1. The philosophy behind the ContactGPS
A. Worlds of speech
The ContactGPS identifies the «world of speech» where you currently find yourself.
What is it?
A «world of speech» is made up of mental schemes, representations of reality (worlds) that are translated into speech, expressed at the heart of interpersonal and collective relationships. Schemes organise and structure our social, natural and spiritual experiences, they allow us to relate, to communicate with ourselves, with others and the unseen other (God).
The channel and process: speech
Communication happens through speech. It is as much the channel and the process that give schemes their potential for the relational, interpersonal and collective interaction. This use of speech is one of the origins of the diversity of schemes, because speech is always directed. It seeks contact with others that will validate and challenge at the same time the pertinence of the scheme. Thus, speech is an interpretation and a transmission for others of a scheme, and that is its original diversity is rooted.
The challenge: contact
The ContactGPS lies at the crossroads between schemes and speech. There where speech becomes contextual interaction, relating, picking up a scheme; there it provides a contact (action-reaction-retroaction). That's why the ContactGPS isn't a question of true/false, but it is all about relationship, speech that creates links, that allows contact (hence the name ContactGPS), mutual understanding. In fine, it isn't so much a matter of highlighting ideological or religious content that people adhere to, but rather forms of interaction, exchange, militancy, adherence, or even values, privileged symbols in a given mediatic context.
For example, one of the most emblematic works of research on schemes, based on «worlds of speech» is that of the French anthropologist Philippe Descola. In his prime study, Beyond Nature and Culture (transl. Janet Lloyd, 2013, The University of Chicago Press), he seeks to discover, in human history, what are the different visible forms of relationships between nature and culture. He lists four: totemism, analogism, animism and naturalism. These are the «worlds of speech» he identifies.
In the theological field, a team of ContactGPS attempted a similar process. They developed a GPS (demo version) that analyses each of the four Gospels as a specific «world of speech». The project won an award (in French).
Publications inspired by «worlds of speech»
Penned by Michel Kocher, we find several theological publications that outline a theology worlds of speech. One book, for instance, analyses the balance of words in the mediasphere. Where there are religious excesses, different «worlds of reaction and positioning» are deployed, each corresponding to a particular balance (in French: Le religieux entre science et cité: penser avec Pierre Gisel). Another article looks at the dynamics of fraternity that come from Christian testimony (in French: Le témoignage: comparaître pour vivre en fraternité). These fraternities are genuine «worlds of testimony», rich and irreducible to one another.
In another theological publication, one essay describes how believers respond to the God's calling (in French: L'Eglise est une réponse... à quels appels?). It enumerates the various «worlds of response» that can be found in Abrahamic traditions and that bring people together in an open and challenging manner.
At the invitation of the Blanquerna Observatory of the Ramon Llull University of Barcelona, we presented an analysis of the 2016 Farel Award. It puts in perspective the various forms of universality in films with a religious theme, each corresponding to a specific world of speech: the universality of the myth, the archetypal religious figure, the human in the image of God, existence as a metaphor. The study was published in English.
B. The maps (the two axes of differentiation)
The ContactGPS places a location on a map. How was it made?
Communication is 3D
Humans live in a three-dimensional space-time environment (space-time-movement). In other words, communication is always in 3D. With its maps, the ContactGPS can only represent two dimensions (space-time). The third dimension corresponds to the interaction within and between the «worlds of speech», that become movements on the map, linked to relational interactions. In regards to the phenomenological approach of the ContactGPS, the third dimension isn't taken into account. There are no 3D glasses to place the communicator at a certain distance from their object. That is what we see in philosophies of communication, highlighting a certain ontological dead-end. «Every intersubjective relationship comes up against a person-to-person relationship whereby the explanation breaks the boundaries that the perceiving subject is enclosed in.» (R. Scherer, Philosophies de la communication, Paris, SEDES, 1971, p.97).
The GPS is 2D
The two dimensions that can be represented in communication are naturally shown as two axes, like on a map: north-south and east-west. The names we give to the cardinal points are diverse. The most basic expression is that of time and space. All communication must be situated on axes that we will call «time» and «space».
