1. The philosophy of ContactGPS

A. The worlds of speech

The ContactGPS locates your «world of speech» based on where you mostly stand.

What does it mean?

Schemes of thought

A «world of speech» implies schemes of thought, representations of reality (worlds) that can be put into words, that can be expressed at the heart of interpersonal and collective relationships. The schemes organise and structure the way we experience the social, the natural and the spiritual. They allow us to relate through communication, with ourselves and others, and with the invisible third party (God).

Channel and process: the word

Communication comes through the word. It is the channel and the process that provide to the schemes their potential for a relationship, for interpersonal and collective interaction. This passage through the word is one of the origins of the diversity of schemes. The word is always directed. It seeks to come into contact with others who will validate and challenge at the same time the pertinence of the scheme. So, the word become the interpretation and transmission to others of a scheme, and that’s where their original diversity is grounded.

The stake : contact

The ContactGPS is situated at the intersection of schemes and words. There where words appear as a contextual expression, or become a relationship reprising a scheme; there there they enable a contact (action-reaction-retroaction). This is why a ContactGPS doesn't place itself in the order of the true/false, but in the order of the relational, of words that connect, that favour contact (hence the name of ContactGPS), mutual understanding. In the end, it actualises not just the contents (ideological or religious) you may adhere to, but also the forms of interaction, of exchange, of militancy, of adherence, such as the values, the symbols that you favour in a given media context. 

Baseline studies

As an example, one of the most symbolic studies of schemes that constitute «worlds of speech» is that of French anthropologist Philippe Descola. In his reference study, «Beyond nature and culture» (University Chicago Press, 2013), he sought to discover, in human history, the different visible forms of links between nature and culture. He categorised four: totems, analogism, animism and naturalism. These are a number of «worlds of speech» he identified.

In the area of theology, a ContactGPS team has attempted a similar project. It developed a GPS (demo version) that analyses each of the four gospels as a specific «world of speech». The project was awarded a prize


Publications inspired by the "worlds of speech"

Under the authorship of Michel Kocher, a number of theological publications outline a theology of the worlds of speech. One article, for example, analyses the equilibrium of words in the media domain. Faced with religious excesses, various "worlds of reaction and positionning" unfold, each corresponding to a particular equilibrium (Le religieux entre science et cité: penser avec Pierre Gisel) [The religious between science and citation: reflecting with Pierre Gisel]. Another article examines the dynamics of fraternity that come from Christian testimony (Le témoignage: comparaître pour vivre en fraternité) [The testimony: witnessing to live in fraternity]. These fraternities are genuine "worlds of testimony", rich and irreducible in relation to one another (downloadable version, in French).


In another theological publication, one article illustrates how believers respond to the calling of God. (L'Eglise est une réponse... à quels appels?[Church is an answer... to what callings?] It lists a number of "worlds of response" that transcend abrahamic traditions, to regroup in an open and challenging manner. At the invitation of the Blanquerna Observatory, of the Raymond Llull University in Barcelona, we put forward an analysis of the 2016 Farel Prize. It highlights the various forms of universality in religious-themed films, each one corresponding to a specific world of speech: the universality of a myth, the archetypical religious figure, man in the image of God, existence as a metaphore. The proposal was published in English (downloadable version), and can be found in the news communications

B. The maps: two axes of differentiation

The ContactGPS is a location on a map. How does it work?

Communication is 3D

Man lives in a three-dimensional time-space setting (time-space-movement). In other words, communication is always 3D. In providing maps, the ContactGPS is only a two-dimensional model (space-time). The third dimension corresponds to the interaction within and between the “worlds of speech”, leading to movements on the map that are linked to relational interactions. For the phenomenological approach that is the ContactGPS, the third dimension is a zone not taken into account. There are no 3D glasses that could create a distance between the communicator and the object. That is also the message of the philosophies of communication, emphasising a kind of ontological dead end. “Each intersubjective relationship encounters a relationship between persons for which the explanation breaks the framework that the perceiving subject shuts himself in.” (R. Scherer, Philosophies de la Communication, Paris, SEDES, 1971)

A GPS is 2D

The two dimensions representing communication are naturally drawn along the two axes, like on a map: north-south, east-west. What we put instead of the cardinal points can be expressed in different ways. The most fundamental expression is that of time and space. All communication will be situated on an axe considered as “temporal” and on an axe considered as “spatial”.

