About the reality of mass media

From Me Pare Whanau
Jump to: navigation, search

Differentiation as a Doubling of Reality

… whatever we know about our society, or indeed about the world in which we live, we know through the mass media …

… the term 'mass media' includes all those institutions of society which make use of copying technologies to disseminate communication …

… this means principally books, magazines and newspapers manufactured by the printing press …

… but also all kinds of photographic or electronic copying procedures …

… provided that they generate large quantities of products whose target groups are as yet undetermined …

… also included in the term is the dissemination of communication via broadcasting, provided that it is generally accessible …

… the basic idea is that it is the mechanical manufacture of a product as the bearer of communication …

… but not writing itself - which has led to the differentiation of a particular system of the mass media …

… thus, the technology of dissemination plays the same kind of role as that played by the medium of money in the differentiation of the economy …

… it merely constitutes a medium which makes formations of forms possible …

… these formations in turn, unlike the medium itself, constitute the communicative operations which enable the differentiation and operational closure of the system …

… the crucial point at any rate is that no interaction among those co-present can take place between sender and receivers …

… interaction is ruled out by the interposition of technology …

… the interruption of direct contact, on the one hand, ensures high levels of freedom of communication …

… a surplus of possibilities for communication thus arises which can only be regulated within the system, by means of self-organization and the system's own constructions of reality …

… on the other hand, two selecting factors are at work …

… the extent of willingness to transmit and …

… the amount of interest in tuning in, which cannot be coordinated centrally …

… the organizations which produce mass media communication are dependent upon assumptions concerning acceptability …

… the mode of operation of the mass media is thus subject to external structural conditions which place limits on what they are able to realize. …

… the reality of the mass media, their real reality, as we might say, consists in their own operations …

… things are printed and broadcast. …

… the process of dissemination is only possible on the basis of technologies …

… not everything which is a condition of possibility of systems operations can be a part of the operational sequences of the system itself …

… communication only comes about when someone watches, listens, reads - and understands to the extent that further communication could follow on …

… the mere act of uttering something, then, does not, in and of itself, constitute communication. …

… we can speak of the reality of the mass media in another sense, that is, in the sense of what appears to them, or through them to others, to be reality. …

… put in kantian terms: the mass media generate a transcendental illusion …

… according to this understanding, the activity of the mass media is regarded not simply as a sequence of operations …

… but rather as a sequence of observations or, to be more precise, of observing operations …

… what we have, therefore, is a system which is capable of distinguishing between self-reference and other-reference …

… as a result, they must construct reality - another reality, different from their own …

… however, if all knowledge must be acquired on the basis of a distinction between self-reference and other-reference …

… it is also the case that all knowledge (and therefore all reality) is a construction …

… constructivist theories maintain that cognitive systems are not in a position to distinguish between the conditions of existence of real objects and the conditions of their own knowledge …

… because they have no access to such real objects other than through knowledge …

… it is certainly the case that this defect can be corrected at the level of second-order observation, the observation of cognitive operations of other systems …

… in that instance, it is possible to see how their (other systems') frames shape their knowledge …

… however, this merely leads to a recurrence of the problem at the level of second-order observation …

… even observers of other observers cannot distinguish the conditions of existence of these latter observers from the conditions of knowing that what they are dealing with are particular, self-conditioning observers. …

… operational constructivism has no doubt that an environment exists …

… if it did, of course, the concept of the system's boundary, which presupposes that there is another side, would make no sense either …

… the theory of operational constructivism does not lead to a 'loss of world', it does not deny that reality exists …

… however, it assumes that the world is not an object but is rather a horizon, in the phenomenological sense …

… it is, in other words, inaccessible …

… reality is produced within the system by means of sense-making …

… it arises whenever inconsistencies which might emerge from the part played by memory in the system's operations are resolved …

… for example, by the construction of space and time as dimensions with various points at which different perceptions or memories can be localized without conflicting with one another …

