Audience of Collaborative Thinkers

People often ask me what I want to say with what I say. They ask me things like „What is the message of your film?“ and then they ask me „And who is the audience for your films, for your texts, for what you put out into the world?“. I used to say: „I don’t think of an audience.“ I said that for many years, at many instances, on many stages and then I learned that this is not quite true.

I do have an audience and I know my audience very well. The audience is one person, and that person is me. „So if it is only for you, why do you need to put it out into the world?“ might be the next good question and I have two answers.

The first reason is that when I put it out into the world, I put it out of my head and in front of me. Then I can look at it and I can see it in context with all the other things that are out there already. Things that other people have put out there and things that I have put out there earlier.

The second reason is that when I put something out, sometimes other people come and look at it. Naturally other people look at the thing from a different viewpoint than me. Sometimes people look at the thing in a way that I would not have been able to see myself. When they are so kind and patient to point that out to me, I then can see something that I never saw and most likely would have never seen on my own. This can be enlightening or simply helpful to better understand what I thought and what I think of the thing that I can now see with their eyes.

Many people do it like me. They do it on Facebook or Instagram on YouTube. People put things out into the world and have other people look at it and learn from what these people see.

But just few people put things out into the world to learn from the thoughts of other minds.

Most people are still in the habit of making statements. It seems they want to convince other people to think the same as they do, to look at the thing from the same angle.

Most of the time it is not obvious what the motivation of someone that put something out was when that someone put it out. And from my own experience I can tell that for the longest time I did not know myself what my motivation was.

Mostly people still put out things into the world with the intention to deliver a message without even being aware that it is usually not them who came up with the message in the first place. Usually, it is a message someone else put into their head. So, without knowing these people broadcast the messages of somebody else.

This happens a lot. But as new generations grow up with these web-based tools that make it easy for anyone to put out things, more and more minds start putting out things into the world before they have gotten a message stuck into their head by someone else. These people more and more use the tools to look at things and think collaboratively. They use these new tools not as tools to broadcast opinions but as research tools, tool that help them learn about the world, tool that help them to collaboratively build and maintain vast collections of meaningful things. They use these new tools to collaboratively look and evaluate the things they collected. And while they are doing that, they learn to better use the tools and further develop the tools simultaneously.

This enables them to see patterns that humans have never seen before that no one has realized before and they do that by using not only one brain but many brains, the brains of all the people participating in looking at the same things and start to communicate what they see without starting with a message.

These people don’t need to dumb down reality into messages, they don’t need to tell simple stories, they are able to embrace and enjoy the beauty of complexity.

The discussion about Facebook

There is something fascinating happening at the moment. It is the debate about Facebook. However, it is about something quite different than the question of whether Facebook is good or bad or even whether the new communication media are good or bad in themselves.

We can currently observe an important step in the development of the new communication media. It’s just not that obvious, because this process is being negotiated by people who speak as if it were a question of good or bad. Sometimes it sounds as if the new communication media have reached a point where they may not be able to carry on. As if the downfall of Facebook or something is imminent. The way it is reported, one could get the impression that the system is on the verge of collapse. This is not the case. In the hearings that take place in the US Senate, for example, the example of the tobacco industry is referred to again and again, where a branch of industry knowingly accepted the suffering of millions of people in order to make a profit. Even if the comparison is obvious, it is not particularly helpful, because unlike the consumption of cigarettes, the negative effects of the consumption of new communication media are offset by much more and much stronger positive effects. What is true for the new communication media as a whole is probably even true for Facebook itself.

FB is not as bad as most can surely understand if they are willing to follow the following reasoning:

The negative effects of FB are offset by many positive ones. I think anyone who uses FB can see that. Who uses FB despite everything that most have to criticise about FB. So what is to be criticised is counterbalanced by something else. And for most people (all those who continue to use FB) this thing is bigger than everything that is admittedly negative about FB. And this thing that stands opposite the negative is the positive that FB has.

Of course, it could go badly for FB and FB will be broken up in the course of the discussion. But that would certainly be the most dramatic thing that could happen. The long-term trend that the new communication media are becoming more and more important will not change at all.

What we can observe is simply how, with a large share of the public, mistakes in the system of the new communication media are being illuminated and the prerequisites for correcting these mistakes are being created. No more, but also no less.

