Bernhard Poerksen

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Bernhard Pörksen (2018)

Bernhard Pörksen (* 1969 in Freiburg im Breisgau ) is a German media scientist . He works as a professor at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen .


Bernhard Pörksen studied German, journalism and biology in Hamburg and, at the invitation of Ivan Illich, completed research stays at the Pennsylvania State University . During and after his studies he worked as a journalist. From 1997 to 1999 he wrote a doctoral thesis on the construction of enemy images . On the use of language in neo-Nazi media . In 2000 he taught communication and linguistics at the University of Greifswald. From 2002 he worked as a junior professor for journalism and communication science at the University of Hamburg , in 2006 represented the chair for communication theory and media culture at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster and received his habilitation in communication and media studies in 2007. In 2008 he was offered a chair for media studies at the University of Tübingen . In November 2008, he was voted “Professor of the Year” in a nationwide competition organized by the magazine Unicum Beruf . From 2009 to 2011 he was the founding representative and managing director of the Institute for Media Studies at the University of Tübingen.

Bernhard Pörksen is the son of the journalist Gunhild Pörksen and the Freiburg linguist Uwe Pörksen . His brother is the dramaturge and filmmaker Julian Pörksen .

Scientific work

Bernhard Pörksen at the opening of the 16th Tübingen media lectureship (2019)

The central themes of his research, consultancy and lecturing activities include the dynamics of public outrage , media scandals and questions of media ethics , communication models and communication theories, staging styles in politics and media, journalism and celebrities. He has also published numerous papers on systemic thinking and the philosophy of constructivism. His books with the cyberneticist Heinz von Foerster ( truth is the invention of a liar ), the Chilean neurobiologist Humberto Maturana ( from being to doing ) and the communication psychologist Friedemann Schulz von Thun ( communication as an art of living ) have been translated into different languages. The volume, written together with Heinz von Foerster, is considered a "classic" because of its importance for conveying systemic thinking. Poerksen himself represents a direction of constructivism in his book The observation of the observer , which he calls "discursive constructivism": the constructivist relativism and skepticism are only a corrective of dogmas in the discourse, not a new "doctrine of salvation".

Another research focus of Poerksen is the communication of scandals and crises. Poerksen is of the opinion that debates on values ​​are reflected in scandals and revealed in collective outrage about the moral sensitivity, taboos and “irritability” of society. In the book The Unleashed Scandal (together with Hanne Detel, 2012), which is also available in English , he advocates the thesis that the scandal in the digital age, due to the widespread dissemination, searchability and contextless recombinability of data and documents of all kinds, represents a new evolutionary and has reached an escalation level: It is no longer just the powerful and celebrities that would be the object of undesirable, in extreme cases worldwide attention, but also the powerless and completely innocent. The social height of fall is no longer a key criterion. This re-examination of the scandal in the digital age has triggered a wide response and is considered a new, internet-oriented approach within scandal research. The book has been nominated several times as non-fiction book of the month.

In the book Die große Gereiztheit , published in 2018, Pörksen examines the social consequences of networking and digitization. He describes, on the basis of case studies, how the idea of ​​truth, the dynamics of revelations, the character of debate and the idea of ​​authority and power change. Poerksen shows why, from his point of view, Eli Pariser's filter bubble model is misleading. This contradicts empirical studies, network theoretical insights and the everyday experience of information wealth and information diversity. Rather, the filter clash rules, the clash of parallel audiences in the digital age: One can enter one's “self-affirmation milieu”, but cannot avoid other people's worldview or ideology under networked conditions. Because people get too close, the "great irritability" arises. From the “overheating and polarization” of communication, Poerksen derives the demand for an education in media maturity, which should enable the individual citizen to become his own journalistic gatekeeper. 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 journalistic ethic of the general public - an educational vision that is praised by critics on the one hand, on the other hand was also criticized as naive.