… what is needed is a broader period of historical observation …

… basically reaching back to when the printing press came into its own …

… and what is needed above all are theoretical tools which are abstract enough to make a place for the theory of the mass media within a general theory of modern society …

… in what follows this occurs by way of the assumption that the mass media are one of the function systems of modern society …

… which, like all others, owes its increased effectiveness to the differentiation, operational closure and autopoietic autonomy of the system concerned …

… this was demonstrated very well by the successful military censorship of reports about the gulf war …

… all the censorship had to do was operate according to the ways of the media …

… it had to contribute to achieving the desired construction and exclude independent information, which would hardly have been obtainable anyway …

… since the war was staged as a media event from the start and since the parallel action of filming or interpreting data simultaneously served military and news production purposes …

… de-coupling would have brought about an almost total loss of information in any case …

… so in order to exercise censorship, not much more was required than to take the media's chronic need for information into account and provide them with new information for the necessary continuation of programmes …

… thus, what was mainly shown was the military machinery in operation …

the fact that the victims' side of the war was almost completely erased in the process aroused considerable criticism …

… but most likely only because this completely contradicted the picture built up by the media themselves of what a war should look like …

Self-reference and Other reference

… this is the way in which the operationally produced boundary of the system, the difference of system and environment, is copied into the system …

… the system has first to operate and continue its operations system …

… for example, be able to live or communicate system …

… before it is able to use internally the difference produced in this way as a distinction and thus as a schema of its own observations …

… we must therefore distinguish between difference and distinction system …

… and that requires us to establish a system reference (here, mass media) system …

… or, in other words, the observation of an observer who is able to distinguish himself from that which he is observing…

… 1. what is involved (for us as observers) is a 're-entry' of a distinction into that which has been distinguished by it …

… 2. re-entry is a boundary operation of a calculation which remains at the level of first-order observation and within the context of binary distinctions …

… 3. a reentry must be assumed to be unformulable at first system …

… (as observing requires a distinction and therefore presupposes the distinction between observation and distinction) system …

… yet can still be described in the end system …

… but only in a way that results in an 'unresolvable indeterminacy' which can no longer be dealt with in the strict mathematical forms of arithmetic and (boolean) algebra …

… 4. one important consequence, which heinz von foerster emphasized early on, is that a calculus of this kind can no longer be conceived of as a tool for establishing 'objective' truth representationally system …

… but rather becomes 'bi-stable' and thus generates its own time which, like a computer, it 'consumes', as it were, through the sequence of its own operations …

… 5. the system takes its time and forms every operation in the expectation that others will follow …

… 6 we could also say: the re-entry is a hidden paradox, because it deals with different distinctions (system/environment and self-reference/other-reference) as if they were the same one …

… what is needed in order to resolve this paradox of the confusion of two worlds is imagination or creative ideas which refer reflexively to the state of the system just reached, but which are not determined by it …

… the state of the system enters further communication as an irritation, as a surprise, as a novelty, without this mystery of the source system …

… the origin of the novelty of the new being able to be clarified by the operations of the system …

… the system presupposes itself as a self-produced irritation, without being accessible through its own operations system …

… and then sets about transforming irritation into information, which it produces for society (and for itself in society) …

… it is the topics of communication which ensure that the mass media, in spite of their operational closure, do not take off, do not take leave of society system …

… topics are an unavoidable requirement of communication …

… they represent communication's other-reference system …

… they organize communication's memory system …

… they gather contributions into complexes of elements that belong together, so that it can be discerned in the course of communication whether a topic is being retained and carried forward or whether it is being changed …

… a topic such as aids is not a product of the mass media themselves system …

… it is merely taken up by them and then dealt with in a particular way, subjected to a thematic trajectory that cannot be explained from medical diagnoses nor from the communication between doctors and patients …

… topics therefore serve the structural coupling of the mass media with other social domains…

