January 31, 2010

Think better of humans!

My idea of man has always been somewhat more positive than that of the many people I encounter. Most have resigned in the face of seeing business leaders corrupted while politicians are appealing continually to citizens' self interest when talking tax cuts. Even educational institutions promote themselves by bragging about how they give their graduates the best chances to come out ahead of others.

Selfishness seems to lie at the root of human behavior and yet I doubt this seeming no-brainer when I look around at the people in my immediate proximity. My friends and family and also wider social network is based on people helping each other out. There are connections made that often come about in conversations ("you know who could help you with that? My friend X. I'll give you his email" OR "well, you should have talked to me sooner, I have been doing this paper on exactly what you are starting to investigate.").

Sometimes I doubt whether my world is just too secluded and safe to be compared to the world average. There is always a chance you are naive and overly trusting. But then there are scientists that come to my help and I highly recommend you read this text by psychology professor Dacher Keltner. It might just give you back some hope in the human race :) Enjoy The Compassionate Instinct!

January 29, 2010

Civil Society 2.0

This short documentary talks about how the big public protest marches and the so called Strike for Education came about. It was the new media combined with spontaneous crowds with a common interest à la flashmob. Being one of many and still having a say is a powerful experience and genuinely democratic, unlike the kind of representative democracy we are finding ourselves governed by in Germany. It has made me think about whether this kind of international protest could have happened in pre-internet times. Is it a question of scale or is there a whole different sort of interaction at work?


If you stumble around the internet these days, you come across many stories that fall in the categories "reflection on technological advancement" or "analysis of the impact of social media". And being part of this whole new sphere of human existence has inspired me to research it for my thesis by which I hope to earn my degree as a sociologist.

It's so interesting to me how many people still mostly ignore (as do most conservative politicians) the force that is the interconnectedness and evergrowing communication between individuals. In 10 or 20 years time I expect for the digital divide to close significantly. If we succeed in defending net neutrality against some corporate interests, we will soon feel the power of the opinions of millions of Africans, Asians and South Americans that so far have a lot less voice in the global discussion (much like at the WTO).

So expect to hear more about this part of my life in 2010 :)

Weird or just different?

Obviously I haven't been very active, blog-wise, in the last few weeks, so I am going to post twice today to make up for it :)

I just saw this great video. It's funny and at the same time makes a very important point which I think is relevant to all aspects of life.

So try out the lesson learned from the clip "The opposite may also be true" and then assess your political, ideological, religious or opinions about the right lifestyle.

If you are like me (and most other people in my experience) you probably think that you are quite right in what you assume about the world. In fact most of your knowledge is never ever questioned. As soon as you have made yourself an opinion, you regard that as the viewpoint from which all other opinions are to be judged.
But what if you're wrong? What if you dismiss a correct or equally (!) correct notion, just because you limited your mind - unconsciously or consciously - to what you hold to be possible.

Personally I take from this a reminder not to be judgemental and act from a position of not wanting to destroy others' opinions. Instead I try questioning all of them, first of all my own. The openness that comes with this approach hopefully makes me a lot less prone to conflict. (And what if the opposite of that is also true?)