Another fundamental way of defining 2D is by using the «canonical» pattern of communication. Any communication of a message must pass through a channel of communication linking an emitter to a receiver, and lead to a process of coding-decoding between the two. There are other ways of defining the axes of this 2D map. Each ContactGPS will necessarily provide a specific definition of the two axes. This is the work of research undertaken by the specialists in their matter, associated with the conception of each ContactGPS. For example, the map of the 4 worlds of speech that are the 4 Gospels (in French), built around two axes based on the narrative analysis and mental christological schemes.
Communication is a choice
Each of the axes allows us to place in a specific register the concrete choices of communication. The temporal axis has two different horizons: chronological time and narrative time. With the first, it is important to aim for a change that is mesurable in time. With the second, narrative time (cf. P. Ricoeur), it is important to aim for unity and continuity over time. If we go with the systemic definition, our choice is to favour either a channel of expression, or a channel of representation. As to the choice of process, it's a matter of choosing either a process of interpretation, or a process of transmission.
Differentiation : pathways to a priority
Exclusive to humans is the ability to make the best choices possible within a space-time framework. These choices create pathways to a priority, rather than an opposition or even less an exclusion. In other words, the different dimensions of communication are still present, but one takes over from the other, in relation to the context of the communication. A obvious example is a film soundtrack. Should we prioritise dialogue or atmosphere? Europeans choose the former, Americans the latter. The results are not the same, even though both dimensions are clearly present.
What matters in regards to these choices of priority is a fundamental, structural gesture: that of differentiation. We see it as much in linguistics - «In language, there are only differences» (De Saussure) - as in philosophy - the meaning is never «in itself» (Jacques Derrida).
An axiom to discuss and test
«Each action of human communication needs to have at least two priorities, one on the axis of time and the other on the axis of space.» The axiom of the ContactGPS needs to be analysed, or at least be challenged or reworded. The discussion remains open. We propose another way: proving the reality by testing the pertinence of the GPS. Do the positions put to the sagacity of the users of the GPS show real differences? With its two axes of differentiation, does the application provide real determinant choices? It's up to you.
C. QUESTIONS AND POSITIONS (FRAMEWORK AND LIMITS TO THE APPLICATION)
The ContactGPS is an application that can be used as a specific approach to communication: that of worlds of speech. The use of the application as such corresponds to a «communication moment» that remains to be specified. It is an invitation to a path of speech and towards speech. The procedure is not definitive, but is placed in a particular context and contains playful elements or simulations. The course the application takes you on is progressive, in several stages, each of which has its requirements, balances, functions and limits.
Playing with an application or working a theme?
The people who discover the GPS for the first time have two different reactions. Some enjoy the playful dimension, the means deployed (medium or channel). Others, on the contrary, are cautious but accept to try out the tool to see what it will say or how it can be significant (the theme or processes). Each approach is understandable, legitimate and irreducible. They reflect, in the analysis of communication, the traditional debate between medium and message. What comes first? (Cf. the famous «The medium is the message» by Marshall McLuhan). The question cannot be answered in a theoretical or general manner, other than to favour one anthropology (for ex. «feeling is primal») over another, this remains debatable. In practice, we will prioritise one entrance door rather than another... but in any case, both dimensions (medium and message) are unavoidable. In effect, the application, in its current concept, doesn't take into account this priority in entry, this aspect hasn't been formulated.
A theme in the form of a question («quod» and not «quid»)
Each ContactGPS helps to position the user in regards to an initial question. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are influenced by Western metaphysics and our first reflex is to hear the question as «quid», i.e. as a definition. «Quid of this or that?» This is what attracts those who are interested in the GPS for the «message» it can bring. But, we are not looking for the right explanation, the essence (the «quid» factor). In Latin, academics differentiate the quid from the quod. We are looking at the latter. The quod is a relative pronoun used as a conjunction: «In relation to this or to that?» In other words: «What should we think of this, what does it mean that it is?» Effectively, the ContactGPS is not seeking the essence of something, rather the relationship we have with it.