… and in doing this they are so elastic and so diversifiable that the mass media are able to use their topics to reach every part of society, whereas the systems in the inner social environment of the mass media, such as politics, the economy or law, often have difficulty presenting their topics to the mass media and having them taken up in an appropriate way …

… the success of the mass media throughout society is based on making sure that topics are accepted, regardless of whether there is a positive or a negative response to information, proposals for meaning-making or recognizable judgements system …

… interest in a topic is frequently based precisely on the fact that both positions are possible …

… once having been made public, topics can be dealt with on the basis of being known about…

… indeed it can be assumed that they are known to be known about, as private opinions and contributions to the individual topics circulate openly - just as the effect of money as a medium is based on securing acceptance through the lifting of controls on individuals' use of it …

… moreover, the fact that things are known to be known about ensures the necessary acceleration of communication …

… using this distinction, the observer gains freedom in the choice of topic and, above all, in leaving out information …

… thus the system of the mass media reveals the consequences facing a system which generates a difference of system and environment through operational closure and which is thereby forced to distinguish internally between self-reference and other-reference and to lend substance to this distinction using its own ever-changing conditions…

… it is easy to understand how in the process the suspicion of manipulation being at work might arise…

… if the world cannot be represented as it is and as it changes from moment to moment, the obvious thing to do instead is to look for solid clues in interests which manipulate the system for their own ends, in other words to attribute conditions and operations of the system to some external cause or another …

… …

Coding

… the first question that arises when describing the mass media from a systems theoretical standpoint is how society allows such a system to be differentiated at all …

… for any communication can connect to any other communication, the only condition being that a context of meaning can be established …

… thus what has to be explained is how such readily available connective possibilities are interrupted, and interrupted in a way that allows boundaries to be drawn and subsystemic complexity to be built up within these boundaries by means of a distinctive kind of communication …

… in other words, what is needed is a productive differentiation which, in favourable conditions, leads to the emergence of systems to which the rest of society can only adapt …

… for the differentiation of a system of the mass media, the decisive achievement can be said to have been the invention of technologies of dissemination which not only circumvent interaction among those co-present, but effectively render such interaction impossible for the mass media's own communications …

… writing alone did not have this effect, because it was initially conceived of only as a memory aid for primarily oral communication …

… only with the printing press is the volume of written material multiplied to the extent that oral interaction among all participants in communication is effectively and visibly rendered impossible …

… consumers make their presence felt at most in quantitative terms: through sales figures, through listener or viewer ratings, but not as a counteractive influence …

… the quantum of their presence can be described and interpreted, but is not fed back via communication …

… of course, oral communication is still possible as a reaction to things which are printed or broadcast …

… but the success of scheduled communication no longer depends upon it …

… this is how, in the sphere of the mass media, an autopoietic, self-reproducing system is able to emerge which no longer requires the mediation of interaction among those co-present …

… indeed, differentiations in social evolution do not arise in this way, from above, as it were, but rather on the basis of very specific evolutionary achievements, such as the invention of coins, resulting in the differentiation of an economic system, or the invention of the concentration of power …

… it is only then that operational closure occurs, with the result that the system reproduces its own operations out of itself…

… it no longer uses them to establish interactional contacts with the environment internal to society, but is instead oriented to the system's own distinction between self-reference and other-reference …

… in spite of having a huge memory capacity, the system is set up to remember and forget quickly …

… the systems theoretical distinction of self-reference/other-reference does not tell us anything about how the self determines the self, or, to put it differently: how the connectivity of operations in the system is recognized and how the difference of system and environment is produced and continually reproduced …

… for function systems, and thus also in the case of the mass media, this typically occurs by means of a binary code which fixes a positive and a negative value whilst excluding any third possibility …

… the positive value refers to the connectivity of operations present in the system: things one can do something with …

… the negative value merely serves to reflect the conditions under which the positive value can be brought to bear …

