Narratives have a fundamental role in the lives of human beings, as they are linked to the capacity to tell stories, and, thus, mold our world. Flusser
) notes that language is the “foundation of the world”, as is postulated in the biblical passage “in the beginning there was Word”. In the author’s opinion, however, language refers to a dimension of producing reality and its propagation. It is with this same meaning that the discussion of the narrative used here seeks to place the experience within a setting of mediatization; that is, within a context whereby all forms of life are touched by a layer of media culture that has created new ways of contact and connections.
Vitally important within religious communities, narratives form links between the act of recounting and contact with the sacred within a symbolic scope. By doing so, they form a core reference on which religious doctrines and rituals are based. Narratives also occupy a relevant place in terms of transmitting religious experiences. It is through accounts that the members of a religious group deal with how they feel and inspire others to do the same. More than this, narratives circulate the actual religious experience. This point of view is beneficial when considering the current context wherein it is impossible to reflect communication without discussing the circulation of meanings that manifests in the media sphere.
There is a direct connection between the experience and the narrative. However, the relationship is exceptionally complex. Based on Paul Ricoeur’s narrative theory (Ricoeur 1984
), one may say there is: a narrative-based experience resulting from the interpretation of the lived experience, the experience of narrating (the action) the history of the lived experience, and the experience of interpreting the other person’s experience through the narrative provided to the interlocutors. This circularity is included in what the author calls the “triple mimesis”. Despite being common in scientific research to isolate the narrative experience, and separate it from the others, it is vital not to lose the entire narrative that comprises it.
Because of the inseparability between the narrative and experience, and the relevance of this problem within a religious context, this article seeks to examine how the mediatization process of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage has transformed not only the forms of narrating this experience, but also the way the pilgrimage is effectively experienced. This is because the experiences among pilgrims are increasingly taking on the contours of a product created for media circulation, therefore, integrating the intimate and public spheres.
Several techniques of methodological approach were used to understand these affectations, such as research of ethnographic inspiration in one of the pilgrimage routes (the French Camino), analysis of pilgrims’ reports in different media (blogs, social networks, books), and interviews1
. In the following sections, more details of this methodology, as well as the relationship between narrative and mediatized experience, will be shown. First, some historical aspects of the pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago will be discussed.
2. The Pilgrimage Ritual
A pilgrimage is a traditional ritual among the major world religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, not to mention myriad tribal societies. Making a pilgrimage means putting oneself in movement, in the direction of some holy place, driven by a deep sentiment (usually religious/devotional). The pilgrim’s motivation, the route, and the destination are fundamental components (Cardita 2012, p. 197
Historically, pilgrimages emerged from a hierophany (Eliade 1987
)—in other words, the manifestation of the sacred in the world: a miracle, a supernatural manifestation, or the preservation of some sacred keepsake. They form points in space that function like centers that attract those who want to have an experience in which they can feel the presence of the divine. According to Turner and Turner
) and Van Gennep
), a pilgrimage, like other rituals, implies immersing into an experience on the margin of the social structure. This process involves three stages: separation
from the society of which the individual is part; margin
(or threshold), characterized by dilution of hierarchical social positions within society, and immersion into ritualistic logic; and reintegration
, when the participant returns once again to society, becoming part of the social structure anew. In passage rites, the last stage is marked by ascending to a new social position (Van Gennep 1960
Despite a pilgrimage not being considered a rite of passage, as it does not lead to a change in position within society, Turner and Turner
) and Van Gennep
) agree that it is a ritualistic experience whereby there is a disconnection with the social structure and daily routine. Van Gennep
(1960, p. 185
) states: “every pilgrim, from the time of his departure until his return, was outside ordinary life and in a transitional state”. In The Ritual Process
(1991, p. 177
) had previously emphasized that the threshold moment is marked by the organization referenced by communitas
that “presents society as an undifferentiated, homogeneous whole, in which individuals confront one another integrally, and not as ‘segmentalized’ into statuses and roles”. In Image and Culture in Christian Pilgrimage
, authored by Turner and Turner
), similarities are drawn between the characteristics of the pilgrimage and rites of passages, such as:
release from mundane structure; homogenization of status; simplicity of dress and behavior; communitas; ordeal; reflection on the meaning of basic religious and cultural values; ritualized enactment of correspondences between religious paradigms and shared human experiences; emergence of the integral person from multiple personae; movement from a mundane center to a sacred periphery which suddenly, transiently, becomes central for the individual, an axis mundi of his faith; movement itself, a symbol of communitas, which changes with time, as against stasis, which represents structure; individuality posed against the institutionalized milieu; and so forth.
The institutionalization of the pilgrimage may lead pilgrims to contest the norms of religious institutions in terms of access to places considered sacred (Eade and Sallnow 1991
). For this article, it is important to underscore that this ritual, regardless of the level of interference from a religious institute, calls for a break from the structure of daily life, namely work, family, and habits. It means delving into another reality, brimming with unusual experiences. The way that these experiences play out depends on the characteristics particular to each pilgrimage, which includes both religious and contextual factors.
Regarding religious factors, Turner and Turner outline four types of pilgrimages: (1) a pilgrimage based on the authority, evidence or tradition disseminated by the founder; (2) a pilgrimage carrying syncretism between old and new religions; (3) the medieval European pilgrimage; and (4) the pilgrimage that emerged from the 19th century through European Catholicism, many of which are inspired by the appearance of Mother Mary (Turner and Turner 2011, pp. 31–32
Camino de Santiago is cited by these authors as a medieval European pilgrimage. However, one may say that it is currently and increasingly transforming into a syncretic pilgrimage, forming a bricolage
of several religious and non-religious elements, leaning towards notions of spirituality (Hanegraaff 1999
). Understanding this contemporary transformation is fundamental to comprehend just who the modern pilgrim is and how mediatization of the experience through the narrative affects the actual essence of the experience.