Pörksen also works as an editor for various systemic-constructivist journals ( Constructivist Foundations , Cybernetics & Human Knowing , Family Dynamics ). He is on the advisory board of the magazines Message , Pop and Spiel and, together with the linguist Ingrid Schröder, publishes the book series Language in Society , in which works appear at the interface between linguistics and media studies. He publishes the book series Systemic Horizons at Carl Auer Verlag . Theory of practice ; the books published there show how constructivism and systems theory can be put to practical use in organizational consulting and management, in politics, education and didactics.

Journalistic activity

In addition to academic work, Pörksen publishes comments and essays in the media in Germany, Austria and Switzerland on current debates and media policy issues. Texts appeared in daily newspapers ( Tagesspiegel , Tages-Anzeiger , Die Presse , Standard , Neue Zürcher Zeitung , Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , daily newspaper ), weekly newspapers ( Die Zeit , der Freitag , Rheinischer Merkur , Deutsches Allgemeine Sonntagsblatt ), magazines ( Der Spiegel , Cicero , Wiener , Brain & Spirit , Journalist ) and Netzmedien ( Spiegel Online , Zeit Online , Carta ). He also writes articles for Deutschlandfunk and has been the author, alternating with Ulrich Raulff and Ludwig Eichinger, of the language-critical radio and interview column Wort der Woche ( SWR 2 ), which picks up on current key words or stimulus words , since 2013 . Topics on which Poerksen comments in essays and interviews concern the overheating of catastrophe reporting under real-time conditions, the responsibility of Internet platforms such as Facebook or Twitter , refinancing models for quality newspapers, the renaissance of conspiracy theories , the Böhmermann affair , and the consequences of the media Transparency for politics, destructive forms of moralizing and scandalizing the public, the ethics of public communication and the culture of debate . or the marginalization of the “committed scientist” in the academic system.

Together with students from the Universities of Hamburg and Tübingen, Pörksen has written several books that address debate and media topics ( trend book Journalism , Scandal! - The Power of Public Outrage , Media People - How to Stage Reality , The Casting Society , The Rushed Politics ). Pörksen is also one of the initiators of the Charter of Fundamental Digital Rights of the European Union , which was published at the end of November 2016. In their statements on media policy debates, journalists and politicians have referred to his research results and concepts (“indignation democracy”, “fifth power”, “shameful satire”, “the unleashed scandal”). According to Zeit author Ulrich Schnabel, Poerksen stands for the type of scientist who interferes in public debates and does not shy away from arguments with populists in media reports .


  • 2013 Award and translation funding for the book The Unleashed Scandal (together with Hanne Detel) as part of the “International Humanities” program from the German Book Trade Association , the Fritz Thyssen Foundation , the VG Wort and the Foreign Office
  • Studium Professionale-Preis of the University of Tübingen 2013 (together with students) for the book Die helte Politik. The new power of the media and markets
  • The great irritability , vote for non-fiction book of the month, March 2018