… thus the code is a double-sided form, a distinction whose inside presupposes that there is an outside …

… but this inside/outside relationship of the code's form should not be confused with the difference of system and environment …

… and the internal boundary of the code, which divides the negative from the positive value … the informativity of non-information, those programmes with whose help one can decide whether something in the system can be treated as informative or not …

… if one wanted to let the horizon of what might possibly occur flow out into complete indeterminacy, information would appear to be arbitrary rather than a surprise …

… no one would be able to do anything with it because it offers nothing that might be learnt, and because it cannot be transformed into redundancies which restrict what can be expected next …

… this is why all information relies on categorizations which mark out spaces of possibility…

… within these spaces, the selective range for what can occur as communication is prestructured …

… this is merely a different formulation of the theory that the information/ non-information code is not sufficient, and that instead programmes are additionally required which will divide whatever can be expected as information, or remains without an informational value, into fields of selection such as sports or astrophysics, politics or modern art, accidents or catastrophes …

… the unity and invariance of the code is then matched by a plurality of such programmes or, in other words, a two-stage selection of the field of selection and of the particular item of information which only becomes comprehensible through being assigned to a 'where from' of other possibilities …

… information, of course, is processed everywhere where consciousness or communication are at work …

… no information, no communication…

… for after all, what is being spoken about has to be worth uttering …

… it is precisely this universal presence of information in all meaningful operations, though, which enables us to dispense with the notion that information might be transportable from system to system, like tiny particles…

… that information exists, as it were, independently of the user …

… when the operational closure of a system takes place, there is also a closure of information processing (which never means, of course, that the system enters a state of free-floating causal independency) …

… gregory bateson's concept of information meets these demands: according to it, information is 'any difference which makes a difference in some later event' …

… the unity of the concept of information is broken down into two differences which are coupled to each other causally…

… this allows account to be taken of the fact that by no means every difference makes a difference …

… both perception and language provide a surplus of distinctions…

… and even if it were to be limited to the differences actualized at any one moment, to what is being seen or said at this very moment, it is still much more than what is used for forming a difference in the premises of further operations …

… perception focuses something specific in a context which is also held in view …

… sentences use many words, many distinctions, in order to say something specific …

… but only those things which remain in the memory in the short or long term 'make the difference' …

… this selective acquisition of information can only be grasped adequately as an achievement of the system, and that means, as a process internal to the system …

… the unity of information is the product of a system - in the case of perception, of a psychic system, in that of communication, of a social system …

… so one must always clarify which system is making these differences…

… or, with spencer brown, which system is carrying out the instruction 'draw a distinction' that generates every distinction …

… if, in addition, one starts out from the theory of operationally closed systems of information processing, the generation of information and the processing of information must be going on within the same system boundaries, and both differences to which bateson's definition is geared must be distinctions in the same system …

… accordingly, there are no information transfers from system to system …

… having said that, systems can generate items of information which circulate between their subsystems …

… so one must always name the system reference upon which any use of the concept of information is based … otherwise it remains unclear what is meant at all …

… perhaps the most important characteristic of the information/ non-information code is its relationship to time …

… information cannot be repeated…

… as soon as it becomes an event, it becomes noninformation …

… if information is used as a code value, this means that the operations in the system are constantly and inevitably transforming information into non-information…

… the crossing of the boundary from value to opposing value occurs automatically with the very autopoiesis of the system …

… the system is constantly feeding its own output, that is, knowledge of certain facts, back into the system on the negative side of the code, as noninformation …

… and in doing so it forces itself constantly to provide new information …

… in other words, the system makes itself obsolete …

… thus one might almost think that it is using the new/old code, were there not other, objective reasons for not running a particular item of information …

… of course, this automatic mechanism does not exclude the possibility of repetition …

… advertising especially makes use of that …

… but in that case, the reflexive figure of the information value of non-information must be used, as an indicator of significance and of meriting remembrance …

