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Contribution to the discussion on Communication

In this digital era, people often think that talking about communication is a matter of the technical abilities needed for management of the social media. A good communicator is continually and winningly active on the social media, quite apart from the content offered. What I want to do is rather different: I want to direct attention to the centre of the question of communication in the digital age and offer a number of reflections.

Communication presupposes respect for the interlocutor and her/his dignity (there is no communication between people who have no regard for each other), attention to the other (to avoid giving offence) – the other being seen not as someone different from me and potentially hostile, but at an essential pole towards which I move in order to completely fulfil the vocation to love. If you love yourself you’re a narcissist and an egoist, whereas if you love the other you find true, complete fulfilment in life. Communicating, in words or otherwise, is vital to human beings. This is why God was the first to open communication with humanity and the first to speak a word, and his Word is life.

“There is an effort to talk of ‘communication’ of the Gospel rather than proclamation”, wrote Paolo Carrara, professor of Pastoral Theology, in the 9th August edition of the Osservatore Romano. In the Acts of the Apostles we read the kerygmatic proclamations of the Apostles: their message is for all listeners, without distinction. Proclamation was and is spreading a message to a multitude of people in the hope that some may respond to it. In contrast, communicating a message is based on a personal relationship, a certain intimacy, affection between the communicator and the person receiving the communication – a relationship. In proclamation there is an active party (the proclaimer) and a passive party (the listener; but in communication participation is key. The news communicated is answered by a visible reaction that invites further information. This gives rise to dialogue, the relationship between individuals, that fundamental communication that can generate a relationship between human beings and ultimately with God: namely, faith.

In digital times, the evaporation of the idea of “public” complicates our understanding of communication. Previously, content was regulated by the target of reference, the specific audience, and the attempt was to use their language and adopt their style. No newspaper that was considered to be an opinion maker would ever have adopted the language, style and content of a tabloid. In the digital era, any content is just a click away, your target is a drop in the ocean of possible readers and communication is faced with the challenge of “cultural mediation”: how to be understood beyond the natural limits of your own world.

Those who fail to understand this allow the digital era to identify them by means of cold, sterile institutional information: “our mission…”, “our charism…” This specific kind of communication is found in brochures, leaflets, marketing flyers that aim to impress a key message – the slogan – on the client’s memory. Rightly or wrongly, in the digital era communication of myself starts from how I act: the actions I perform are determined by my ethics. This turns the terms of communication upside down.

If you start by presenting your identity and then all the actions consequent on it, you immediately put off anyone whose identity is different. But attracting everyone who finds your action familiar means that you can gather a multitude of people to share something with. It’s the shared starting point on a journey of reciprocal knowledge: communicating rather than proclaiming.

Digital communication forces us to ask: beyond the slogans and proclamations of some right, what characterises our action? Which of our actions make it possible to identify with what we say? What is the unicum generated exclusively by our identity – by our being thus and not otherwise?

Digital communication in the Church has two poles of attraction: on the one hand it offers the doctrine on which judgments and actions are based, an approach that solves problems by presenting the official position of the Church and the actions tat can be accepted; on the other, it offers pastoral action that suspends judgment and only then turns to the Church’s official position – an approach that privileges the effects of the problems and only then evaluates their impact on doctrine. In other words, we are back with the tension between the Revelation definitive and immutable, and understanding of it, progressive and ever more perfect.

What is the position of the Dominican laity? The answer to this question is the identification of the special nature of the Dominican laity and the outlining of the reference frame of its communication – the framework within which we identify ourselves.

The risk is great. It is a matter both of proclaiming our identity digitally, which is hard enough, and of entrusting to communicative action the mission of preaching to which we are called by our charism. It is possible and indeed crucial to deal with the question of meaning in the digital era: this is a task that should find us in the front line, tracing a safe pathway. We need to conceive and define a theology and a pastoral action that accept the challenge of the digital era, and that can meet people where they live and speak their language.

I hope that this challenge will be accepted by the International Congress of Dominican laity, that we can talk about it, as we will do in the Communication Commission of which I will be president, and that it can set in motion a time of specific studies and concrete actions.