  • with Heinz von Foerster : Truth is a liar's invention. Conversations for skeptics. Carl-Auer-Systeme-Verlag, Heidelberg 1998, ISBN 978-3-89670-646-1 .
  • The certainty of uncertainty. Conversations on Constructivism. With Heinz von Foerster, Ernst von Glasersfeld , Humberto R. Maturana , Gerhard Roth , Siegfried J. Schmidt , Helm Stierlin , Francisco J. Varela and Paul Watzlawick . Carl Auer Systems, Heidelberg 2001.
  • with Heinz von Foerster: La verità è l'invenzione di un bugiardo. Colloqui per scettici. Meltemi Editore, Rome 2001.
  • with Heinz von Foerster: Understanding Systems. Conversations on Epistemology and Ethics. Carl Auer Systems / Kluwer Academic Publication / Plenum Publishers, Heidelberg / New York 2002.
  • with Humberto R. Maturana: From Being to Doing. The Origins of the Biology of Knowledge. Carl Auer Systems, Heidelberg 2002.
    • with Humberto R. Maturana: Del ser al hacer. Los origines de la biologia del conocer. JC Editor, Santiago 2004.
    • with Humberto R. Maturana: From Being to Doing. The Origins of the Biology of Cognition. Carl Auer, Heidelberg 2004.
    • with Humberto R. Maturana: Fra væren til handlen. In the interview sheet about the level of systems in nature and samfund. Mindspace, Copenhagen 2011.
  • with Heinz von Foerster: Sandhed - opfundet af en løgner. Samtaler for the more skeptical. Billesø & Baltzer, Vaerløse 2003.
  • The Certainty of Uncertainty - Dialogues Introducing Constructivism. Imprint Academic, Exeter 2004.
  • with Joan Kristin Bleicher (Ed.): Grenzgänger. Forms of New Journalism. VS, Wiesbaden 2004.
  • (Ed.): Trend book journalism. Successful media makers on training, career entry and the future of the industry. With the collaboration of Jens Bergmann. Halem, Cologne 2005.
  • with Siegfried Weischenberg , Hans J. Kleinsteuber (Ed.): Handbook of Journalism and Media. UVK, Constance 2005.
  • The construction of enemy images. On the use of language in neo-Nazi media. With a foreword by Johano Strasser . VS, Wiesbaden 2005.
  • together with Jens Bergmann (Ed.): Medienmenschen. How to stage reality. Solibro, Münster 2007.
  • together with Wiebke Loosen, Armin Scholl (ed.): Paradoxien des Journalismus. Theory - empiricism - practice. VS, Wiesbaden 2008.
  • with Jens Bergmann (Ed.): Scandal! The power of public outrage. Halem, Cologne 2009, ISBN 978-3-938258-47-7 .
  • with Wolfgang Krischke (Ed.): Die Casting-Gesellschaft. The addiction to attention and the media tribunal . Halem, Cologne 2010, ISBN 978-3-86962-014-5 .
  • The Creation of Reality. A Constructivist Epistemology of Journalism and Journalism Education . Imprint Academic, Exeter 2011.
  • Key works of constructivism (ed.). VS, Wiesbaden 2011
  • with Hanne Detel: The unleashed scandal. The end of control in the digital age. Halem, Cologne 2012.
  • with Wolfgang Krischke (Ed.): The hurried politics. The new power of the media and markets . Halem, Cologne 2013, ISBN 978-3-86962-079-4 .
  • with Friedemann Schulz von Thun : Communication as an art of living: Philosophy and practice of talking to one another. 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.
  • The observation of the observer. An epistemology of journalism . Carl Auer Systems: Heidelberg 2015.
  • with Andreas Narr (ed.): The idea of ​​the medium. Speeches on the future of journalism by Ulrich Deppendorf , Mathias Döpfner , Hans Leyendecker , Giovanni di Lorenzo , Miriam Meckel , Frank Schirrmacher , Cordt Schnibben, Alice Schwarzer and Roger Willemsen . Halem, Cologne 2015, ISBN 978-3-86962-146-3 .
  • with Heinz von Foerster: Pravda je vynález lhářů. Rozhovory skeptiků . Pragma, Prague 2016.
  • The great irritation: ways out of the collective excitement. Hanser, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3446258440 .
  • with Friedemann Schulz von Thun: The art of talking to one another. About the dialogue in society and politics. Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich 2020, ISBN 978-3-446-26590-5 .