Another fundamental way of declining 2D is by using the “canonical” representation of communication. Any communication of a message must go through a channel of communication, linking the sender to a receiver, and engaging a process of coding-decoding between the two. There are other ways of representing the axes of this 2D map. Each ContactGPS shows a specific declination of the two axes. This has been the fruit of work and research of specialists in the matter, associated within the elaboration of each ContactGPS.  As an example, the map of the 4 worlds of speech which are the 4 gospels, is built on 2 axes which are grounded on a narrative analysis of the 4 texts and on christological schemes of thought.

Communicating is choosing

 Each of the axes allows us to situate, in a specific register, the concrete choices of communication. The temporal axe is presented with two different horizons: chronological time and narrative time. With the first, it is important to aim for a change that can be measured in time. With the second, narrative time (P. Ricoeur), it is important to aim for a unity and continuity in a length of time. If we follow a systemic declination, our choice is to privilege either a channel of expression, either a channel of representation. As for the choice of process, it amounts to privileging either a process of interpretation, either a process of transmission.

Differentiation: pathways of priority

Specific to man, is making the best possible choices at the heart of his space-time framework. These choices carve out pathways of priority, not opposition or even exclusion. In other words, the various dimensions of communication are always present, but one takes precedent over the other, in relation with the context in which communication unfolds. A tangible example is the sound track of a film. Do you prioritise the dialogue or the atmosphere? Europeans tend to choose the former, whereas Americans will go for the latter. The result will not be the same, even if both dimensions are effectively present.

The challenge with these choices of priority is a fundamental, structural gesture, that of differentiation. It appears as much in linguistics (“With language, you only have differences”, De Saussure) as is philosophy (“The meaning is never its own”, Jacques Derrida).

An axiom to be discussed and tested

 “Any act of human communication has to choose at least two priorities, one on the axe of time, the other on the axe of space.” This axiom of the ContactGPS needs to be analysed   and where necessary, disqualified or reformulated. The discussion remains open. We propose another direction too, that of testing the reality whilst testing the pertinence of the GPS. Do the positions offered up to the wisdom of the users of the GPS indicate true differences? With its two axes of differentiation, does the programme demonstrate truly determinate choices? That’s up to you.

C. Questions and positions (framework and limits of the software)

The ContactGPS is a programme that constitutes a specific approach to communication, that of worlds of speech. The use of the software in this form can be considered as a « communication moment » that remains to be specified. It’s an invitation to a pathway of speech and towards speech. The pathway is not defined or situated in a particular context. It is made up of playful and staged elements. The pathway the software takes you on is a work in progress with different stages, each one with its own demands, balances, functions and limits.

Playing with software or working on a theme?

The people who discover a GPS for the first time have two different attitudes. Some are seduced by its playful side, by the way it is used (the medium or channel). Others, on the other hand, are wary but accept to give it a try to see what it can say or bring of importance (the theme, the processes). These two approaches are understandable, legitimate and intractable. They echo, when analysing communication, the traditional debate between the medium and the message. What comes first? (see the famous “The medium is the message” by Marshall McLuhan). The question cannot be resolved in a theoretical or general way, other than to favour one anthropology (i.e. “feeling is first”) over another, which is debatable. In practice, we choose primarily one door or another; but in all cases, both dimensions (medium and message) are compulsory doorways. Thus, the software, in its current concept, doesn’t take into account this priority of entry, it’s an unformed zone.

A theme shaped as a question (“quod” instead of “quid”)

 Each ContactGPS offers to situate the user surrounding a basic question. Under the influence, consciously or otherwise, of Western   metaphysics, the initial reflex is to hear the question and understand it as “quid”, in other words as a definition. “Quid of this or that?” That is what captures the attention of those who are interested in the GPS and what kind of “message” it can bring. Yet, the search for the right explanation, the essence (the quiddity) is not its purpose. By using Latin, scholars distinguish between the quid and the quod. The latter is what we’re going by. The quod is a relative pronoun used as a conjunction: “And in relation to this or that?” In other words: what should we think of it, what is the relation to the fact that it is? The ContactGPS is not looking for the essence of something, but the relationship we have with it.

Several questions = greater confidence

Capturing the movement of a search for meaning, from a link to a theme, via speech, requires an appropriate setting, a form of experience, self-confrontation, without any other immediate issue at stake. In theory, two questions per GPS would be sufficient. But to avoid the “white coat” effect whilst taking the blood pressure, we want to remove the propensity to “have to give the right answer”; in other words, answering the “quid” when the question is “quod”. There are questions that can soften this effect and we want to aim for a “communication moment” brought out by having confidence in those who constructed the GPS. This is what the diversity of the questions, tied with their ponderation, their graphic quality and plasticity of the templates can contribute to. Notwithstanding the fact that, in order to reach the user in his context and away from a world of definitions, the questions are without doubt, in parts, tentative and explorative.