3. The Pilgrim on the Camino De Santiago
Similar to other medieval pilgrimages, the Camino de Santiago is associated to the relics of a saint. According to Catholic tradition, in the ninth century, Pelagio, a hermit, witnessed strange lights on Mount Libredon, and, upon arrival, found the mortal remains of the apostle James the Great and those of his disciples Athanasius and Theodore (Singul 1999, p. 35
). News quickly spread, transforming the region into a pilgrimage hub, drawing Christians from the entire European continent.
In 1181, Pope Alexander III instituted the Year Holy Compostelano (also called Year Xacobeo in Galicia). According to the papal bull Aeterni regis
, a celebration is held every time 25 July, the day of Santiago the Great, falls on a Sunday. Those who undertake the pilgrimage in that year obtain plenary indulgences. The creation of a holy year leveraged pilgrimages and was vitally important to the history of the Compostela pilgrimage, ensuring it would be remembered even during times of crises. The peak of medieval pilgrimages took place between the 11th and 13th centuries, a time during which pilgrims enjoyed expressive affluence. In the 14th century, the Great Famine, the Black Plague, and the Hundred Years’ War led to fewer pilgrims setting out on the Camino. In the 16th century, the Protestant Reform also led to a reduction in pilgrim numbers due to staunch criticism of the ritual (Lacarra y de Miguel 1966, p. 41
Many motives lead to Santiago de Compostela. Based on accounts by Middle And Modern Age pilgrims, Barret and Gurgand
) outline nine motivations, as follows: (1) devotion to the apostle, and a quest for salvation; (2) a request for miracles and the fulfilment of promises; (3) ecclesiastical penitence; (4) civil penalty for having committed a crime; (5) a testamentary obligation (a person calls for another to make a pilgrimage on their behalf in their last will and testimony); (6) power/petition (in the impossibility of personally embarking on a pilgrimage, another person was charged with the task); (7) trade (the possibility of making a pilgrimage for another person ended up turning the pilgrimage into a professional trade); (8) collective (some cities sent large groups to request the intercession of the apostle); (9) a pretext for someone needing an excuse to leave home.
Regarding the variety of motives, one may say that Catholicism, that is, the concordance of the Church with the motivation of the pilgrim, separates the true from the false pilgrim. The false pilgrims were those living on the edge of the law (thieves, adventurers) or destitute people, who passed themselves off as pilgrims to gain shelter and alms in villages, towns, monasteries and hospitals for pilgrims (Singul 1999, p. 61
In 1589, in the face of the attacks by English pirate Francis Drake on La Coruña, the Archbishop of Santiago ordered the tomb of the apostle to be hidden. The whereabouts remained unknown until once again discovered in 1879. From 1940, pilgrims began arriving in Santiago by automobile, too (Talbot 2016, p. 15
). In the 1960s and decades that followed, pilgrimages by foot began once again: “in pilgrims’ accounts from the 1960s and 1970s, a shift of focus emerges: the pilgrimage as destination-oriented travel became one that emphasized the process of the journey. The route became an integral part of the pilgrimage and not merely a means to an end” (Sánchez y Sánchez and Hesp 2016, p. 9
The ever-growing interest in the pilgrimage caught both religious and political attention. In 1982, Pope John Paul II visited Santiago; in 1989, a World Youth Day was staged on Monte do Gozo, near Santiago. In 1987, Santiago de Compostela was declared as the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe. Through this, the Council of Europe explored the symbolism of the Camino as a call for unity among Europeans, as the Catholic Church postulated that this unification would occur under the umbrella of Christendom (Gardner et al. 2016, pp. 5–6
Taking advantage of the fact that 1993 would be a holy year, the autonomous community of Galicia created the Sociedad Anónima de Xestión do Plan Xacobeo
(S. A. Xacobeo) in 1991, aimed at promoting the Camino de Santiago. Xacobeo 93
was staged in 1993 and included the promotion of advertising in several media, coupled with cultural events, marketing campaigns with companies from different sectors, the staging of scientific congresses, incentives for artistic production, and the staging of trade fairs (Rodriguez Fernandéz et al. 2013
). The project enjoyed great success and S. A. Xacobeo was established as a permanent body.
Independent media products were also important in rekindling this pilgrimage. Books like The Pilgrimage
, by Paulo Coelho, I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago
, by Hape Kerkeling, and The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit
, by Shirley MacLaine, were key to attracting new pilgrims (Rodriguez Fernandéz et al. 2013
). Among the films, of note is The Way
, directed by Emilio Estevez, which played an important role in popularizing the Camino in the United States (Lopez et al. 2015
). Nowadays, the Camino de Santiago has gained more space for visibility on social networks, such as Facebook and Instagram, through which pilgrims can share their experiences2
Concerning the diversity of languages and themes among media products (some are biographic reports, other fictional stories) they share the fact that the pilgrim takes a lead role in a transformative experience. A pilgrim who returns home feels that he/she is not the same person who left. The circulation of these narratives creates the totemic image of a transformative Camino (De Sousa and da Rosa 2017
). The Camino has taken on a symbolic status of something that creates a rupture between the before and after. As such, the totemic image is one that surpasses the idea of religious pilgrimages in the institutional molds or of territorial space, manifesting instead as a strength, reifying the Camino.
