#rp20 Speaker Bernhard Pörksen — Reputational risks in the digital age

Bernhard Poerksen

Photo Credit: Peter-Andreas Hassiepen

Bernhard Pörksen is a media scientist and professor at Tübingen University. At #rp20 he will be talking about reputation and especially about how quickly reputation of individuals, corporations and governments can be destroyed in the digital world.

He is doing research on media scandals and the public culture of debate. Apart from his scientific publications he is the author of multiple books as well as writing for several media outlets. His most recent publication “The great irritation. Ways out of collective enragement” analyses patterns of enragement of our digital age and the business of misinformation. In an age where anyone can be a publisher, Bernhard Pörksen demands that a wise handling of information should become a part of the general education being taught at schools. He advocates for people to argue more with each other instead of insulting and accusing one another.
Longtime participants of re:publica may know Bernhard Pörksen from many interesting talks he held on our stages within the last years. His most recent talk from #rp19 “Say goodbye to cyber-pessimism. The utopia of an editorial society” can be found here (held in German).

ASAP—3 questions for … Bernhard Pörksen

We asked Bernhard about his keynote at #rp20, the most pressing issues for him at the moment and his recommended readings, music or movies.

What topic will you talk about at #rp20?
My talk will be about the omnipresence of reputational risks in the digital age. In today’s media landscape the reputation of individuals or political and religious organisations as well as corporations and governments can be destroyed in no time. Therefore the imperative of the digital age has to be: “Always act in a way that the effects of your actions on the public seem tenable to you in the long run. But expect that it’s no use anyway.”

True to this year’s motto—what’s the most pressing issue for you personally at the moment?
In our day and age the key issue can be brought down to a single question, which is: “What is truly important?”. We’re seeing a polarization of the public and a senseless hype about pseudo outrages in recent months. At the same time environmental degradation is becoming unstoppable and demagogues are a thread for the communicative atmosphere all over Europe. That being said, these often disturbing times call for a focus that is wide awake and outrage linked to actual relevance.

What’s your reading, movie or music recommendation that everyone should check out ASAP? 
I don’t really have a universal answer to this so please excuse the following little advertisement and beating my own drum: My new book which was written in collaboration with Friedemann Schulz von Thun will be available this February. The title is “The Art of Talking to Each Other” and our aim is to answer the question about what fuels the toxicity and overheating of debates and how to train the right balance of empathy and confrontation in public discourse. We’re especially looking at a way to talk to each other that aims to be a “real dialogue” and does not simply degenerate into emotional appreciation or senseless showcasing but would instead be suited as a lesson for democracy. I can’t really say whether the book succeeds in this (I hope it does, of course) but it’s rather meant to be an exploratory move into ways to discover places and principles of successful discourses helping us all to take a step forward. This is what I consider essential and it’s something I especially experience when being at re:publica.

We're looking forward to hear more about Bernhard Pörksen's work at #rp20!