Multiple questions = more trust
Capturing the movement of the search for meaning, from a link to a theme, via speech, involves an appropriate framework, a form of experience, confronting oneself, without any other immediate challenge. In theory, two questions per GPS would be sufficient. But as we don't want to see people's blood pressure go up (the white coat effect), we want to avoid the need to «give the right answer»; in other words, wanting to reply to the «quid» when the question is in fact «quod». Multiple questions can soften this effect. We are aiming for a «communication moment» where people trust those who created the GPS, and this is helped by different kinds of questions, with a different ponderation, graphics and various templates. Also, in order to meet the user in their context and draw them away from a world of definitions, the questions involve a part of tentativeness and approximation.
The answers : finding a priority, a movement in meaning
«The shortest path between two points is a straight line.» True, but this axiom is only valid in a Euclidian space (2D). In other geometries, this isn't necessarily the case, it could be a circular arc. «When there are two possible answers, you have to make a choice.» True, but this axiom is only valid with a two-dimensional map (like that of a ContactGPS). In reality, it is possible to choose ans answer without eliminating the other. You are simply differentiating it.
In other words, the two answers for the GPS questions are not in opposition, but they invite us to prioritise in the context and reason in 2D. The answers aren't meant to arbitrarily create a difference, but rather find movement, a deference; a way of showing how we are able to defer, to delay, because a meaning is never definitive. This view was put into theory by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, by deconstructing binary oppositions, because they are fixed and founded on notions that are arbitrarily one-sided.
The results : on and off the map
After all that has been said on the limits of 2D, we can ask ourselves this: what does the position on a ContactGPS really show us? There are two kinds of answer. One is tied to the map, the other to speech. The map is only 2D. The positional marker and the directional arrow (optional on some GPS) are mathematical averages. No more, no less. As communication is always 3D, the results of a ContactGPS are only meaningful in regards to the speech that brings into relation, that creates deference. In other words, the real results lie in the path forged by the speech during and after the «communication moment» of the GPS. Discussion, contestation or approval, extra research or reading or anything else can be considered a 3D result.
2. Our main references
A crucible : journalism
The ContactGPS emanates from the heart of the journalistic experience of a chronicler-commentator-presenter for a public-service radio and television broadcaster (Radio Télévision Suisse). In order to do their work correctly, a journalist must be able to evaluate the diversity of opinions, and also, more profoundly, be able to understand where the other person is coming from. In order to do this work, the mapping of the «worlds of speech» has become a very useful tool. A GPS map will welcome diversity in a positive and legitimate manner, but also search for the logic that structure it. In bringing out the axes of differentiation in the theme, the journalist keeps a distance that will enable them to ask questions that will bring out different fundamentals, showing new ways of interpreting and communicating someone's experience of reality.
A field : communication
The development of the ContactGPS fits quite naturally as an action-reflection at the heart of communication, «a totally human action», as per the famous expression of French philosopher, Michel Serres. This approach is neither totalising, and even less totalitarian. «The totality of communication definitely does not signify that it qualifies and determines by itself all social actions and all human experiences, but that it is indispensable to the totalisation of human existence» (M. Serres, L'interférence, Paris, Ed. de Minuit, 1972, p.138). The explosion in communication that marks the beginning of the 21st century shows, as though it was necessary, the pertinence of the views of a philosopher. Today, digital and communication sciences have gained a much more significant place in the world of knowledge.
A focus : speech
In «Critique de la communication», Lucien Sfez acknowledges that «communication is never more talked about than in a society that no longer knows how to communicate among themselves, where cohesion is contested and values are eroded, where well-worn symbols no longer unify... It is in the gap created by their failure that communication is birthed.» Our starting point and our anchor are not communication, but speech, more precisely, «the man of speech» (in French). It is this attention to speech that differentiates a man talking about himself, an expression that Jacques Ellul, the great French philosopher of technique and alienation, predicts as a form of humiliation. In researching theological sources, we are working in the hope of proving this prediction to be a lie, either completely or in part, as well as any other pessimistic diagnoses.
A discipline : practical theology
The generation of theologians who have welcomed the growth of mass media has given thought to how to analyse risks and possibilities of transmitting faith. They have focused on developing training and raising awareness. In the European French-speaking world, Pierre Babin is one of the main figures in the Catholic domain, and Jean-Marc Chappuis in the Protestant, namely with his famous novel (in French): Histoire fantastique de William Bolomey, dernier pasteur chrétien. A magical and powerful «world of speech».