Pilgrims on the Camino at the end of the 20th century and the early decades of the 21st century have a distinct profile from those who came before. Traditionally Catholic motivations (penitence, oath, a quest for miracles, etc.) have diminished considerably. Data from the Oficina de Acogida al Peregrino
(Santiago Pilgrim’s Reception Office) of Santiago de Compostela are suggestive. Separating the motivations of those who request the “pilgrim diploma” for “religious”, “cultural”, “religious/cultural” reasons, statistics show that in 2004, 75% alleged a purely religious purpose, 20% stated religious/cultural and 5% only cultural. In 2016, however, the opposite is true: religious/cultural accounted for 48%, with religious at 44%; and purely cultural at 8% (Oficina del Peregrino 2004–2019
Pilgrimages are made for several motives: religion, spirituality, the quest for new experiences, escaping the routine, sport, self-knowledge, meeting new people and visiting new places (Amaro et al. 2018
; De Sousa 2020
). The same person can make a pilgrimage for more than one reason. Self-knowledge was the most common choice selected in a survey by De Sousa
) when asking pilgrims the main reason from among ten options (Catholic religion, non-Catholic religion, spiritual, tourism, culture, trekking/hiking, self-realization, breaking from the routine, self-knowledge, other). When repeating the question, this time allowing pilgrims to select between one and three options, a spiritual motivation was most often cited (De Sousa 2020, pp. 81–82
Therefore, although the Catholic institutional influence has lost strength, the religious dimension remains an integral part of the pilgrimage. The Compostela pilgrim is very similar to the figure of the pilgrim of Hervieu-Léger
), a subject of a fluid religiosity, ready to adhere to the multiple elements that he/she chooses according to individual criteria. This spirituality is built in process, during the pilgrimage, and shared among pilgrims in multiple (physical and symbolic) spaces, in which what is intimate is externalized through narratives that are mediatized. The narratives also show evidence of the religion’s endurance. The testimonies of living a transformative experience suggest the permanence of the ritualistic logic (Van Gennep 1960
; Turner and Turner 2011
), which comprises separation, immersion in a different way of life, and the reintegration into society of an individual other than the one who “left” it. In the narratives published on social networks, the Center, the sanctuary, around which everything gravitates, becomes the periphery. The phrase “I am going to do the Camino” becomes more popular with pilgrims than “I am going to Santiago de Compostela” or “I am going to pilgrimage to Santiago.” What one experiences on the route, on the Camino, becomes more important than the arrival at the destination (De Sousa and da Rosa 2017
Thus, the narratives of pilgrims create an interesting gateway that allows us to access the feelings that develop about the pilgrimage. In this work, the focus is on understanding how the media circulation of the pilgrimage narrative is related to changes in the way of living the experience. As such, it is important to discuss the concepts of the narrative, mediatization, and circulation.
4. Narrative, Mediatization, and Circulation
“All narratives are an interpretation of the experience, a reconstruction, through intelligence, through our being-in-time” (Cesar 1998, p. 27
). When telling his/her tale, the pilgrim provides access to his/her pilgrimage through an experience expressed in several languages (words, photographs, videos, etc.). This may inspire others to do the same. This is evident in conversations with pilgrims, most of whom decided to undertake the Camino because of strong links to the narratives of other pilgrims or due to the media products (books, movies or else) about the pilgrimage (De Sousa 2020
When discussing the problem of time in narratives, Ricoeur
(1984, p. 53
) calls the moment of interpretation mimesis
III, showing that the interpretation does not correspond merely to the mental repetition of the narratives created by another, but rather an operation that, mediated by the imagination, associates imitation and creation. Interpretation and invention are closely tied. The so-called triple mimesis
also involves two other moments. Mimesis
I corresponds to the pre-figured world, to the “already given” (languages, cultural and religious values) to which individuals turn when composing a text. This moment of textual tessitura is called mimesis
II. The individual selects events, signs, and temporal modes and organizes them so that a story can be told. The mimetic cycles draw to a close with mimesis
III, when the encounter between the “world of the text” and the “world of the reader” results in new textualities (Ricoeur 1988, p. 159
In a theoretical aspect more aligned with the studies of discourse and mediatization, Verón
) considers that both the speaker and the interpreter are in a position to construct meaning. The production (enunciation) and recognition (reception) operate “according to specific logic and conditions” (Fausto Neto 2016, p. 64
), in a way that “production grammars and recognition grammars never coincide precisely” (Verón 1980, p. 201
). By highlighting the lack of grammatical coincidence, Verón underscores “discrepancy” as being fundamental to the production of meaning. When an enunciation is interpreted, appropriated, and placed once again in circulation, it is prone to successive discrepancies. This way, it never remains the same, given that the interpretive activity, through its degree of inventiveness, always adds something new. Thus, every time it is carried forward, the enunciation is layered with value in interactions (Rosa 2019
), acquiring the power to generate circuits.
) and Verón
) agree that the interpretation is not characterized by the passivity of the receiver. Despite being of different theoretical currents, their approaches complement each other in our analysis. Ricoeur helps us to think of the narrative as a process that gives order and meaning to the lived experience; Verón is relevant to us on the discussion of how the media participate in the activity of producing meaning and composing the experience—that is, by contributing to the interaction between the subjects, new conditions of production and recognition allow a displacement between the time of experience and that of narrating, which couple through the media circulation.
According to Verón
), mediatization is a technical, social, and cultural process, encompassing the scope of discursivities, the meanings that interrupt when “mental processes” are exteriorized in the form of material devices, which he calls “media phenomena” (Verón 2014, p. 14
). In the opinion of the author, “mediatization is merely the name for a long historical sequence of media phenomena being institutionalized in human societies and its multiple consequences” (Verón 2014, p. 15
) conceives mediatization as a process of long historical reach, seen as an anthropological perspective, as it places its emphasis on the human dimension. That is, it is not apparatuses and technologies that allow mediatization, but the uses and appropriations of man are what dynamize the ruptures between space and time through technical devices. Thus, for Verón
), mediatization is a phenomenon characteristic of all societies, including prehistoric ones. For Hjarvard
), the emergence of mediatization would be recent, dating from the last decades of the 20th century. This author associates this concept with social changes related to electronic and digital media, focusing on the role of institutions affected by the incidence of media culture; therefore, in this approach, the media have a central role. However, it is relevant to underline that, in our view, the long-term perspective of mediatization seems to be more productive as it allows analyzed objects to be situated based on a historical view, looking at how more recent media configurations relate to those of the past. This approach opens the gate to the processual approach.