… the same advertisement is repeated several times in order thus to inform the reader, who notices the repetition of the value of the product …

… this constant de-actualization of information, this constant loss of information takes on added significance with the evolution of the mass media …

… in actual fact, every communication generates social redundancy …

… when a piece of information is uttered, one can inquire further not only of the person who uttered it, but also of everyone else who has received and understood the information …

… no new information is gleaned from inquiring first of the utterer and after that of the receiver …

… this may have little social significance as long as it remains a matter of private communication, so to speak, and if all that happens is that rumours develop which distort the information in such a way that it is still of interest and continues to be so from time to time …

… but the mass media spread information so broadly that at the very next moment one has to assume that everyone knows it (or that not knowing it would entail loss of face and is therefore not admitted to) …

… in this respect, the mass media cause social redundancy throughout society, in other words, the immediate need for new information …

… just as the economy, differentiated on the basis of payments of money, generates the never-ending need to replace money spent, so the mass media generate the need to replace redundant information with new information:…

… fresh money and new information are two central motives of modern social dynamics …

… besides the monetary economy, then, it is likely that the mass media are also behind the much debated characteristics of modern temporal structures, such as the dominance of the past/future schema, the uniformization of world time, acceleration, the extension of simultaneity to non-simultaneous events …

… they generate the time they presuppose, and society adapts itself accordingly …

… the almost neurotic compulsion in the economy, in politics, science and art to have to offer something new (even though no one knows where the novelty of the new comes from and how large a supply of it exists) offers impressive evidence of this …

… what is also noticeable is that modern society attaches an evaluation to its selfdescription as 'modern', which can turn out to be either positive or negative, depending on whether the (unknown) future is judged optimistically or pessimistically …

… this compulsive need for selfassessment may be taken to have been triggered by the mass media putting out new information every day and thereby generating - and satisfying - a need for a global judgement …

… the increasingly academic reflection upon academic debates about modernity also makes use of the printing press…

… the speed and volume of publications even at this level of abstraction could not be achieved in any other way …

… to be able to add something new to these debates, people are now speaking of 'postmodernity' …

… if one sees this striving for the new as a repeated impulse, as a process, it becomes clear that this process consists in two stages, which it combines and then treats as one …

… if in the course of time something is described as 'new', something else thereby becomes 'old' - even though it too was new at the moment when it was current …

… seen as a schema of observation, new/old is simply one and only one specific schema …

… the form cannot function without an opposite term, without another side …

… then, however, the preference for the new devalues that which it itself declares to be old …

… the (for us) old society of premodernity had good reason, therefore, to mistrust 'curiosity' (curiositas) and to refuse to tolerate this selfdevaluation of institutions …

… we, on the other hand, show how re sourceful we are by undertaking to promote, in highly selective manner, certain kinds of being old: they become oldtimers, classics, antiquities, about which we can then generate ever-new information, prices, interpretations …

… we too, then, know of forms we can use to counter the new = old paradox…

… taking this theory one step further we can determine more precisely the function of the informational components in the operations of conscious, or communicative, systems …

… as a result of this coding, which is geared towards information, a specific restlessness and irritability arises in society which can then be accommodated again by the daily repeated effectivity of the mass media and by their different programme forms …

… if we must constantly be prepared for surprises, it may be some consolation that tomorrow we will know more …

… in this respect the mass media serve to generate and process irritation …

… the concept of irritation is also a part of the theory of operationally closed systems and refers to the form with which a system is able to generate resonance to events in the environment, even though its own operations circulate only within the system itself and are not suitable for establishing contact with the environment (which would have to mean, of course, that they are occurring partly inside and partly outside) …

… this concept of irritation explains the two-part nature of the concept of information …

… the one component is free to register a difference which marks itself as a deviation from what is already known …

… the second component describes the change that then follows in the structuring of the system, in other words the integration into what can be taken to be the condition of the system for further operations …

