Presentation of Spiweb, 27°Congress EPF, Turin, 2014, april, 9-13/ English Version

SPIWEB: A presentation for the EPF

This is a presentation of the website of the Italian Psychoanalytical Society: SPIWEB.

1. Who we are. First of all, let me introduce you to the members of the Spiweb team:

Jones De Luca is the Secretary of the Italian Psychoanalytical Society (SPI) and, in accordance with the rules of our Association, is also the Director of the website .
I am Stefania Nicasi, Spiweb Editor-in-Chief: I was appointed by Jones De Luca.
The Editorial Board is made up of eight people: Laura Contran, Gabriella Giustino, Roberto Goisis, Maria Ponsi, Cristina Saottini, Maria Grazia Vassallo, Silvia Vessella.
Other colleagues work in cooperation with the Editorial Board: Luisa Masina and Rossella Vaccaro are responsible for the section on “Psychoanalytical Events”.
Giorgio Bambini takes care of a section titled “Online Debates”.
There are many other collaborators (more than fifty) who send occasional contributions.

Paolo Sard is the webmaster and is assisted by Monica Castellini, a secretary of the SPI.

Now we can start with some remarks.

The Director of Spiweb is the Secretary of the Society, whereas the Director of the Rivista Italiana di Psicoanalisi, who is also part of the Executive, is not involved in other duties. This is a specific feature of the website: it is a direct emanation of the Executive. We will see how Spiweb is made up of a public area, addressed to all, and of a private area reserved to Members and Candidates of the Society. In the private area one can find all the documents concerning the Executive. Visitors of this area can be updated in real time about the Society’s activities. We have imagined Spiweb as a sort of “house”. The interior of the house, where life is shielded from prying eyes, is a place for knowledge and social gatherings.
Spiweb, it must be stressed, has many functions: it is multitasking enterprise. The private area must meet the demands of the Executive and the Members and is under the direct control of the Executive Committee. In the private area, the editorial team does its best to provide help by being efficient, comprehensive, and quick. In the private area (unlike in the public one), the we do not aspire to be free: here the Editorial Board acts in accordance with the institutional mandate. Here, our main goal is to provide clear and accessible information. We are not free, but we are democratic and friendly: we have to answer the questions of the Executive and we have to communicate directly with the Members and Candidates. Candidates are also allowed to enter the private area: at the beginning, to be honest, this happened by mistake. Candidates had learned how to enter! But, later, the mistake led to the decision to allow them to participate instead of keeping them out like children excluded from the parents’ room.

The editorial staff is small: at the beginning, few of us were interested in this field; later, we understood the advantages of being few in number: the board is more cohesive, more rapid in making decisions, and costs less (especially when meetings are called). In the Editorial Board, everyone is responsible for a specific section, for example Cinema or Research, but we try to avoid privileged positions. We tend to share all decisions, even the smallest ones: we constantly engage in an intense exchange of e-mail messages and conversations via Skype. The Director (together with the Editor-in-Chief) supervises and submits the material to the Editorial Office for publication. Quickness and fluidity are considered essential qualities.

Except for Roberto Goisis, the members of the Editorial Board are all women. This may or may not be a coincidence: I said earlier that Spiweb is a multitasking enterprise, and we all know that over thousands of years women have learned to perform many tasks at once!

We are a small group: this means that everyone has a lot of work to do. On the one hand, this is quite a disadvantage (another disadvantage consists in a lower diversification and a lower contribution of new ideas). On the other hand, we can count on a large number of additional collaborators; in fact, all contributions coming from Candidates of the Society are welcome: they can improve the development of Spiweb.

2. A Brief History of Spiweb. During the presidency of Fernando Riolo, 2005-2009 years ago, the Secretary Sarantis Thanopulos promoted the opening of a website. The most significant contribution came from Roberto Goisis, who created a film-review column titled “Cinema”, which is still one of the most visited sections. Therefore, cinema lies at the beginning of Spiweb.

However, it was during the Presidency of Stefano Bolognini, 2009-2013 years ago, that the website rapidly and greatly improved (thanks to the Secretary Romolo Petrini, who understood the huge potential of a dissemination of psychoanalysis through the web). Petrini called the website “Spiweb”. A further development came with the direction of Jones De Luca, at that time Editor- in- Chief, who decided to “change the music” in the way Italian Psychoanalysis was presented to the public. Jones worked with a small Editorial Board: Goisis, Contran, Nicasi, Vassallo; soon, Giustino and Vessella joined in too.
It was a tough start and a lot of work had to be done. However, we were all ful of ideas and enthusiasm. As I said, the website was divided into a private area and a public area. In the public area, sections on Cinema, Culture and an area dedicated to “Online Debates” (at that time coordinated by Francesco Carnaroli) were introduced. Later, Maria Grazia Vassallo proposed to introduce also video interviews (both of psychoanalysts and of personalities of culture, politics and entertainment). Silvia Vessella was responsible for of the Press Review and had the idea of a column called “Dossier” which would gather psychoanalytic contributions on specific themes.