Web links

Commons : Bernhard Pörksen  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. Professor of the Year 2008 in the category “Humanities / Social and Cultural Studies” , November 2008.
  2. Heinz von Foerster & Berhard Pörksen: Truth is the invention of a liar. Conversations for skeptics. Carl-Auer Verlag Heidelberg, 6th edition 2004 .
  3. B. Poerksen: The observation of the observer. An epistemology of journalism. Heidelberg: Carl Auer Systems, 2015, pp. 58–61.
  4. Everyone and everything can be scandalized . In: Der Tagesspiegel , May 23, 2002.
  5. We are in digital puberty . In: Die Presse , June 21, 2012.
  6. Sebastian Pfügler / Philipp Baugut: Violation of norms, media construct, power struggle or internet ethysteria ? The scandal and the types of its exploration. In: Publizistik , 2015, No. 60, pp. 318–320.
  7. “… a great book” - press comments on the “unleashed scandal” (Herbert von Halem Verlag 24-2.2012).
  8. Scandal for everyone! (Zeit.Online April 27, 2012)
  9. Scandal Research Total Loss of Control . In: Berliner Zeitung , May 9, 2012.
  10. Pörksen, B. (2018): The great irritability. Ways out of the collective excitement. Munich: Hanser-Verlag. Pp. 116-127.
  11. re: publica 2018 - Bernhard Pörksen: Filter Clash. The great irritability of the networked world (YouTube)
  12. Interview with Bernhard Pörksen: We are on the way to indignation democracy . In: NZZ , February 5, 2018).
  13. In the age of collapsing contexts (gloss & misery literature and criticism of the times )
  14. Media scientist Pörksen wrote the book of the hour (Frankfurter Neue Presse March 6, 2018)
  15. Who Fixes the Internet? . In: FAZ , March 19, 2018.
  16. How do we escape the irritation of the media? . ( May 8, 2018).
  17. Welcome to the editorial society . In: , March 10, 2018.
  18. Prof. Dr. Bernhard Pörksen, University of Tübingen .
  19. The word of the week: everyday language analyzed (SWR2)
  20. Extremism of Excitement (Zeit.Online April 6, 2015).
  21. Facebook and its guidelines: Expansion of the area of ​​responsibility (Der Tagesspiegel September 16, 2015).
  22. Save the newspapers! (Zeit.Online January 10, 2013).
  23. The hatred of the know-how: The current attacks by conspiracy theorists threaten journalism. (Spiegel. Online January 5, 2015).
  24. ^ Analysis of the criticism of Jan Böhmermann. What counts: the frame or the picture? (Der Tagesspiegel April 14, 2016)
  25. Comedian's Takedown of Turkish President Tests Free Speech in Germany (The New York Times April 11, 2016).
  26. A brightly lit world emerges, a monstrous aquarium in which hardly anything remains hidden (Zeit.Online February 21, 2015).
  27. We virtue terrorists. In the digital age, media democracy tends to be constantly outraged: the threat of scandal is permanent. Why is that? (Zeit.Online November 8, 2012).
  28. Collapse of contexts. In the digital era, the loss of control becomes an everyday experience - and the scandal is omnipresent. (Spiegel. Online April 2, 2012).
  29. Look closely! Generalism poisons public discourse, says our author. Knowing quickly and quickly leads to exhaustion, not to knowledge. There is another way. (Zeit.Online September 12, 2018).
  30. Dealing with right-wing populists. Get out of the devaluation spiral. Talking to the right and arguing with right-wing populists - but how? Suggestions from a communication psychological perspective (Der Tagesspiegel November 19, 2017).
  31. Where are you, professors? The science system is marginalizing its best thinkers. Their voices are missing in the social debates. That is fatal. (Zeit.Online August 12, 2015).
  32. The great erosion. SPIEGEL's 70th birthday falls at a critical time. Populists stir up politics around the world, angry citizens riot against the elites, anti-social media are flourishing on the Internet. Can it be that a revolution is imminent? (Spiegel Online December 30, 2016)
  33. Speech by Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the presentation of the Lead Awards in Hamburg, November 14, 2014 (Federal Foreign Office November 15, 2014)
  34. "Some are sure to ask: shouldn't we rather duck?" Erdogan's calculation in the Böhmermann affair could work, fears media scientist Bernhard Pörksen. (May 10, 2016).
  35. ^ Political debate culture: “We don't just hang posters” Norbert Lambert (CDU) (FAZ September 26, 2016).
  36. Populism: Outrage, you thinkers! Science must not shy away from clinching with populists. (Zeit.Online December 14, 2016).
  37. Humanities International: 12 works awarded
  38. Award for "The Hurried Politics" The joint effort by the editors Bernhard Pörksen and Wolfgang Krischke as well as 23 students from the University of Tübingen was awarded the Studium Professionale Prize 2013. (University of Tübingen June 20, 2013)
  39. These are the best non-fiction books of the month ( Kultur February 28, 2018)
  40. Stop the indignation democracy, review in Deutschlandfunk Kultur on February 19, 2018 , accessed March 25, 2018