When thinking about pilgrimage narratives mediatized on blogs and social networks, differing from other types of accounts by pilgrims in previous times, of note is the transformation related to the appropriation of media by individuals. The idea of transformation is always called upon when discussing mediatization. Despite the divergences between authors and approaches3
, there seems to be a consensus that “we can define mediatization as a concept used to analyze the (long-term) interrelation between the change of media and communication on the one hand, and the change of culture and society on the other hand in a critical manner” (Hepp 2013, p. 619
These changes encompass the scope of discursivities, in the production of meaning, but also interfere in the behavior of individuals, in the way they live. With ever greater access to communication technologies, experiences that were once restricted to an intimate and private sphere are now increasingly made public through media. This “mediatization of everything” (Bratosin 2016
) is apparent not only in the textualization of the experience, narrating it through media, but also in the way it is experienced to be narrated, including the way it is imagined. The essence of individuals has also changed within this mediatized ambience (Gomes 2016
) through the onset of “media logics” (Hjarvard 2008
) in their experiences.
Thus, when studying how mediatization affects modern pilgrimages, one must consider that a pilgrim’s experience in situ is causally related to the dynamic of the narratives which they share on their social networks. This calls for a multi-methodological approach to capture the process of the pilgrimage and retroact on it in an influential manner.
Three methodological procedures were adopted to analyze the relationship between pilgrimage, narrative, and mediatization: analysis of narratives published on the Internet, participant observation, and interviews. The analysis of accounts allows us to have a greater distance from the object of research (Yamine 2000, p. 185
) and understand the meanings that individuals have built for their experience (De Sousa and da Rosa 2017
; Coleman and Elsner 2003
; Sánchez y Sánchez 2016
; Barret and Gurgand 1982
). The ethnographic method of participant observation, traditional in research on rituals and pilgrimages (Turner and Turner 2011
; Eade and Sallnow 1991
), has the advantage of making the researcher experience the experience he is analyzing and observing behaviors, momentary emotions, and what it is omitted in the reports, either by personal criteria of relevance, or because they concern something that one wants to hide. The interviews, on the other hand, enable the researcher to obtain clarifications and information from his/her respondents in a more clear and direct way. We will describe below how each analysis technique was used.
Analysis of the narratives: we collected the publications made in three Facebook groups in Portuguese on the Camino de Santiago (Caminho de Santiago, Caminho de Santiago de Compostela, and Caminho Português—Porto a Santiago de Compostela) posted during one month (April 2017). These groups were chosen because they had the largest number of members who spoke Portuguese (the authors’ native language). In total, 773 posts were collected. In a previous text (De Sousa and da Rosa 2017
), we proposed a classification comprising nine types: 1—dissemination of products and services for pilgrims; 2—curiosities about the Camino; 3—motivational/spiritual messages; 4—news; 5—about the group itself; 6—unrelated to the group’s theme; 7—pilgrimage narratives; 8—disputes of meaning about the pilgrimage; 9—requests for help and recommendations. The type with the highest number of posts was narratives (289). These narratives were analyzed using Ricoeur’s narrative theory (1984) and Verón’s semiology (Verón 1980
). In addition to the Facebook group posts, the authors included pilgrim Magnus Casara’s accounts published in his book (Casara 2013
) and on his blog.
Participant observation: one of the authors made the pilgrimage on one of the Camino de Santiago routes from September to October 2018, totaling 34 days. The French Camino was chosen because of its historical importance and because it receives the most pilgrims4
. The researcher decided not to accompany a group of pilgrims previously established because, in the 21st century, it is more common for individuals to travel the Camino alone or accompanied by just one or two companions. During the walk, small groups are formed, due to the friendship that arises between the participants, but they are volatile groups, often falling apart or reforming themselves. Because of this particular configuration of the pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, the researcher dedicated himself to observing regularities—that is, behaviors and discourses that were repeated among the various pilgrims he met along the way and that were related to the mediatization of his experiences, taking notes in a field diary.
Interviews: the researcher conducted 19 formal interviews when he did the field research at Camino de Santiago. The criterion for choosing the interviewees was the fact that they carry out activities directly related to the pilgrimage, for example, hospitable, hostel owners, merchants, Catholic priests, and civil servants. The informants were asked about their work on the Camino de Santiago and what changes they had identified in the profile of the pilgrims during the period in which they had performed their duties, especially regarding the interaction with the media. The audio of the interviews was recorded with the consent of the interviewees, who also authorized the disclosure of their names and last names. Regarding pilgrims with whom the researcher talked online or on the Camino during the participant observation survey, only the first names were mentioned, to preserve anonymity.
It is important to note that interviews, as well as participant observation and analysis of online narratives, are part of broader research on the mediatization of the pilgrimage experience (De Sousa 2020
). For this article, only data related to the proposed objective were used, that is, to understand how mediatization affects the ways of living the pilgrimage by transforming the forms of narrating the experience.
6. Narrating the Pilgrimage in Other Times
The narratives of pilgrims from the Middle and Modern Ages usually bring the accounts of two mirrored journeys: the outward journey and the return journey. The return trip was also part of the pilgrimage, and it was even common to take detours to spend in other sanctuaries, such as Oviedo (common in the 18th and early 19th centuries), or even to undertake another great pilgrimage, to Rome or Jerusalem (Bonnecaze 2009
; Henry and Vialle 2009
; Barret and Gurgand 1982
). During this period, the pilgrim would lack contact with his/her home.