The present Executive is under the Presidency of Antonino Ferro. Jones De Luca has become the National Secretary and Director of the website. Stefania Nicasi has been appointed Editor-in-Chief; the Editorial Board has not changed, but Maria Ponsi joined as a responsible for Research and Neuroscience.

Since Spiweb is still young (almost a child, so to speak), we decided not to replace those who took care of it from the beginning: therefore the historical and foundational group has so far remained unchanged. This involves the serious risk of becoming intellectually rigid, sterile, and too much entrenched in a position of power. It is a calculated risk that we decided to take for the fear of losing all we have achieved up until now. But we think that, in a three years time, it will be absolutely necessary to leave room for new colleagues.
Today, Spiweb continues to grow in many directions and is becoming increasingly bigger and complex. Currently, it is visited by … people per day. In a Google search for the word “psychoanalysis”, Spiweb appears in the first or second position after Wikipedia.

3 . Geography of Spiweb. Let me now guide you through a brief excursion of Spiweb in its current form, although the website will be soon completely renewed: it will have a new layout while the various sections and contents will remain unchanged. As you can see, it is divided into a private area and a public area.

I already mentioned the private area (which everyone can access with a password). It contains the reports of the Executive, messages to the Members of Society, and includes the function “Contact the Executive”.

In the public area, in addition to the description of who we are, you can find sections on Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience, Research, Training, Books, Events, Cinema, Culture, Press Review, Library, Spipedia.

Let me point out some things of particular interest .

The Library: you can find here all the books catalogued in each of the eleven libraries of the Italian Psychoanalytical Society.

In “Books” you can find the section “Newly Printed”, dedicated to recently published books on psychoanalysis.

“Cinema”: in the section “In the cinema-hall” you can find short reviews of just released movies.

“Press Review”: here you can find articles about psychoanalysis taken from newspapers and magazines. The section “Points of view” brings together articles on a “hot” topic written by journalists and comments written by one or more analysts about the same topics.

Spipedia is a small interactive encyclopedia of Italian psychoanalysis. It is made of entries – currently we have about fifty of them. Spipedia is “Italian” because the authors of the entries belong to the SPI and because it contains a section dedicated to the “Masters” of Italian Psychoanalysis: the purpose of this section is to introduce non-Italian speakers to the thought of the Masters (many entries have been translated into English). It is interactive because anyone from the Private area, according to the principle of Wikipedia, may intervene in order to integrate or correct the entries. It is “small” because it does not claim to be exhaustive. However, it aspires to be much larger and we hope it will be enriched by many contributions from Members and Candidates.

“Debates” are usually well attended. They take place in the Private Area – all IPA colleagues are invited to attend – and, after the clinical details have been deleted from the text, they are transferred to the Public Area. The debates start with two opening papers written by two colleagues on a specific topic. The last debate that we had was dedicated to the paternal function and the opening papers were translated into English.

The section “Dossier” contains papers written not only by psychoanalysts but also by other authors. These are the topics that have so far been addressed: The woman’s body. Women/mothers/evil? thoughts. The job market. Femicide. Karl Jaspers. Psychoanalysis and war.

Spiweb advertises some of its content on social networks, especially on Facebook.

4 . “Six memos for the next millennium”. Do you remember the American Lessons by Italo Calvino? They were six lectures he should have delivered at Harvard University. He did not have enough time to finish them. Thus, we are left with only five of them: lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, multiplicity. When we were thinking about this presentation, Gabriella Giustino suggested that the literary qualities identified by Calvino could be useful to describe the qualities that we need for our website. She was right: lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, multiplicity.

We try to write our contributions with Lightness. Quickness, for us, lies in the ability to synthesize (we believe that a good text written for the web should not exceed two pages), in the speed with which news are conveyed and, last but not least, in the capacity to detect and select hot topics worthy of being addressed and analyzed in depth. Exactitude is very important because we have to popularize information with an easily understandable but not superficial language. We look for multiplicity of opinions and points of view, both in psychoanalysis (which has always been multifaceted) and in the outside world.
We seek Visibility: I would say that visibility is our first aim, our passion and our obsession. In a time in which psychoanalysts were at risk of disappearing, the Internet offered a precious opportunity not to be missed. Spiweb is a sort of a showcase where everyone can stop and take a look. Some people may be curious, while others may like to visit the whole “shop”. Visibility also means the use of images: the texts are accompanied by pictures in order to use their strength and their evocative power.

