Bernhard Pörksen

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Bernhard Pörksen (2018)

Bernhard Pörksen (born 1969 in Freiburg im Breisgau) is a German media scholar professor of media studies at the University of Tübingen.


Pörksen studied German language and literature, journalism, and biology in Hamburg. At the invitation of Ivan Illich he spent several research periods at Pennsylvania State University. He also began his regular work as a journalist when still a student. Between 1997 and 1999 he prepared a thesis entitled Die Konstruktion von Feindbildern: zum Sprachgebrauch in neonazistischen Medien (English: The construction of enemy images. On the use of language by neo-Nazi media). In the year 2000 he taught communication science and linguistics at the University of Greifswald. From 2002 he held the position of a professor for journalism and communication studies at the University of Hamburg. In 2006 he deputized for the chair of communication theory and media culture at the University of Münster. In 2007 he successfully completed the formal qualifying procedures for independent research and teaching as a university professor for communication and media studies (Habilitation). In 2008 he was offered the chair for media studies at the University of Tübingen. Between 2009 and 2011 he served as the responsible managing director of the newly established Institute for media studies at the University of Tübingen.[1]

Academic work[edit]

Central topics of his activities as a researcher, consultant, and lecturer are the dynamics of public outrage, media scandals, and questions of media ethics, communication models and communication theories, styles of stage management in politics and the media, journalism and celebrity. In addition, he has steadily been publishing numerous articles on systemic thinking and the philosophy of constructivism. His books written together with the cybernetician Heinz von Foerster (Understanding Systems), with the Chilean neurobiologist Humberto Maturana (From Being to Doing), and with the communication psychologist Friedemann Schulz von Thun Kommunikation als Lebenskunst (Communication as the art of living) have been translated into several languages. The book composed with Heinz von Foerster is considered a “classic” due to its significance in the elucidation of systemic thinking.[2] Pörksen himself, as is shown by his book The Creation of Reality, follows a line of constructivism that he calls “discursive constructivism”: constructivist relativism and scepticism merely serve as a corrective of dogmas in discourse but make no claim to be a new “doctrine of salvation”.[3]

A further central research interest of Pörksen's is scandal and crisis communication. Pörksen holds that scandals reflect value disputes and that collective outrage reveals the moral sensibilities, the taboos and the “irritability” of a society.[4][5] In the book The unleashed scandal. The end of control in the digital age (written with Hanne Detel) he defends the thesis that scandal in the digital age has reached new levels of evolution and escalation due to the comprehensive dissemination, searchability, and context-free re-combinability of data and documents of all kinds. No longer are just those in power and celebrities the targets of undesired, in the extreme case even worldwide, attention, but equally the powerless and the entirely innocent. Traditional dramaturgical principles of the classical mass media, e.g. the height of societal fall, are no longer a key criteria. This novel view of scandal in the digital age has found broad resonance and is now considered a new internet-oriented approach to the analysis of scandals.[6] Furthermore, the book was nominated several times as non-fiction book of the month and acclaimed by numerous nationwide media.[7][8][9]

In the 2018 book Die große Gereiztheit (The great irritation) Pörksen examines the social consequences of networking and digitalisation. On the basis of case studies he describes the shifts in the idea of truth, the dynamics of disclosure, the character of debates, and the conceptions of authority and power. Pörksen explains why he considers the model of the filter bubble created by Eli Pariser to be erroneous. Empirical studies, network-theoretical insights and the everyday experience of the multitude and variety of available information disprove it.[10][11] What actually dominates the scene is the filter clash, the collision of parallel public domains in the digital age: everyone can enter “self-asserting milieus” but cannot, under networking conditions, evade the worldviews or ideologies of others. When human beings are forced into uncomfortable proximity, then “great irritability” arises.[12] According to Pörksen, the “overheating and polarisation” of communication demand a general education aiming at media maturity, which empowers all citizens to become their own personal journalistic gatekeepers. He calls this the “utopia of an editorial society”: the ideals and maxims of good journalism (two-source principle, audiatur et altera pars etc.) contain a publicist ethics for everyone – a vision of education, which was welcomed by some critics[13][14] and criticised as naïve by others.[15][16][17]

Pörksen is on the editorial board of different systemic-constructivist journals (Constructivist Foundations, Cybernetics and Human Knowing, Familiendynamik). He is on the advisory board of the journals Message, Pop and Spiel, and he edits, together with the linguist Ingrid Schröder, the book series Sprache in der Gesellschaft (Language within society), which assembles publications of work at the interface of the language and media sciences. With Carl-Auer-Verlag in Heidelberg he publishes the book series Systemische Horizonte. Theorie der Praxis (English: Systemic horizons. Theory of practice), which offers books showing the practical uses of constructivism and systems theory in advising organisations and management, politics, pedagogy and didactics.