Between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the return trip begins to fall from pilgrimage narratives. Mentions of returning home disappear or are relegated to a brief mention before a final reflection on the experience. Though it is impossible to be absolutely sure, we believe this is associated with the introduction and popularization of transport technologies, which significantly reduced travel times. Along the Spanish coast, the first railway lines were built in 1848, linking Barcelona to Mataró (Fernández 2018
). They only reach Santiago de Compostela in 1873 (Fernández 2003, p. 473
). The availability of buses and cars in the following century further reduced travel times.
Nevertheless, some perpetuated the tradition of walking the Camino, such as Javier Martin Artajo (Artajo 1954
), who walked from Madrid to Santiago de Compostela in 1926, in the company of two friends. Driven by his Catholic faith and a sense of adventure, he walked 620 km in 23 days. Javier and his friends walked at a time when the pilgrimage’s popularity had waned. The fact that the youths were doing the Camino de Santiago by foot caught the attention of the local press, which reported on the feat. Expecting the arrival of the pilgrims, a bishop invited them to participate in a mass, and received them for a private audience (Caamaño 2017
). Something similar occurred when Barret and Gurgand
) walked the Camino de Santiago, setting out from Vezélay (France), in 1977. They had arranged a meeting with the supervisor of the Limoges Compostela Studies Center, but realizing they would arrive later than expected, they called ahead to warn of their delay. Upon arrival, they were welcomed with a celebration put on by local associations, which resurrected an old tradition of festively welcoming pilgrims.
The appropriation of communication and transport technologies used by pilgrims and by representatives of entities that organize activities along the Camino has direct affectations on how the entire experience plays out. Trains and automated vehicles lead to the first consequence, namely reduction in pilgrimage time, leading to “motorized pilgrimages” (Talbot 2016
). For those who continued to walk the Camino, this implied a reduction in travel time by half due to the “disappearance” of the return pilgrimage.
Within a narrative scope, return accounts are less common, becoming a brief note or a reflection on the lessons learned from the experience. Barret and Gurgand
(1982, p. 282
) end their journal upon arrival in Santiago de Compostela. They insinuate in the last few lines that they would walk the return route, but the book ends there. Back in France, they published a chronicle about the trip in French magazine Nouvel Observateur
, a piece that was later edited and included in the book Priez pour nous à Compostelle
(Barret and Gurgand 1982
The evolution of communication technologies, especially the invention of the landline telephone, led to the possibility of real-time communication with the world back home. A total lack of information or only sparse and outdated knowledge of the events, carried throughout kingdoms on horseback, shifts to real-time interaction with the world of home and other worlds distant from the immediate reality of the pilgrim.
The total isolation of the pilgrim concerning home is ruptured. The possibility is created for the narrative of the pilgrimage experience to become public among a restricted group of people while the experience plays out. The intervals in which said narrative is socialized vary according to the availability of devices in urban areas. According to Brazilian pilgrim Márcia5
, who travelled the Camino de Santiago over twenty times between 2000 and 2017, this resource was scarce during her first pilgrimages: “before public telephones… Very often in the cold… So happy when I found one… To exchange news with people at home… We never knew what we would find… We had no news about anything except the village where we were” (Márcia; 2017)6
Father José Ignácio Diaz Pérez7
, the parish priest at the Santiago el Real Church, in Logroño, undertook his first pilgrimage in 1982 and spoke about the telephones: “the first two times I did the Camino, there were telephones, but no mobile phones. I could make telephone calls, but I had to wait to reach a village with a phone that I could use. So, while I was on the Camino, I was alone, in the hands of God” (Dias Pérez; 2018)8
Concerning complete isolation being broken, it has not altogether disappeared as part of the ritual. Márcia, when saying she had no news of anything besides the place where she was, and expressing joy when finding a public telephone, suggests that contact between the outside world and immediate reality of the pilgrim was not something common. The world back home only punctuated the pilgrimage at specific moments. A comment by Father José Ignácio Diaz Pérez leads in a similar direction by stating that telephones were only used when arriving at an urban settlement and goes further, saying: “while I was on the Camino, I was alone, in the hands of God” (Dias Pérez; 2018).
For the clergyman, “being on the Camino” implies an experience wherein isolation and unforeseeability are elements that make the experience of the pilgrim vastly different when compared to their structurally ordered lives (Turner and Turner 2011
), their habitual experiences from the world back home. Although the villages (pueblos
) and urban areas were part of the pilgrimage route, the section qualified as “Camino” was the one that involved the solitude and an openness to the supernatural that this solitude would make possible.
As such, a pilgrim would spend moments deeply immersed in isolation, which were punctuated by regular contact established with those at home via landline telephone. Contact would have to be initiated by him/her, given the unforeseeability of where he/she would spend each evening. Everything would depend on what happened along the Camino and the availability of hostel beds in the pueblos
. Communication with other pilgrims would occur in person or through messages that pilgrims moving on left for those trailing behind, that is, there would be no chance of replying for those behind. Sérgio Reis
), in an account on his pilgrimage in 1992, speaks of a pilgrim with whom he formed a friendship and who, after a few moments of shared experiences, headed on alone. The two never met and never had the opportunity to chat again during the time he was on the Camino. However, in some hostels and churches, Sérgio found in the signature and message books words of encouragement addressed to him and left by this “friend from the Camino” (Reis 1997
The shortening of periods of isolation coincides with the gradual flattening of the filtering time of the experience for narrative “configuration” and “refiguration” (Ricoeur 1984
). In other words, the interval between mimesis II and mimesis III reduced drastically as transport modes for people and the circulation of their narratives via media are invented and appropriated by individuals.
