/ Forschung

Call: Make the Worlds in Discovery known

Strasbourg, 14 - 16 October 2019

The symposium addresses the process by which the worlds in discovery are brought to the knowledge of a more or less wide audience. Innovative explorations have long been the subject of media, with filters that have given some place to fiction, to fantasy and to the actors' strategies. Media have changed dramatically over time: oral narratives or writings, maps, images of all kinds and more recently photographs, films, reports, television, the Internet... Today, discovery is not limited to the terrestrial space. It spreads into the sidereal universe, but also into spaces of fiction that, through myths, art, literature and philosophical tales, have never been absent from the worlds in discovery. These newly explored or invented universes are also "worlds in discovery", which help to popularize the media and which the symposium will take into account.

The conference will focus on the process of discovery in its social context, the links between discoverers and media, the mechanisms of transmission by the media, the societal effects of media coverage of discoveries.
The contributions can be of various disciplines, geography, history, sociology, literature, political science, etc. Reflection is not limited to any specific period of history or place of discovery.

In connection with the exhibition organized by the National and University Library of Strasbourg (BNUS) "Outside the world, maps and the imaginary", the BNUS and the Laboratories SAGE (UMR 7363, University of Strasbourg- CNRS), Germanic and North European Worlds (EA 1341, University of Strasbourg) and CESSMA (UMR 245, University of Paris-Diderot) are arranging a multidisciplinary international symposium on bringing-to-knowledge worlds in discovery, be it through maps or other media.

Worlds in discovery and media
Geographical discoveries have always been the subject of media coverage to a more or less wide audience. In Europe, starting during the Renaissance, maps were a major tool of the making known, with a restricted audience of sovereigns, merchants, powerful and enlightened people, sailors and even adventurers. Before the European Renaissance, maps were not unknown, for example with the very pragmatic portolans that navigators made and used. But other media probably had more importance in communication, such as narratives in which the marvellous could cover up or suggest new realities. Since the Renaissance, and even more so at the present time, the evolutions have been significant.

Among other factors, discoveries stimulated the technical improvement of the map, with mapmaking beginning to follow a scientific method. At the same time, the media have continued to diversify. Press, books, images and photographs, films, reports and documentaries, radio and television, and Internet have revealed to an ever-widening public new worlds in discovery. Similarly, as the Earth became finite and knowable, other unfinished spaces opened up to discovery, beginning with space.

We should add spaces of fiction, as if the appetite for discovery was so great that reality was not enough. For a long time, maps were used to depict those spaces - and they still are - whether one thinks of the eighteenth-century Carte du Tendre or Tolkien's twentieth-century universe. But proven facts are not exclusive to fiction, as the geographical maps of the 16th and 17th centuries show, mixing them with sea monsters, mythological sceneries and supposed/imagined places. Made into works of art, maps sold better; but perhaps what seems to us today to be mythical was for the societies in question a necessary component of communication. Contemporary fiction no doubt works the same way, but with means increased tenfold. New technologies contribute to the craze for these achievements, so much so that today's audiences are discovering their immense possibilities just as much as new universes. One could mention science fiction, special effects, video games or novel art forms. One could perhaps say that media have long popularized new worlds, whereas today imagined universes strongly contribute to popularizing the media themselves.

The symposium thus retains a broad meaning of the notion of worlds in discovery as well as the media that disseminate knowledge. We assume the fact that discovery, far from constituting a moment, corresponds to a process of medium or long term, in which knowledge does not stop. The idea of a process is, moreover, consistent with the definition of a world as being a totality, a system and often a society in its complexity, in the interaction of its elements; the knowledge of this complexity obviously supposes the long duration.

To make known presupposes at least the existence of a transmitter and a receiver. On the transmitter side, the discoverer is not alone. Although conditions have changed considerably over time, he has rarely been the main actor, because he has always had to deal with the media specialist who realizes the object, but also with the financier, public or private, who ensures the feasibility of the project, as well as with intermediaries. Each of them, according to their means, has their own objectives and implements their strategy, as Isabelle Lesage (ed.) has clearly shown with the question of the blanks on the map (2004). On the receivers' side, their number varies according to the times, the societies and the achievements. But the need – perhaps even the thirst - to know remains indispensable; feelings which the emitter can obviously sharpen and perhaps provoke. Moreover, in the zest for the worlds in discovery, there are essential elements of the human spirit – a fascination for strange things, enthusiasm for adventure, the desire to surpass oneself, a passion for riddles, the quest for beauty. To make known the worlds in discovery necessarily entails a pedagogical dimension, just as its study presupposes a questioning in terms of actors.