Publishing activities[edit]

Apart from his academic work, Pörksen has continually been publishing commentaries and essays on controversially debated topical issues and problems in media politics in German, Austrian and Swiss media. His contributions have appeared in daily newspapers (Tagesspiegel, Tages-Anzeiger, Die Presse, Standard, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Tageszeitung), in weekly newspapers (Die Zeit, Freitag, Rheinischer Merkur, Deutsches Allgemeines Sonntagsblatt), in magazines (Der Spiegel, Cicero), and in (Spiegel online, Zeit Online).[18] He has contributed to Deutschlandfunk and is since 2013, alternating with Ulrich Raulff and Ludwig Eichinger, author of the language-critical radio and interview column „Wort der Woche“ (SWR 2), which deals with relevant current keywords and incensing expressions.[19] Topics dealt with by Pörksen in essays and interviews are the overheating of catastrophe-reporting under real-time conditions,[20] the responsibility of internet platforms like Facebook or Twitter,[21] models for re-financing quality newspapers,[22] the renaissance of conspiracy theories,[23] the Böhmermann affair,[24][25] consequences of medial transparency for politics,[26] destructive forms of moralising and scandalisation in public,[27][28] the ethics of public communication and debate culture, the ethics of public communication and debate culture,[29][30] and the marginalisation of the “dedicated scientist” in academic systems.[31]

Together with students at the University of Hamburg and the University of Tübingen Pörksen has produced a number of books that treat topics in public debates and the media. Pörksen is one of the initiators of the Charta of Digital Fundamental Laws of the European Union published in late November 2016. Journalists and politicians have in their statements on media-political issues repeatedly made use of his research results and his novel concepts (“democracy of outrage”, “fifth power”, “the unleashed scandal”).[32][33][34][35] Pörksen, in the view of ZEIT author Ulrich Schnabel, represents the type of scholar who will never hesitate to enter the fray of public debate and is in no way afraid of taking on populists in newspapers or on television.[36]


  • with Heinz von Foerster: Wahrheit ist die Erfindung eines Lügners. Gespräche für Skeptiker. Carl-Auer-Systeme-Verlag, Heidelberg 1998, ISBN 978-3-89670-646-1.
  • with Heinz von Foerster, Ernst von Glasersfeld, Humberto R. Maturana, Gerhard Roth, Siegfried J. Schmidt, Helm Stierlin, Francisco J. Varela and Paul Watzlawick. Die Gewissheit der Ungewissheit. Gespräche zum Konstruktivismus. Carl-Auer-Systeme, Heidelberg 2001.
  • with Heinz von Foerster: La verità è l´ invenzione di un bugiardo. Colloqui per scettici. Meltemi Editore, Rom 2001.
  • with Heinz von Foerster: Understanding Systems. Conversations on Epistemology and Ethics. Carl-Auer-Systeme/Kluwer Academic Publication/Plenum Publishers, Heidelberg/New York 2002.
  • with Humberto R. Maturana: Vom Sein zum Tun. Die Ursprünge der Biologie des Erkennens. Carl-Auer-Systeme, Heidelberg 2002.
  • with Heinz von Foerster: Sandhed – opfundet af en løgner. Samtaler for skeptikere. Billesø & Baltzer, Vaerløse 2003.
  • The Certainty of Uncertainty – Dialogues Introducing Constructivism. Imprint Academic, Exeter 2004.
  • with Joan Kristin Bleicher (eds.): Grenzgänger. Formen des New Journalism. VS, Wiesbaden 2004.
  • with Humberto R. Maturana: From Being to Doing. The Origins of the Biology of Cognition. Carl Auer, Heidelberg 2004.
  • with Humberto R. Maturana: Del ser al hacer. Los origines de la biologia del conocer. J. C. Editor, Santiago 2004.
  • (ed.): Trendbuch Journalismus. Erfolgreiche Medienmacher über Ausbildung, Berufseinstieg und die Zukunft der Branche. Unter Mitarbeit von Jens Bergmann. Halem, Köln 2005.
  • together with Siegfried Weischenberg, Hans J. Kleinsteuber (eds.): Handbuch Journalismus und Medien. UVK, Konstanz 2005.
  • Die Konstruktion von Feindbildern. Zum Sprachgebrauch in neonazistischen Medien. VS, Wiesbaden 2005.
  • with Jens Bergmann (eds.): Medienmenschen. Wie man Wirklichkeit inszeniert. Solibro, Münster 2007.
  • with Wiebke Loosen, Armin Scholl (eds.): Paradoxien des Journalismus. Theorie – Empirie – Praxis. VS, Wiesbaden 2008.
  • with Jens Bergmann (eds.): Skandal! Die Macht öffentlicher Empörung. Halem, Köln 2009, ISBN 978-3-938258-47-7.
  • together with Wolfgang Krischke (eds.): Die Casting-Gesellschaft. Die Sucht nach Aufmerksamkeit und das Tribunal der Medien. Halem, Köln 2010, ISBN 978-3-86962-014-5.
  • with Humberto R. Maturana: Fra væren til handlen. En interviewbog om levende systemer i natur og samfund. Mindspace, Kopenhagen 2011.
  • The Creation of Reality. A Constructivist Epistemology of Journalism and Journalism Education. Imprint Academic, Exeter 2011.
  • (ed.) Schlüsselwerke des Konstruktivismus. VS, Wiesbaden 2011
  • with Hanne Detel: Der entfesselte Skandal. Das Ende der Kontrolle im digitalen Zeitalter. Halem, Köln 2012.
  • with Wolfgang Krischke (eds.): Die gehetzte Politik. Die neue Macht der Medien und Märkte. Halem, Köln 2013, ISBN 978-3-86962-079-4.
  • with Friedemann Schulz von Thun: Kommunikation als Lebenskunst: Philosophie und Praxis des Miteinander-Redens. Auer, Heidelberg 2014, ISBN 978-3-8497-0049-2.
  • with Hanne Detel: The Unleashed Scandal. The End of Control in the Digital Age. Imprint Academic, Exeter 2014.
  • Die Beobachtung des Beobachters. Eine Erkenntnistheorie der Journalistik (The Creation of Reality. A Constructivist Epistemology of Journalism and Journalism Education). Carl-Auer-Systeme: Heidelberg 2015.
  • with Heinz von Foerster: Pravda je vynález lhářů. Rozhovory skepti ků. Pragma, Prag 2016.
  • with Friedemann Schulz von Thun: La comunicación como arte de vivir. Filosofía y praxis. Herder Editorial, Barcelona 2016
  • Die große Gereiztheit: Wege aus der kollektiven Erregung (The great irritation. Ways of Coping with Collective Agitation).[37] Hanser, München 2018, ISBN 978-3446258440.