The answers: finding a priority, the direction of the meaning

“The shortest path between two points is a straight line”. True, but this axiom is only valid in a Euclidian space (in 2D). In other geometries, this isn’t the case; it could be a circular arc. “Given two possible answers, you need to choose”. True, but this axiom is only valid on a two-dimensional map (like that of the ContactGPS). In reality, it is possible to choose one answer without negating the other. It is simply differentiated.

Thus, the two proposed answers for the GPS questions are not oppositions, but invitations to a contextual priority that helps us reason in 2D. The answers are not meant to be arbitrary differences, but rather help to take hold of a direction, a differencing, a pointer to what we tend to differentiate or defer, because the meaning is never definitive. This theory was outlined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida: the deconstruction of binary oppositions that are fixed and founded on arbitrary and univocal notions.

The results: on and outside of the map

After everything we have said on the limitations of 2D, we need to ask ourselves this. What does the positioning of the ContactGPS   really  show? We can distinguish two types of response. One rests on the map and the other on speech. The map is 2D. The point of position and the directional arrow (not on all GPS) are mathematical averages. No more, no less. Communication will always be 3D, so the result of a ContactGPS can only be benchmarked using words that create a relationship, that bring about a differencing. The pathway the words will create within and after the “communication moment” of the GPS is the true result. Discussion, contestation or approbation, additional reading or anything else make up the 3D result.


2. Our main references

A melting pot : journalism

 The ContactGPS was birthed from the heart of the journalistic practice of columnist-commentator-presenter working for a public service media organisation (Radio Télévision Suisse). In order to do a  job correctly, a journalist needs to evaluate the diversity of opinions, but also, and in a much deeper way, situate where each protagonist is coming from. To carry out this work, the mapping of the «worlds of speech» has turned out to be a very useful tool. A GPS map is a means of welcoming diversity in a positive and legitimate way, but also of seeking out the logic that makes up its structure. By distinguishing the discriminatory axes surrounding a theme, the journalist can take some distance, allowing him/her to ask the right questions that will extract background choices, provide different ways of interpreting et communicate an experience of reality.

A domain: communication

The development of the ContactGPS can be written naturally as an action-reflection at the heart of communication, a «total human act» as per the famous expression by Michel Serres. The approach isn’t intended to be totalising, and certainly not totalitarian. «The totality of communication does not in any way signify that it qualifies and determines in itself all social acts and human experiences, but that it is indispensable to the totalisation of human existence» (M. Serres, L’interférence, Paris, Editions de Minuit, 1972, p.138). The explosion of communication that marks the birth of the 21st century proves, if still necessary, the pertinence of the views of a philosopher. Nowadays, the sciences of IT and communication take up a significant place in the world of knowledge.  

A focus: speech

In his book «Critique de la communication», Lucien Sfez remarks that «communication is never spoken of so much other than in a society that is no longer able to communicate with itself, where its cohesion is contested and values are disintegrating, and where overly worn-out symbols are no longer able to bring unity… It’s in this cavity dug out by their failure that communication is birthed» (p.16-17). Our starting point and anchor is not communication, but rather speech, and more precisely, the man of speech. It is also the Word pronounced by man that comes from Another than himself, a Word that Jacques Ellul, a great thinker on technology and the alienation of society, predicted as a form of humiliation. In examining theological sources, we aim to hopefully dispel all or part of this prediction and other pessimistic diagnoses.

A discipline: practical theology

The generation of theologians who welcome the development of mass media has considered decrypting the risks and possibilities for the transmission of faith. Their work has become a form of training. In French-speaking Europe, Pierre Babin is a noted person on the catholic side and Jean-Marc Chappuis for the protestant side, with his famous fiction: "Ecclesiastic park". A magic "world of speech".

Today’s urgency : creativ software

For the practical theology, there is an urgency. It is to develop software, the latest means, to create «digital» relationships, all the while articulating them with the other cultures that continue to support us and that precede current globalisation via the screen. As for the way of thought that goes with it, the idea is to seek out a study angle for the software that will include the anthropological, theological and spiritual questions, placed up against the digitalisation of this world for man (ubiquity, addictions…), society and the transmission of values and beliefs.

 An inspiration: mediaspheres

The works in mediology initiated by Régis Debray take into account new media from an angle that provides a new space for mediations of speech. His three different mediaspheres (logosphere, graphosphere and videosphere) closely ressemble our «worlds of speech». These spheres invite a systemic approach. The philosopher mainly revolve around vision, linked with his catholique culture and anthropology. For our part, our powers of analysis are grounded in orality.  We consider orality as a sustainable means of transmission, but mutating also in function of new media. This is the pathway of study and thought we follow in order to situate the importance of this software and its programming within a historical perspective.