We are interested also in the sixth quality mentioned, but not described, by Calvino: Consistency. Consistency has to do with contents that are full of substance, but also dense. In order to be “seen” and indexed by search engines, we need to look big. A website must pursue not only lightness, but also heaviness.

Heaviness is an important quality: it is worthwhile to say a few words about it. Spiweb has many functions and is expanding in many directions. Some people suggest an alternative way to proceed, frightened by the big amount of work and the great development of the website (so fast a development that it may appear out of control). Questions like the following are often raised: “Is Spiweb conceived for psychoanalysts or for non-psychoanalysts?”; “Will Spiweb be able to meet the needs of the national or international psychoanalytic institutions?”; “Should Spiweb contain short articles such as a regular newspaper or should it publish essays like those of a magazine or even entire books?”; “Is Spiweb a fast-food or a restaurant?”; “Is it a newsstand or a library?”. The answer to these questions is: “Spiweb is both at the same time”, or, better, “Spiweb is all this at the same time”. Spiweb is all this because it addresses both the inside and outside community, it keeps in touch with other psychoanalytic associations and not only offers concise contributions but also deep insights. Spiweb offers ephemeral contributions such as those to be found on the first page of a newspaper, but also stores “heavier” contributions such as old psychoanalytic essays that could otherwise go lost, essays that could be helpful for students (for their thesis) or for experts in psychoanalysis.

We need to be intercepted by those who surf the web aimlessly; we need to be found also by those who already have an idea of what they are looking for (the name of a psychoanalyst, news about psychoanalysis or the SPI). We need to help the visitor to find exactly what he is looking for. Actually, we ourselves often spend a lot of time trying to put things in order because we cannot find the materials we have uploaded. Speaking of heaviness, an excellent internal search engine is urgently needed in order to locate apparently lost materials.

Can we add other qualities to the list? Yes, at least two.

The first is humility, a quality of which the psychoanalyst is widely equipped in the relationship with the patient, but which he/she sometimes lacks in the relationship with colleagues and with the outside world. Glauco Carloni’s famous joke according to which “Narcissism is the childhood disease of psychoanalysts” still proves true, especially if rephrased as “Narcissism is the childhood disease of psychoanalysis”. It took a long time for psychoanalysis to realize that the world of science, culture and psychotherapy (even if unconsciously indebted to psychoanalytical ideas) was changing and re-organizing itself without taking psychoanalysis into consideration. Psychoanalysis became more and more self-referential and did not even realize that psychoanalysts were disappearing from health institutions, from universities, and from the media. The admission that we need to gain some visibility has required a painful act of humility. The admission that, if we want people to listen, we must speak in a way that allows people to understand, has been, and still is, a very difficult one. We must avoid, when we speak or write, the temptation to veil the truth under a cloud of darkness. Sometimes, as analysts, we seem to believe that in order to convince everyone of a certain truth it is enough to assert it – a conviction that unfortunatley goes hand in hand with the idea that any research on the therapeutic effects of the analysis should be of no interest to us.
The web is a great teacher of humility: those who do not learn to communicate in a light, fast and accurate way are doomed to drown unseen.

The second quality is responsibility. We have a great responsibility toward psychoanalysis, our colleagues and readers .

It is our duty to safeguard psychoanalysis, to be faithful to its multiple and often conflicting manifestations; it is our responsibility to popularize and disseminate psychoanalysis and to render the outside world familiar with it.

As for our readers, our duty is to provide accurate and clear information to them, to help them finding what they are looking for and also what they do not know they are looking for. We must be able to speak to everyone. For this reason, many of the contents of the website are organized on multiple levels: from a first, very accessible level, to a very deep one, specifically thought for the experts in the field. Spipedia’s entries are organized in the same way: they have a carrot-shaped structure, so to speak.
Among the readers there are also people who are suffering and are looking for help: they must know that psychoanalysis has the answers. A psychoanalyst can help them. Therefore, we included a section titled “Find a psychoanalyst”.

To our colleagues, who must make a living out of a profession for which they qualified at the cost of great sacrifices, we feel the biggest responsibility: psychoanalysis must maintain its lively, familiar, and available presence in the world.
The future, immense and uncertain, is just around the corner, outside the analytic room, beyond the couch. We want only one thing: to be there.

Stefania Nicasi
Turin April 9, 2014
Traduzione a cura di Gabriella Giustino