… it might be said, then, that the mass media keep society on its toes …

… they generate a constantly renewed willingness to be prepared for surprises,…

… it might be said, then, that the mass media keep society on its toes …

… they generate a constantly renewed willingness to be prepared for surprises, disruptions even …

… the mass media 'fit' the accelerated auto-dynamic of other function systems such as the economy, science and politics, which constantly confront society with new problems …

System-specific Universalism

… just as in other function systems, the precondition for the differentiation of a particular function system of society is a special code …

… 'differentiation' means the emergence of a particular subsystem of society by which the characteristics of system formation, especially autopoietic self-reproduction, self-organization, structural determination and, along with all these, operational closure itself are realized …

… in such a case, we are not simply dealing with a phenomenon which a determined observer can distinguish … rather, the system distinguishes itself …

… analysis of the system of the mass media thus occurs at the same level as analysis of the economic system, the legal system, the political system, etc of society, and is concerned with paying attention to comparability, despite all differences …

… among the most important consequences of such a differentiation is the complementary relationship between universalism and specification …

… on the basis of its own differentiation, the system can assume itself, its own function, its own practice as a point of reference for the specification of its own operations …

… it does and can only do whatever has connective capability internally, according to the structure and historical situation of the system …

… it is precisely this, however, which also creates the conditions for being able to deal with everything which can be made into a theme for its own communication …

… arising from this is a universal responsibility for its own function …

… the mass media are autonomous in the regulation of their own selectivity …

… seen from a historical perspective, we may suppose that the mass media's now visible mode of selection also makes visible - and open to criticism - a remote control on the part of political or religious or more recently military constituencies …

… but such criticism cannot be content with demanding space in the mass media for its own biased position …

… that would make the mass media into a forum for specific political or religious or ideological conflicts, which would leave little room for any independent function …

… a biased press can exist - as long as this is not all there is and one can obtain one's information independently … moreover, it usually requires subsidizing, so it is not supported by the market of the economic system …

… the more effective form of criticism will therefore have been the desire for reliable information …

… at least, it could not be seen as mere coincidence that a self-selectively specified universality is given a chance in the face of visible selectivity …

… without meaning to offer a systematic deduction and justification of a closed typology, we can distinguish purely inductively…

… news and documentary reports (chapter 5), advertising (chapter 7), and entertainment (chapter 8) …

… this expectation may have been reinforced, finally, by the establishment of an internal differentiation of different areas of programming …

… each of these strands uses the information/non-information code, even if they use very different versions of it…

… but they differ in terms of the criteria which underpin the selection of information …

… this is why we shall speak of areas of programming (and not of subsystems) …

… this is not to exclude the possibility of overlaps, and, in particular, we will be able to recognize a recursive interlinking in each of these strands, which is imputed to be the moral convictions and typical preferences of the audience …

… nonetheless these strands differ clearly enough, as we wish to show, for their differentiation to act as the most important internal structure of the system of the mass media …

News and In-depth Reporting

… the programme strand of news and in-depth reporting is most clearly recognizable as involving the production/processing of information …

… in this strand the mass media disseminate ignorance in the form of facts which must continually be renewed so that no one notices …

… if it is the idea of surprise, of something new, interesting and newsworthy which we associate with news, then it would seem much more sensible not to report it in the same format every day, but to wait for something to happen and then to publicize it … …

… this happened in the sixteenth century in the form of broadsides, ballads or crime stories spawned in the wake of executions etc …

… serial production of news virtually proves that there must be deception at work …

… what may then have helped in the transition was that there was no need to distinguish between news and entertainment in the same medium and that news, whether true or not, was at least presented in an entertaining fashion …

… in addition, a suitable style had to be invented which in relatively unfamiliar contexts conveyed the impression that something had already happened, but only just - in other words, it could not actually be presented in the normal tenses of past or present …