A multidisciplinary reflection
Studying the putting in knowledge of worlds in discovery requires a multidisciplinary reflection. Geography and ethnology attempt to describe and understand the world in discovery, while History seeks to grasp the process of discovery. This knowledge also mobilizes those who question literature and art, while mediatization necessarily

includes pedagogy of transmission and a technical logic. The role of decision-makers and the powerful in delivering the message postulates an inevitable political dimension. The individual responsible for authorizing and sometimes financing has considerable resources, whether they put forward or on the contrary censor the message, unless it is to deflect the message in the way they think most appropriate. Already during the explorations of America, such individuals had taken into account the ability to distort information, to hide it as a state secret or on the contrary to emphasize it to place themselves center-stage. In addition, the blanks of the map have played a role of stimulant, or a pretext, for new adventures, explorations, discoveries, but also for conquests and for taking possession of territories. The map and the media thus create a reality that then tends to impose itself on the ground, for example on the people who live on the blanks of the map. Do not today's private groups act the same way in prospecting for new markets?

Philosophy also has sought to engage with worlds in discovery. By staging the strange and the unknown, it gives rise to a reflection on the Other, on his way of life and on his system of thought. The philosopher can take a step back to shake up the taboos and the unspoken of his own society and reveal to his fellow countrymen the relativity of the choices on which it was founded. Through satire, tale and fable, speaking in a barely veiled way, the Lumières philosophers have often been able to divert the anger of the powerful, like Voltaire in his Candide - which portrays an Eldorado even more mythical than that of the novelists - or Montesquieu with his Lettres persanes. Some of their successors, in the nineteenth century, wanted to apply their philosophical conceptions through social utopian realizations. The organization of space was used to found ideal societies: a situation worthy of an oxymoron where utopia, which is of no place, was materialized, localized and even mapped!

In a reflexive way, the making known of the worlds in discovery questions the society that takes the initiative. The sociologist as well as the historian is solicited here, because the choice of what is put forward in a newly perceived reality as much as the invention by pure imagination of a virtual world reveals something of the system of thought of the society which so acts. In the same way, the modes of transmission characterise a given society and the effects of the transmission contribute to the construction of this society.

A goal and axes of reflection

The symposium aims to produce a reflection and a discussion on the processes by which the worlds in discovery, including the worlds of fiction, are brought to the knowledge of a more or less wide audience. It does not exclude a priori any era of history, any society from which emerges the initiative of discovery, nor any place of discovery (terrestrial or alien). The following tracks are suggested, but not exclusive:

  • The process of discovery: Are there societies that undertake, or do not undertake, exploration, discovery or fiction production? How and why? What are the incentives and institutions (in a broad sense, what is instituted) that carry the process, and conversely what are the blockages?
  • The discoverer and the media: how is, or is not, the link between discoverers and the media? What are the actors, the intermediaries, the obstacles, the refusals, the solicitations, the social networks? What are the strategies and techniques of approach of each other, what relations link them?
  • The processes of transmission: what are the intellectual, political, financial, technical processes by which a discovery is brought to the knowledge? What are the logics and the actors of the media, what are the possible media networks in action? Who is the audience, how is it defined, by what is it limited?
  • The societal effects of media coverage of discoveries: what social, political and technical transformations bring about the knowledge of discoveries? What are the chain reactions, both on the societies that took the initiative of these discoveries and on those that are the objects of it?

Dates of the symposium: October 14, 15, 16, 2019.

Organizing institutions: Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire de Strasbourg (BNUS), Laboratoire SAGE, Sociétés, Acteurs, Gouvernement en Europe (UMR 7363, Université de Strasbourg-CNRS), Equipe d'accueil Mondes germaniques et nord-européens (EA 1341, Université de Strasbourg), Laboratoire CESSMA (UMR 245, Université Paris- Diderot-IRD-INALCO).

Location: Strasbourg, auditorium of the BNUSWorking languages: French, English, German

Each participant will contribute in his/her own language. No translation will be provided.

Sending of the proposals before the 31st Jan. 2019, to the following address:

1 page, about 5,00 words 3 to 5 keywords, A short CV (ten lines)

Answers of the Scientific Committee: March 31, 2019.

Scientific Committee
Odile GOERG, Historian, Université Paris Diderot, Laboratoire UMR CESSMA
Philippe HAMMAN, Sociologist, Université de Strasbourg, Laboratoire UMR SAGE Alexandre KOEBEL, Historian, Université Paris Diderot, Laboratoire UMR CESSMA Thomas MOHNIKE, Scandinavian literature and civilizations, Université de Strasbourg, Laboratoire Mondes germaniques et nord-européens

Jean-Luc PIERMAY, Geographer, Université de Strasbourg, Laboratoire UMR SAGE Patricia ZANDER, Geographer, Université de Strasbourg, Laboratoire UMR SAGE

Steering committee
Annick BOHN, Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire de Strasbourg Gwenaël CITERIN, Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire de Strasbourg Jean-Luc PIERMAY, Université de Strasbourg
Benoît WIRRMANN, Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire de Strasbourg

The symposium will be part of the events around the exhibition "Out of the world, the map and the imaginary", organized by the National and University Library of Strasbourg (BNUS) from May 17 to October 20, 2019.

Translation in English: Jean-Luc Piermay, Joshua Mark