As can be seen, technological changes directly influence the way this experience plays out and how it is narrated. Pilgrims of the past only ended their pilgrimage once they had completed the return trip. Thus, they lived an extended period fully absorbed by their experiences, and would compose a summarized report that would be shared with their loved ones upon their return home.
Transport technologies instigated an initial transformation in the pilgrimage narrative by reducing the experience filtering time by half. However, isolation and sharing of the narrative a posteriori remains. When synchronous communication technologies, especially the landline telephone, are inserted into the pilgrim’s experience, the interval between the experience and sharing is reduced significantly. The narrative is serialized. Serialization means that the account of the experience is provided in parts that progress up until the conclusion of the pilgrimage. Thus, each new call provides an update with regard to what has happened since the last contact. The time for filtering the experience falls significantly as the time to compose a narrative accelerates in order to share the next episode and happenings from the world back home begin to interfere in the how the experience plays out.
7. The Mediatized Pilgrim in the Digital Age
The Internet has brought sensitive changes to media communication. New interactional economies have arisen within the scope of mediatized practices through which “one-one” and “one-all” media communication models now work alongside and articulate with another mode, the “all-all” (Lévy 1998
), in which broadcasting to large groups is no longer exclusively performed by media corporations, but now also by normal individuals, who occupy a dual role as receptors and emitters of content.
In terms of Camino de Santiago, there are noted changes in the way to experience the pilgrimage directly associated with the forms of narrating the experience that emerge through the use and appropriation of digital media by pilgrims. Pilgrims’ communication is no longer restricted to a few specific members of the world back home, selected to converse with at regular intervals, transforming instead into a media product that can be consumed by an incalculable number of people at different times. This has decisive impacts on the means of constructing an account, which materializes in brands that suggest the emergence of new discursive regimes within the scope of the mediatization of pilgrimage narratives.
Brazilian pilgrim Magnus Casara, when relating his experience on the Camino de Santiago in his book (Casara 2013
), mentions that the reference materials for the work were a blog that he created following a suggestion from his daughter, “providing access to his entire family and circle of friends, while also receiving feedback in the form of comments” (Casara 2013, p. 88
). Magnus decided not to take a mobile telephone or notebook, feeling they would be “unnecessary and undesired interferences” in an experience in which pilgrims should set aside “time for themselves” (Casara 2013, p. 85
. However, during his journey, he made use of public telephones and computers at the hostels or Internet cafés.
In his diary, he notes that speaking about the experience online and replying to comments became a daily habit that was only interrupted when there were no computers or Internet available. The punctual absence of these technologies led the pilgrim to make adjustments to his narratives, considering the changes in the temporality of the report that was established with an almost daily frequency of publications.
Without public internet, I wrote down my impression of the day on a small note pad, enjoying the end of the day, the sunshine, while chatting with other pilgrims slowly arriving.
Then, I walked into an internet café, hungry for internet access, dying to access my blog, and write down my impression of these first few days. Reading the comments from family and friends did me loads of good. I left, smiling to myself, to get back on the pilgrim’s way along Calle Mayor.
From the point of view of reception habits, the pilgrim’s account turns into something like the daily episode of a soap opera or entertainment series, the next episodes of which are eagerly anticipated. The pilgrimage narrative is converted into a media product, it has an interested audience keen to know how the rest of the story will unfold, which even leads to adaptations in the form of narrating (and living) the experience, according to the way it is interpreted. It is also noteworthy that the demands “of the audience” end up making the pilgrim himself feel “eager”, not only in sharing his experience, but in reliving it in the act of narrating, immortalizing it through a recording of a creative dimension, since the experience starts to be elaborated with the purpose of circulation, taking into account the didactics of tactics of the media culture.
Pilgrim Cleici made her first pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in 2000, returning another five times later on. When talking of her posts on social networks during the 2016 pilgrimage, she emphasized that the reactions on Facebook
were much quicker than on her blog that she used for other trips. The “advantage” of the blog was the reach among people outside of her circle, which allowed her to make new friends. During the 2016 pilgrimage, she started posting daily on Facebook
for the first time. “The interesting thing about the daily posts: the feelings, the experience is still right there in all its glory! So, you transmit the experience with more emotion! I keep a diary, I tell a story and through Facebook
I leave tidbits to generate curiosity about the next day. I can’t simply post the photos, I have to tell a little story. Feedback and involvement are immediate! My friends enjoy the way I weave together the story” (Cleici; 2017)10
. The comment by the pilgrim shows a change in the purpose of the pilgrimage itself, delving into a sphere of media and discursive circulation. Thus, the focus is no longer purely on what is being experienced, but also on how it is being presented. There is, as such, a shift in the purpose and place of the experience lived, as well as a shift in the associated image of the pilgrimage being made alone.
Upon being digitally mediatized, the intimate experience of the pilgrim is no longer evaluated by the experience itself, but also as a product that by capturing the attention of the audience of a media does so through its aesthetic qualities, through mediatized narratives, which are achieved through capabilities in the languages of each software or platform. This new narrative mode reconfigures the “grammars of production and recognition” (Verón 1980
) through which the pilgrimage is narrated, interpreted, and experienced and will configure itself as an object of media circulation. Reactions to accounts on blogs and social networks are incorporated in the way they are experienced and narrated. The account by Magnus Casara in his blog (Figure 1
) also presents signs of these affectations of the world back home in the way the pilgrimage is narrated and experienced. After posting on the blog a few times, Magnus added photos to his publications, satiating the curiosity of those following him11
Transcription of the dialogue in Figure 1
Rose: It’s great you’ve started posting photos! Around here, word was that your Camino was virtual, inside an internet café! Thanks for sharing the photos, thereby putting an end to these rumors! Best regards!
Diariodeummagnus: man, does anybody still have doubts??? But ok, as I download the hundreds of photos, I’ll edit some of the posts to illustrate them with the pertinent photos. That way I can ease the curiosity!!! Lots of love!