A solid reference: orality

To help us consider orality, there have been many works, as much on orality itself as on the connections between orality and scripture. For example, the works of linguist W. J. Ong, or anthropologists Jack Goody and Jean Bottéro, or again specialists in Formgeschichte such as Werner Kelber. The latter uses as a metaphore the biosphere to describe oral tradition; and this resonates with our concept of a «world of speech».  


A vision: intercultural theology

Finally, another vein, theological and spiritual, that we attach ourselves to, one that analyses Christian tradition as differentiating procedures of transmission based on an oral and narrative dynamic. For example, the works of W. Hollenweger that have enriched and widened our thoughts on orality in Christianity, as we acknowledge its intercultural reach. His works also put orality into a pneumatological or spiritual perspective (Interkulturelle Theologie). The various «worlds of speech» the ContactGPS is attempting to identify are in effect a tool for examining cultural differences and opening up to the Breath that blows through them and connects them.






Work in progress... 

Tradition as an ORAL SYSTEM of transmission                                                                                         

Orality as

a system of transmission


Channel of a total system

always includes the whole system - everything handed down in a gene[i]


Digital processes

expresses distinctions as specified by the author[iii]


Channels of logical networks

allow themselves to be observed by those who are not [ii]  


Analogue processes

grasps the communication, becomes the context [iv]

Mediatised orality

1870 -> ...

radio broadcasting



Creating an algorithm (artificial intelligence)



Data (big data)



Consulting information



The human "modem": from numeric to analogue

Secondary orality





Theses, caricatures...




Books - The Renaissance[v]

Calvin: The Institutes



The writings that open debate




Translation of the Bible (Luther)

=> vector of language

Mixed orality

600-1500 parchment



The scribes

The Law and the prophets



Universities[vi] - schools

The Canon



The corpora, monks

4 Gospels



The commentary

Saint Paul

Primary orality

3600 BC -> 600 papyrus



Existing in relation

God created by His Word



Relating to a public

Moses' staff





The Tables of the Law



Reducing the signs to  increase meaning


The choices of communication

(axes of the ContactGPS)


Transmitting a maximum of information          

(qualitative space)


The most important is what will remain tomorrow.

(NARRATIVE timing)


The most important is to reach the greatest audience 

(quantitative space)


The most important is what I can communicate now



[i]  "everything handed down..." through a channel that excludes nobody - All the genetic heritage is handed down in one cell

[ii] "can be observed from the outside and cannot be driven from the inside by the speaker - no motivation (a channel inside the digital system)

- an oral network (synodal) allows itself to be observed by those who are not of it. 

[iii]  The things that compel us and are transmitted are distinctions defined by the speaker. 

[iv] Tradition is a context, it is not an immunity against the attacks of time. Its origins form the context of the discussion (not the words). 

[v] The apparition of new modes of spreading information, the scientific reading of fundamental writings, once again honouring antique culture (literature, arts, techniques), the renewal of commercial exchanges, the changes in the representation of the world (The Renaissance according to R. Reymond, Wikipedia article on The Renaissance). 

[vi] Theodosius II and his extended family are at the basis of the creation of the first university, the university of Constantinople in 425 (Article on Universities, Wikipedia).  

3. A brief history

ContactGPS is based on an original idea by Michel Kocher a Protestant theologian and journalist working for the Swiss public radio and television network (RTS) in his role as director of the Protestant media agency, Médias-pro, partner of the RTS. A former assistant to Professor Jean-Marc Chappuis, Kocher studied with Walter Hollenweger in Birmingham, UK. He has a Masters degree in theology from the University of Geneva and a diploma in applied studies in Practical Theology. He has done lengthy research in communication techniques, specialising in the aspect of tradition as a fundamental oral  mode of transmission

Between 2008 and 2015, the computer versions of the software and the site were handled by Jean-Christophe Emery, Protestant theologian, qualified journalist and former head of the Protestant Radio Service (RTS) and IT administrator for Medias-pro; currently director of "Cèdres Formation". He is also the author of one of the most-used GPS, the "Projet Khi". 

The initial web versions of "Forms of Celebration" and "The Calvin Neuron Factor" were conceived by Daniel Barbezat, head of IT development of FileMaker Pro for Medias-pro. Today FileMaker is no longer being used as the development software. 

Thanks to a generous donator, since 2012, ContactGPS has been developed using PHP/MySQL (web version) and iOS/Android (Apps) by Yves Bresson, IT specialist and partner with Medias-pro. All versions are now developped on the new PHP/MySQL platform.


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