TV is Easy (e)

A few years ago, I pitched a TV show format together with a friend of mine at a festival in Barcelona. That means we were allowed to present our idea to television producers from all over Europe. The event was set up like a competition with a stage, audience and everything. Our idea was one of four. I think we came last. Afterwards, a few people from the audience came up to us and said that the project had been the best …(*)

I have to say, I didn’t understand for a long time why our idea wasn’t accepted, I think it really had the potential to move the world forward through television (and the internet).

A TV producer I hung out with a few months later at another festival explained it to me:
No matter what show is produced on TV, it always has an element, like a spice that must not be missing from any dish, a spice that every TV show tastes like. Anything without this element doesn’t stand a chance. Audience research has found beyond doubt that no show can succeed that doesn’t have this element. As beautiful as your project is, it lacks this element.

What is that element? I think it’s important that every time you watch a show on TV, or hear a conversation about a TV show, or read about a TV show, you should recite the following to yourself:

The viewer in front of the TV should always feel superior to those who are being paraded in the show.

I think everyone should know that, because it explains a lot. Not only in terms of television.

(*) …and way ahead of its time. I’ve been hearing that at regular intervals for twenty years. There’s probably some truth to it, but if that’s the case, then I can say from my experience that those who are too far ahead of their time don’t change anything 😉




What is the most important thing in the world, I am asked, and I don’t have to think long. The most important thing in the world is obviously nonsense.

I love sense, I’m always looking for sense and whenever I get hold of something that could be sense, I look at it closely. Whatever thought I grabbed, I hold it up in front of my eyes and study it in depth. In the vast majority of cases, however, I have to realise, “damn, that’s nonsense again!” And then I throw the thought away, somewhere, with all the other nonsense. The nonsense that apparently makes up the whole world.

Every now and then I find sense and of course I don’t throw the sense away. I put each sense in a jam jar, with a pretty label with a name I’ve thought up for the sense, and I put the jam jars neatly in my jam jar cupboard. Every now and then I unscrew one of the jars and enjoy the enchanting smell, which triggers a strong feeling of well-being in me. Sometimes, however, I notice that an old sense has gone bad and I throw it away.

And so I spend my days looking for some sense to put in jam jars. I already have many jam jars, maybe a few hundred. They are all in the cupboard, I wouldn’t even know if I could list them all.

But as I said, sense is rare, most of it is nonsense. The world is made of nonsense and only now and then does a little sense grow on it. But nonsense is obviously more important. Nonsense is the stuff the world is made of. Sense is only the exception. It’s nice somehow, but it might not be useful for anything.

Opinion makes blind

When I say, “I don’t have an opinion on anything,” people usually laugh and say, “But you have an opinion on everything.” Most regular readers of my blog seem to share this view, at least that’s what I infer from what those who do comment say.

It would be more correct to say: “More and more often I succeed in not having an opinion”. Because I can only have no opinion about something if I focus. It is impossible to be concentrated on everything. So it’s only selected things that I don’t have an opinion on, for example the things I write about in this blog. I don’t write (at least not anymore) about things I mean. Instead, I try to describe the things I see. Even if I myself disagree, even if they don’t fit my own thinking. Because I no longer give a damn about my opinion.

I have no opinion on everything that is important to me and on which I have concentrated since I learned not to have an opinion.

On everything else I still have an opinion and it is on most things.

Having an opinion seems to be the default mode of the human being, and that to the extent that the human being develops language. Language is opinion. This would also explain why opinion can be expressed so well in language, while no opinion is so difficult to express in words, and why no opinion expressed in words leads so reliably to misunderstandings.

Since I started to look at things increasingly without opinion, I see more and more. Because I not only see what I mean, but I also see what I don’t mean. And I see what I don’t mean as real as what I do mean. So I can no longer deny what I don’t want to see, nor do I want to. Because the world is much bigger and truer when I perceive not only what I mean, but also what I don’t mean, don’t think, don’t want to perceive.

And every time I succeed in seeing what I don’t mean just as well as what I do mean, opinion becomes more and more irrelevant, uninteresting, undesirable. Because opinion collapses the world to the section of one’s own opinion.

No opinion allows to see much more.

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