Honours and awards[edit]

  • 2013 Honourable distinction for the book Der entfesselte Skandal (The unleashed scandal, written together with Hanne Detel) within the programme “Geisteswissenschaften international” by Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, VG Wort and Auswärtiges Amt[38]
  • Studium Professionale Award of the University of Tübingen 2013 (together with students) for the book Die gehetzte Politik. Die neue Macht der Medien und Märkte (English: Chased politics. The new power of media and markets)[39]
  • Die große Gereiztheit (The great irritation), chosen as non-fiction work of the month, March 2018.[40]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Bernhard Pörksen, University of Tübingen
  2. ^ Heinz von Foerster & Berhard Pörksen: Wahrheit ist die Erfindung eines Lügners. Gespräche für Skeptiker. Carl-Auer Verlag Heidelberg, 6. Aufl. 2004
  3. ^ Pörksen, B. (2011): The Creation of Reality. A Constructivist Epistemology of Journalism and Journalism Education. Imprint Academic, Exeter 2011. pp. 43-45.
  4. ^ „Jeder und alles ist skandalisierbar" Interview with B. Pörksen (Der Tagesspiegel 23.5.2012)
  5. ^ Wir stecken in der digitalen Pubertaet
  6. ^ Pfügler, Sebastian/Baugut, Philipp (2015): Normverstoß, Medienkonstrukt, Machtkampf oder Internethysterie? Der Skandal und die Typen seiner Erforschung (Norm violation, media construct, power struggle, or internet hysteria? The scandal and the types of its investigation). In: Publizistik Nr. 60, pp. 318-320.
  7. ^ “…ein großartiges Buch” – Pressestimmen zum “entfesselten Skandal” (Herbert von Halem Verlag 24-2.2012)
  8. ^ Skandal für alle! (Zeit.Online 27.4.2012)
  9. ^ Skandal-Forschung Totaler Kontrollverlust (Berliner Zeitung 9.5.2012)
  10. ^ Pörksen, B. (2018): Die große Gereiztheit. Wege aus der kollektiven Erregung. München: Hanser-Verlag. S. 116-127.
  11. ^ re:publica 2018 – Bernhard Pörksen: Filter Clash. Die große Gereiztheit der vernetzten Welt (YouTube)
  12. ^ Interview with Bernhard Pörksen: Wir sind auf dem Weg zur Empörungsdemokratie (NZZ 5.2.2018)
  13. ^ Im Zeitalter kollabierender Kontexte (Glanz&Elend Literatur und Zeitkritik)
  14. ^ Medienwissenschaftler Pörksen hat das Buch der Stunde geschrieben(Frankfurter Neue Presse 6.3.2018)
  15. ^ Wer repariert das Internet? (FAZ 19.3.2018)
  16. ^ Wie entkommen wir der medialen Gereiztheit? ( 8.5.2018)
  17. ^ Willkommen in der redaktionellen Gesellschaft ( 10.3.2018)
  18. ^ Prof. Dr. Bernhard Pörksen, University of Tübingen
  19. ^ Das Wort der Woche: Alltagssprache analysiert (SWR2)
  20. ^ Extremismus der Erregung (Zeit.Online 6.4.2015)
  21. ^ Facebook und seine Richtlinien: Ausweitung der Verantwortungszone (Der Tagesspiegel 16.9.2015)
  22. ^ Facebook und seine Richtlinien: Ausweitung der Verantwortungszone (Der Tagesspiegel 16.9.2015)