The feedback (comments, reactions) are incorporated upon narrating and living the experience. The comment by Rose on Magnus’ post, even though said jokingly, could have led the pilgrim to become more concerned with publicizing photos than with his actual journey. Similarly, Cleici is worried about telling her friends an interesting story and adapts her narration. The narrative that once emerged as a result and final product of experience integrates and transforms the act of making a pilgrimage through the need to configure the pilgrimage in a media format and by the feedback received about the narrative, circulating. As such, the conditions of recognition affect those of production. The narrative is now constructed tentatively, based on the pilgrims’ experimentations on the web. As said by Braga,
The plurality of attempts, in similar situations, is inherent to the process and fundamental to its development: the devices are selected in social practice, and adapt successively (…) through a Darwinist type of process: that which better adjusts to a wider spectrum of situations increases its chances of replication and maintenance.
A modification in the form of narrating the experience is causally related to the availability of access to communication technologies. The account by Casara
) recurrently cites access to computer terminals in Internet cafés in the villages (pueblos
) and hostels, in 2010. During the participant observation study conducted by De Sousa in 2018, no Internet cafés were noted in the villages (pueblos
) and towns of Camino de Santiago, and very few hostels offered computers, with the majority outdated and rarely used by pilgrims. However, there was concern among pilgrims concerning Wi-Fi availability and, especially, with access to power outlets in order to charge their devices. Some hosts and hostel owners revealed that Wi-Fi was considered a criterion that defined whether or not a pilgrim would accept their accommodation.
The smartphone is incorporated into the daily routine of the pilgrim as an item essential to the pilgrimage. It is used not only to narrate the experience to those far away, but also used to consult geolocalization applications, and to chat with other pilgrims met along the way. Márcia, a Brazilian pilgrim, who did the Camino before and after smartphones became part of the daily routine, offered a comparison: “before, your fellow pilgrims were only those with you on the day… Nowadays, everyone you meet along the way maintains contact up to Santiago… Together or not… WhatsApp shortens the distance” (Márcia; 2017)12
. One-directional communication shifts to multi-directional communication, encompassing those walking together and those on the digital Camino, keeping track through mediatized narratives.
The use and appropriation of smartphones and applications by pilgrims lead to the emergence of what is called an “expanded connection” (De Sousa 2018
). A new form of communitas
is formed (Turner 1991
), a mediatized communitas
through which relationships of companionship, and friendship that are established between individuals expand beyond situations of co-presence in space and time. People walk together, being separate. Edith Leandro Ferreira Pinto, a voluntary host at the Estella parish hostel, explains that during her pilgrimage, she met four Spaniards in a hostel along the Camino. A WhatsApp group was created by the hostel owner in order to maintain contact. Even though not physically together, the pilgrims “took care of one another” through WhatsApp, asking about the walk, leaving warnings and suggestions (Ferreira Pinto; 2018)13
On the other hand, a mediatized communitas
is pressured by the injunctions of “media logics” (Hjarvard 2008
) in the experience of pilgrims that lead to the sensation that they are experiencing a “packaged pilgrimage” (De Sousa 2018
) when the use of smartphones means that interactions with the environment and with those physically near are reduced. Italian pilgrim Adamo (2018)14
, who set out on his first pilgrimage along the Camino in 2013, noted that the introduction of the smartphone into the daily routine of pilgrims lead to interactions with the local population subsiding considerably. In the past, when someone was lost, they would stop and ask a resident. As smartphones were popularized, pilgrims began to consult them to check if they were on the right path. There was an increase in security and foreseeability due to the possibility of making reservations and checking the way using geolocalization applications. However, greater control of the experience leads to the sensation that it is being controlled by media technologies.
Brazilian pilgrim Eduardo associated the excessive use of smartphones with a loss of what he referred to as the “pilgrim spirit” due to reduced interaction among the pilgrims walking together. “The majority, generally younger than me, simply arrived at the hostel, made their beds and connected to Wi-Fi and… that was it [communication among pilgrims]” (Eduardo; 2017)15
. The contemporary mediatized pilgrimage ruptures the isolation that historically characterized the pilgrimage experience but creates with it new forms of isolation, a “media isolation” due to reduced interaction with those present.
Thus, the possibility of communicating and getting the pilgrim narrative to circulate online adds levels of tension to the experience of the pilgrim, which are carried with them and have to be dealt with during the journey. When analyzing the transformations in the tessitura of the narrative, one notes a continuity of the serialization process of the pilgrimage narrative from previous decades. However, three main differences arise when comparing the digital narrative with what was once conducted via public telephone: (1) the possibility of narrating the experience to a larger public; (2) an expressive reduction in the interval between experiencing and sharing; (3) the fact that pilgrims depend increasingly less on the technology available in the immediate environment, as they now carry the media technology necessary to narrate their experiences.
A consequence of this type of media narrativization of the experience is that in the approximation between the time of the experience, the time of the narrative tessitura (mimesis II), and the time of refiguration (mimesis) may result in a fusion of time. In live transmission, that is, when there is synchronization between experiences, narrating, and interpreting, the time that separates mimesis II and mimesis III is deleted.
