Nuoro – Grazia Deledda, Reeds in the wind (1913)
  • 15-16 August: Emilia Romagna, Ferrara – Giorgio Bassani, A prospect of Ferrara (1974)
  • 17-18 August: Tuscany, Firenze – Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy (1321)
  • 19-20 August: Marche, Recanati – Giacomo Leopardi, The Infinite (1819)
  • 21-22 August: Lazio, Rome – Pier Paolo Pasolini, The Hustlers (1955)
  • 23-24 August: Sicily, Agrigento – Luigi Pirandello, Short Stories for a Year (1922)

Defining cultural heritage

As an introduction to the project and its dissemination goals, the game opened with a shared discussion on the meaning and value of cultural heritage based on what shared during the Cheritage meetings. The participants were invited to discuss the UNESCO definition of material cultural heritage, according to what stated in the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and in its operational guidelines. This included the distinction between cultural and natural heritage, as well as the concepts of mixed heritage and cultural landscape. 

I believe that a sense of belonging is needed first to then be able to take care of, maintain and, finally, bestow [cultural heritage]. I fear instead that for quite a long time our attitude towards heritage has been based on the same consumerism typical of most of our behaviours. @gabrisera

The introductory text then presented the definition of immaterial cultural heritage, as per the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

Human rights and cultural heritage united in the same thought: everyone is supposed to have the right to enjoy beauty. @claudiacrescent

Protecting the world heritage also means educating to respect diversity. I like it. @maddamoon

The lists of material and immaterial heritage acknowledged by UNESCO in Italy were also published. Together with China, Italy is in fact the country with the highest number of acknowledged sites: 55 overall (5 of which are natural sites and 8 of which are cultural landscapes). In addition, the country also boasts 9 immaterial heritage examples. 

How many wonderful things I haven’t known, yet! @annina63

#Cheritage: the literary journey

Once discussed the various facets of cultural heritage, every two days the community was invited to focus on a list item. Each item was represented by a place (a region and a specific city/area), an author and a literary work, covering different periods – from medieval to contemporary literature.

In some cases, the readers could directly comment on an excerpt of the work, in some others on a significant quote or on a video. All items included an introductory text and a picture of the place chosen, in a sort of online interactive version of the project cards. Finally, all participants were invited to share personal memories and sensations inspired by that specific place, author or work, and also to suggest connections with other literatures and geographies.

The summer bonfires in the Langhe recalled the Flemish ones and their hills those in the Marche region, which inspired the outstanding poem by Leopardi, The Infinite. Lucia’s farewell to the mountains in The Betrothed opened a reflection on migrants. Whereas Trieste and Svevo’s offered an occasion to talk of borders and split identities. And then the Great Poet:

No one could explain the meaning of cultural heritage better than Dante: though in exile, he kept loving his Florence until the end. @iurimoscardi

So far, the project has been followed by 67 people and got 215 comments that will serve as a basis for the creation of the project AR contents. It also received press coverage at the national level, in an article on La Stampa.

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