  23. ^ Der Hass der Bescheidwisser: Die aktuellen Attacken von Verschwörungstheoretikern bedrohen den Journalismus. (Spiegel.Online 5.1.2015)
  24. ^ Analyse der Kritik an Jan Böhmermann. Was zählt: Der Rahmen oder das Bild? (Der Tagesspiegel 14.4.2016)
  25. ^ Comedian’s Takedown of Turkish President Tests Free Speech in Germany (The New York Times 11.4.2016)
  26. ^ Es entsteht eine grell ausgeleuchtete Welt, ein monströses Aquarium, in dem kaum noch etwas verborgen bleibt (Zeit.Online 21.2.2015)
  27. ^ Wir Tugendterroristen. Im digitalen Zeitalter neigt die Mediendemokratie zur dauernden Empörung: Permanent droht der Skandal. Warum ist das so? (Zeit.Online 8.11.2012)
  28. ^ Kollaps der Kontexte. In der Digital-Ära wird der Kontrollverlust zur Alltagserfahrung - und der Skandal allgegenwärtig. (Spiegel. Online 2.4.2012)
  29. ^ Schaut genau hin! Pauschalismus vergiftet den öffentlichen Diskurs, sagt unser Autor. Das Schnell-schnell-Bescheidwissen führt zu Erschöpfung, nicht zu Erkenntnis. Es geht auch anders. (Zeit.Online 12.9.2018)
  30. ^ Umgang mit Rechtspopulisten. Raus aus der Abwertungsspirale. Mit Rechten reden und mit Rechtspopulisten streiten – aber wie? Vorschläge aus kommunikationspsychologischer Perspektive (Der Tagesspiegel 19.11.2017)
  31. ^ Wo seid ihr, Professoren? Das Wissenschaftssystem drängt seine besten Denker ins Abseits. Ihre Stimmen fehlen in den gesellschaftlichen Debatten. Das ist fatal. (Zeit.Online 12.8.2015)
  32. ^ Die große Erosion. Der 70. Geburtstag des SPIEGEL fällt in eine kritische Zeit. Weltweit mischen Populisten die Politik auf, Wutbürger randalieren gegen die Eliten, im Internet blühen die asozialen Medien. Kann es sein, dass eine Revolution bevorsteht? (Spiegel Online 30.12.2016)
  33. ^ Rede von Außenminister Steinmeier anlässlich der Verleihung der Lead Awards in Hamburg, 14. November 2014 (Auswärtiges Amt 15.11.2014)
  34. ^ «Manche fragen sich gewiss: Wollen wir uns nicht lieber ducken?» Erdogans Kalkül in der Böhmermann-Affäre könnte aufgehen, befürchtet Medienwissenschaftler Bernhard Pörksen. (10.5.2016)
  35. ^ Politische Debattenkultur: „Wir hängen nicht nur Plakate“ Norbert Lambert (CDU) (FAZ 26.9.2016)
  36. ^ Populismus: Empört euch, Ihr Denker! Die Wissenschaft darf den Clinch mit Populisten nicht scheuen. (Zeit.Online 14.12.2016)
  37. ^ Bernhard Pörksen: "Die große Gereiztheit" Stoppt die Empörungsdemokratie, Rezension im Deutschlandfunk Kultur vom 19. Februar 2018, abgerufen 25. März 2018
  38. ^ Geisteswissenschaften International: 12 Werke ausgezeichnet
  39. ^ Auszeichnung für "Die gehetzte Politik" Das Gemeinschaftswerk der Herausgeber Bernhard Pörksen und Wolfgang Krischke sowie 23 Studierender der Universität Tübingen wurde mit dem Studium Professionale Preis 2013 ausgezeichnet. (Universität Tübingen 20.6.2013)
  40. ^ Non-fiction work of the month, March 2018 (Welt. de Kultur 28.2. 2018)