The Frontiers of Ufology: Models for a New Discipline

1) What is Ufology Today?
I think that Ufology in general is the same as it was during its unconscious beginning in the early 60s (The Alcyone Era, as it was called by Ufologists), since there were many people who shared the common desire to seek answers to a mystery which, still today, remains unsolved.
However, changes are inevitable, and the same goes for Ufology as well as for the other disciplines.
The early years represented a kind of “superficial” investigation; in other words, a very basic system not moved by the idea to thinking of strategies, but rather, a race to give the only possible answer that made some sense to the phenomenon – UFOs and Aliens must come from Outer Space!
Somewhere along the line, though, we have finally come to the understanding that things were not as neat and clear-cut as it seemed at first sight; certain elements dealt more with our individual perception, with our needs, our beliefs and desires, rather than with the Space Aliens.
A good deal of scientific studies upon ourselves, earthlings, as well as upon our surrounding environment – discoveries which had not been previously considered due to ignorance, bias, or conscious determination to ignore them – brought about a nominal viewpoint in the subject, widening our perceptions about what the phenomenon could really be, what could have brought along, and what its ultimate meaning was.
Ufology today is the result of this ripening process; a subject which is ever more popularized by those who no longer intend to accept the phenomenon ad litteram, but attempt to peel it out layer after layer, systematically, in order to examine what is hidden behind, and with a degree of subjective mind that didn’t exist before.

2) In Contemporary Society What has Changed on the Concept of UFO?
Media, Hollywood, the Space Era, the computer in each house, the arrival and the subsequent rise of a 360 degrees, multi-faceted “UFO Mystery” have contributed, during the 60s and the 70s, to offer the opportunity to see the phenomenon under a different light. How much actually has been consciously absorbed by the public, on the other hand, is yet to be determined.  
Starting the early 60s, the Space Era has changed its competencies, and it took off with an important determination. This led the general public to be interested toward all things connected to space and space travels, in particular the younger generations.
In the same token, as the space race peaked, the serious study on the flying saucers was carried on with a particular energy. Since the early 60s the sightings of UFO and the “entities” were slowly increasing, giving the phenomenon a different magnitude compared to the previous decades. The media were fast to take advantage of this, and began to present – in a quite Spartan way – the most spectacular sightings and reports of witnesses right on the first pages, both at local and national level. The bizarre nature of these stories has certainly contributed to promote the subject to the public interest, offering them a wider comprehension of what was presumably happening.
During the “Alcyone Era” hundreds of books about Ufology were published, all of them more or less following the same imprinting. On top of this booming, the USA released the “Close Encounters of the III Kind” movie, which turned the UFO phenomenon into a worldwide myth.
The movie used a fairly considerable number of incidents, reports, and experiences that were known to the public, including – perhaps for the first time – the evidence of how easy is for the witness to fall into a total obsession which modifies his life and the life of those around him.
The name of Whitley Strieber entered the ufological chronicles at the end of the 80s, when the book “Communion” came out, and not so much for the content, but for what appeared on the front cover: the face of a non-human being that later became the icon for the possible alien presence on Earth as abductors of humans: the “Greys”, a name universally known today. They not only were identified with the alien presence on Earth but, even more so, were impressed upon the human psyche through the work of advertising agencies that used that image to sell products, from skateboards to alcohol, until the socially unacceptable commercial that showed a group of Greys smoking a cannabis while the caption read: “Take Me To Your Seller”.
The Personal Computer in every house has had an immense impact upon society; it has offered people all over the world instant access to millions of ufological websites that swarm the net. This seemingly positive information process turned out to be a double edge sword in terms of quality and content. Too many sites, in my opinion, are full of nonsense while others promote beliefs which lack of factual evidence and objective analysis.
The last ufological theme that left somewhat a mark upon the social consciousness was the popular TV series of the 90s, “The X-Files”. This unusual show has undoubtedly offered a temporary praise to a subject that was dimming and, insomuch as it happened after “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, has introduced a long-lasting image which was synonym of all paranormal phenomena.
Despite all of these influences, however, the decline of Ufology was at that point obvious to the experts. The “exchange” in terms of sightings and witnesses’ experiences was slowing down to a less frequent pace, and the sales of UFO books followed suit. This led to a reverse trend on the part of the publishers, which now carefully selected what to publish.
At the end of the 90s and closing to the new millennium, the books on UFOs and Aliens needed something different and spectacular (or a well known name that signed off the publication), so to capture the attention of the public again.
The indissoluble fact was that the conscience and the interest of the public upon such mysteries as UFOs and Aliens were diminishing. This might be the best answer to the question on how the contemporary society’s point of view has changed!
Personally I find that bookstores are a good barometer for specific social interests; on this basis it seems that a certain Mr. Dan Brown could have unwillingly began the “Alcyone Era” of a kind of mystery much more terrestrial and totally different. How much of this can be grasped by the society today, only time will tell.