 

Contribution to the discussion on Communicationhttp://www.fraternitiesop.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Mosé-iPhone.pnghttp://www.fraternitiesop.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Mosé-iPhone-150x150.pngEdoardo MatteiEnglishSign of our timesSlider,,
In this digital era, people often think that talking about communication is a matter of the technical abilities needed for management of the social media. A good communicator is continually and winningly active on the social media, quite apart from the content offered. What I want to do is...
In this digital era, people often think that talking about communication is a matter of the technical abilities needed for management of the social media. A good communicator is continually and winningly active on the social media, quite apart from the content offered. What I want to do is rather different: I want to direct attention to the centre of the question of communication in the digital age and offer a number of reflections. Communication presupposes respect for the interlocutor and her/his dignity (there is no communication between people who have no regard for each other), attention to the other (to avoid giving offence) – the other being seen not as someone different from me and potentially hostile, but at an essential pole towards which I move in order to completely fulfil the vocation to love. If you love yourself you’re a narcissist and an egoist, whereas if you love the other you find true, complete fulfilment in life. Communicating, in words or otherwise, is vital to human beings. This is why God was the first to open communication with humanity and the first to speak a word, and his Word is life. “There is an effort to talk of ‘communication’ of the Gospel rather than proclamation”, wrote Paolo Carrara, professor of Pastoral Theology, in the 9<sup>th</sup> August edition of the <em>Osservatore</em> <em>Romano</em>. In the Acts of the Apostles we read the kerygmatic proclamations of the Apostles: their message is for all listeners, without distinction. Proclamation was and is spreading a message to a multitude of people in the hope that some may respond to it. In contrast, communicating a message is based on a personal relationship, a certain intimacy, affection between the communicator and the person receiving the communication – a relationship. In proclamation there is an active party (the proclaimer) and a passive party (the listener; but in communication participation is key. The news communicated is answered by a visible reaction that invites further information. This gives rise to dialogue, the relationship between individuals, that fundamental communication that can generate a relationship between human beings and ultimately with God: namely, faith. In digital times, the evaporation of the idea of “public” complicates our understanding of communication. Previously, content was regulated by the target of reference, the specific audience, and the attempt was to use their language and adopt their style. No newspaper that was considered to be an opinion maker would ever have adopted the language, style and content of a tabloid. In the digital era, any content is just a click away, your target is a drop in the ocean of possible readers and communication is faced with the challenge of “cultural mediation”: how to be understood beyond the natural limits of your own world. Those who fail to understand this allow the digital era to identify them by means of cold, sterile institutional information: “our mission…”, “our charism…” This specific kind of communication is found in brochures, leaflets, marketing flyers that aim to impress a key message – the slogan – on the client’s memory. Rightly or wrongly, in the digital era communication of myself starts from how I act: the actions I perform are determined by my ethics. This turns the terms of communication upside down. If you start by presenting your identity and then all the actions consequent on it, you immediately put off anyone whose identity is different. But attracting everyone who finds your action familiar means that you can gather a multitude of people to share something with. It’s the shared starting point on a journey of reciprocal knowledge: communicating rather than proclaiming. Digital communication forces us to ask: beyond the slogans and proclamations of some right, what characterises our action? Which of our actions make it possible to identify with what we say? What is the <em>unicum</em> generated exclusively by our identity – by our being thus and not otherwise? Digital communication in the Church has two poles of attraction: on the one hand it offers the doctrine on which judgments and actions are based, an approach that solves problems by presenting the official position of the Church and the actions tat can be accepted; on the other, it offers pastoral action that suspends judgment and only then turns to the Church’s official position – an approach that privileges the effects of the problems and only then evaluates their impact on doctrine. In other words, we are back with the tension between the Revelation definitive and immutable, and understanding of it, progressive and ever more perfect. What is the position of the Dominican laity? The answer to this question is the identification of the special nature of the Dominican laity and the outlining of the reference frame of its communication – the framework within which we identify ourselves. The risk is great. It is a matter both of proclaiming our identity digitally, which is hard enough, and of entrusting to communicative action the mission of preaching to which we are called by our charism. It is possible and indeed crucial to deal with the question of meaning in the digital era: this is a task that should find us in the front line, tracing a safe pathway. We need to conceive and define a theology and a pastoral action that accept the challenge of the digital era, and that can meet people where they live and speak their language. I hope that this challenge will be accepted by the International Congress of Dominican laity, that we can talk about it, as we will do in the Communication Commission of which I will be president, and that it can set in motion a time of specific studies and concrete actions.  

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