), when discussing narrative possibilities due to contemporary communication technologies, speaks of a possible “loss of the narrative”. The time between configuration (mimesis II) and interpretation (mimesis III) is deleted, given the urge to tell and to respond instantly, which would approximate humanized actions of data system through increasingly automated attitudes. When analyzing pilgrim narratives on Facebook
, one can note that live transmissions, video and audio calls and ‘stories’ are increasingly common, blending in with other modes. Many pilgrims expect to arrive in the town where they have to spend the evening in order to produce a more detailed narrative on what they experienced during the day using text, images and video (Figure 2
). This longer account is generally shared through Facebook
posts (see the image below). Thus, in dialogue with Couldry
) and Verón
), when he refers to the access to the discursive space of multiple actors, it is noticed that the time of interpretation, or mimesis III, moves from the producing subject to the receiver in a constant relay relationship. Here, the narrative is not erased; instead, it is realized according to other time and social parameters that are not stable or fixed. Far more than automation, mediatized narratives indicate discursive autonomy in flow. In other words, there is a world of relationships and interactions that go beyond those that the narrator proposes, since social semiosis is infinite and unpredictable.
Therefore, narratives with varied temporalities coexist in the experience of this pilgrim who has to negotiate with the logic that affects the pilgrimage and tries to capture it. Some pilgrims, upon returning home, transform these mediatized accounts into other products, such as books or documentaries16
. There is not only one narrative mode but rather several narrative models that ensure that the narrative continues to circulate in media terms and produce new meanings.
It is noteworthy that the narratives derived from these media reports end up becoming another narrative, since they demand a differentiated place from the observer. Verón
), upon reflecting on the epistemology of the observers, proposes three positions of observation, typical of the historic acceleration of mediatization, namely: the social actor (the one living the Camino, and narrating his/her experience based on an observation of oneself and other actors); observers who know they are observed by third parties (in this case, pilgrims who produce narratives for audiences and family members who follow the reports over the connected distance) and, lastly, observers that articulate these first two types (the actual pilgrims observing the series of narratives produced along the way, those aware when observing the phenomenon and even the subjects that generate new narrative developments). That said, it is important to understand that circulation remodels these narratives, not only in their form of production but their value as significant material that stands the test of time. Just as the pilgrimage does not end upon arrival at the shrine, the circulation of narratives does not end when the pilgrim decides to stop narrating. This implies that within the scenario of digital means, the interactional flows largely transform the Camino experience, the access to this symbolic territory and the experience of making a pilgrimage.
This article aimed to study the relationship between pilgrimage, narrative, and mediatization with the object of research on the transformation of the experience of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. The analysis showed that the mediatization of the contemporary pilgrimage has led to changes regarding the interaction between experience and narrative. An account is no longer that which results from a pilgrimage; instead, it incorporates the experience as an activity that modifies it. It is a historical process that comprises at least three major transformations directly associated with the appropriation of technological innovations by pilgrims that considerably reduce the gap that existed between experience, narrative configuration, and circulation.
The first transformation is related to motorized means of transport that practically reduce the time of the pilgrimage by half. Accounts about the return trip home, common in the diaries of pilgrims from the Middle and Modern Ages, have disappeared or have become limited to brief notes or reflections later on. The understanding of the pilgrimage changes. Instead of consisting of two mirrored trips (the journey there and back), it begins to consist of the time spent from the departure to the arrival at Santiago de Compostela.
The presence of landline telephones on the pilgrimage route is associated with the second transformation: a break in total isolation of the pilgrim through regular contact with the world back home, giving rise to the serialization of the pilgrimage narrative. Another consequence of this mediatization of the pilgrimage narrative consists of an affectation in the logic of ritual as a marginal/threshold moment (Van Gennep 1960
; Turner 1991
). Making a pilgrimage is increasingly punctuated by external injunctions that arise from the reality from which the pilgrim distanced themselves in order to delve into this experience, which is intensified with the incorporation of smartphones in the daily lives of pilgrims. So, there is a strain between the pilgrimage motivation and overcoming the crudity of being alone, in the private world of the individual pilgrim, for a crossing in which the edges of the intimate and the public crumble.
The third change corresponds to the transformation of the pilgrim’s experience into a media product based on its circulation in digital environments. The possibility of sharing the experience on online blogs and social networks means the narrative is no longer merely a result of what was experienced, rather entering the actual mode as though experiencing the pilgrimage so that it can be narrated and circulated in media formats. As indicated by Verón
), recognition grammars begin to affect the narrative production grammars and the experience grammars of the pilgrimage itself. As a media product, the pilgrimage narrative acquires similar characteristics as those of an entertainment product that tells the tale of a hero’s journey, requiring from the pilgrim certain successive adaptations in their narrative in order to captivate an audience: producing accounts at different times and through distinct narrative resources. Instantaneity is a highly appreciated value to those accompanying it, which results in the temporal fusion between mimesis II and III in live broadcasts: experiencing, narrating, and interpreting the lived coexist in the same temporality. In addition, other values of media culture are added to the narratives of Camino as contact tactics, such as, for example, the image production being simultaneous to its publication (online), putting the intimacy of the route on display.
Inn this change, the margin being contaminated by the world back home transforms the pilgrimage into a media product that is experienced by the narrator and consumed by those who follow pilgrim narratives from a distance. It creates an opportunity to experiment mediatized communitas through the extended connection that is established with those far away or those who are met along the way, though tensions also arise through the influence of logics external to the realm of the pilgrimage and that are seen by pilgrims as angles of distortion of the experience, materializing in the sensation that the experience is one of a tied pilgrimage or that media isolation is developed, jeopardizing the experience of the pilgrim communitas.
Thus, it is of note that the Camino de Santiago is no longer the same. Given the historical acceleration of time, reported by Verón
), the ritual, experience, and narrative of the pilgrimage has changed. It is not a matter of simply saying that the presence of the media reshaped the experience, but the more the Camino becomes a media outlet, the more the subjects narrate their journey in media spaces, such as social networks, while allowing other people to participate of the experience even at a distance. This means that the Camino expands beyond its spatial-territorial dimension; it gains the dimension of media circulation. Thus, more than reporting the experience, the pilgrim becomes an agent of the meanings about the pilgrimage and inscribes the intimate experience in the public sphere through the narrative that unfolds in endless circuits.