An urgency : creative applications
In practical theology, there is an urgency to develop applications, new work tools, to bring us into contact with digital culture. This is what the ContactGPS aims to do: effectively enter into digital culture, all the while linking it to the other cultures that hold us and that precede the current globalisation via the internet. As to the thinking that goes with it, we are aiming for a study of the application that includes the anthropological, theological and spiritual questions that are threatened by the digitalisation of the human world (omnipresence, addictions...), society and the transmission of values and beliefs.
An inspiration : mediaspheres
The works on mediology, initiated by Régis Debray, take into account the new media with the purpose of giving the transmission of the word a new position. His three different mediaspheres (logosphere, graphosphere and videosphere) are similar to our «worlds of speech». These spheres call for a methodology. The philosopher describes it as visual, in relation to catholic culture and anthropology. On our part, we prefer to base our analysis on oral transmission. In our view, orality is a sustainable system of transmission, that also mutates alongside new media. This is the path of study and thought we are following to place the importance of the application and the programme in a historical perspective.
A concrete reference : orality
To help us understand orality, there are many works of reference, on orality itself, and on the relationship between orality and scripture. For example, the works of linguist Walter J. Ong, or of anthropologists Jack Goody and Jean Bottero, specialists of the Formgeschichte (or form criticism), as per the scholar Werner Kelber. The latter uses the metaphore of the biosphere to describe oral tradition, which clearly resonates with our concept of the «world of speech».
A vision : intercultural theology
Finally, there is another thread, theological and spiritual, that we are tied to: that of analysing Christian traditions as varied means of transmission that originate in an oral and narrative dynamic. For example, the works of Walter Hollenweger. These have enriched and broadened the thinking on orality in Christianity, by conferring to it an intercultural scope. These ideas have also been used as a pneumatological concept (in French, L'expérience de l'Esprit). The different «worlds of speech» that the ContactGPS aims to identify are exactly the kind of tool that can help discover cultural differences and open up to the Breath that inhabits them and brings them together.
3. A historical review of communication
With all these different contributions, we can conceive of a place for the application and programme in the modern movement of digital globalisation. To imagine these places, the table below has a double-entry system: historical (orality in media) and systemic (digital processes and total system), with certain purely theological perspectives, straight from the Christian tradition (in green).
La tradition comme SYSTÈME ORAL de transmission
Oralité comme système de transmission
Canal d'un système total
Canaux de réseaux logiques se laisse observer par ceux qui n'en sont pas[ii]
Processus analogiques happe la communication, devient le contexte[iv]
1870 -> ... radiodiffusion
LA MISE EN LIGNE
Luther : affichage thèses
Les livres - Renaissance[v]
Les écrits font discuter
=>- vecteur de langue
3600-BC -> 600 papyrus
Exister en relation
Dieu créa par sa Parole
Tables de la Loi
Les choix de communication
(axes du ContactGPS)
Faire passer un max d'informations
L'important c'est ce qui restera demain
L'important c'est d'atteindre un max de récepteurs (espace QUANTITATIF)
L'important: ce que je peux
[i] "tout est transmis dans un…" un canal qui n'exclut personne - Tout le patrimoine génétique est transmis dans une cellule
[ii] "observable de l'ext. et non pilotable de l'intérieur par le proférateur -non motivé (canal à l'int. du sys. digital)
- réseau oral (synodal) se laisse observer par ceux qui n'en sont pas
[iii] "Ce qui interpelle et est transmis, ce sont les distinctions établies par l'émetteur
[iv] La Tradition est un contexte, elle n'est pas une immunité contre les attaques du temps. L'origine c'est le contexte de la discussion (et pas le texte)
[v] l'apparition de nouveaux modes de diffusion de l'information, la lecture scientifique des textes fondamentaux, la remise à l'honneur de la culture antique (littérature, arts, techniques), le renouveau des échanges commerciaux, les changements de représentation du monde (Renaissance selon R. Reymond. wikipédia art Renaissance)
[vi] Théodose II et son entourage familial sont à l'origine de la création de la première université, l'université de Constantinople en 425 (Art. Université -Wikipédia)