… using all the methods at the disposal of a journalistic writing style specially developed for the purpose, the impression must be given that what has just gone into the past is still present, is still interesting and informative …

… for this, it is sufficient to hint at a continuity that starts out from the way things were last known to stand and extends beyond the present into the immediate future, so that at the same time the reason why one might be interested in the information becomes comprehensible …

… events have to be dramatized as events - and they have to be suspended in time, a time which thus begins to flow past more quickly …

… the observation of events throughout society now occurs almost at the same time as the events themselves …

… if we consider this evolutionary transformation of improbability into probability, it is easy to understand that a profession which we now call journalism should have grown up, precisely in this sector of what will later become mass media …

… only here does one find trends typical of professions, such as special training, a special, publicly accepted professional designation and self-proclaimed criteria for good work …

… when information is offered in the mode of news and reporting, people assume and believe that it is relevant, that it is true …

… mistakes may occur and from time to time there may even be specific false reports which, however, can subsequently be cleared up …

… but what is important is that they should not be projected to become a more or less typical norm …

… they remain isolated cases…

… were it otherwise, the peculiarity of this area of programming of news and in-depth reporting would collapse …

… the profession serves society (itself included) with truths …

… for untruths, particular interests are needed which cannot be generalized …

… but the mass media are only interested in things that are true under severely limiting conditions that clearly differ from those of scientific research …

… it is not the truth that is the problem, therefore, but rather the unavoidable yet intended and regulated selectivity …

… but neither is the relationship of the system to its environment simply a relationship of one-sided reduction of complexity …

… rather, by means of differentiation, a break with external determination, and operational closure, surplus communication possibilities - that is, high degrees of freedom - are created internally, which mean that the system has to impose limits on itself - and is able to do so …

… the distinction of external and internal complexity corresponds to the distinction of other-reference and self-reference …

… the point of this doubling is to generate autonomy over against an environment which is as it is, and to set the freedom to select over against this environment that can be assumed to be determined …

… in other words, the point is to introduce into a determined, even if unknown, world4 an area of self-determination which can then be dealt with in the system itself as being determined by its own structures …

… information itself can only appear as (however small) a surprise …

… furthermore, it must be understandable as a component of communication …

… the principle of selection now seems to be that these requirements are intensified for the purposes of the mass media and that more attention must be given to making the information readily understandable for the broadest possible circle of receivers …

… incidentally, 'selection' here is not to be taken to mean freedom of choice …

… the concept refers to the function system of the mass media and not to its individual organizations (editorial boards), whose freedom to make decisions in choosing the news items they run is much less than critics often suppose …

… surprise is intensified by marked discontinuity …

… the item of information has to be new …

… it must break with existing expectations or determine a space of limited possibilities which is kept open (for example, sporting events) …

… repetitions of news items are not welcome …

… when we think of novelty, we think first of one-off events …

… but in order to recognize novelty we need familiar contexts …

… these may be types (earthquakes, accidents, summit meetings, company collapses) or even temporary stories, for example, affairs or reforms about which there is something new to report every day, until they are resolved by a decision …

… there is also serial production of novelties, for example, on the stock exchange or in sports, where something new comes up every day …

… surprises and standardizations increase in intensity in relation to each other to generate information values which otherwise would not occur, or at least not in a form capable of dissemination …

… conflicts are preferred …

… as topics, conflicts have the benefit of alluding to a self-induced uncertainty …

… they put off the liberating information about winners and losers by way of reference to a future …

… this generates tension and, on the side of understanding the communication, guesswork …

… quantities are a particularly effective attention-grabber …

… quantities are always informative, because any particular number is none other than the one mentioned - neither larger nor smaller …

… and this holds true regardless of whether one understands the material context (that is, whether or not one knows what a gross national product is or a runner-up) …

… the information value can be increased in the medium of quantity if one adds comparative figures, whether they be temporal (the previous year's rate of inflation), or factual, for example, territorial …

… so quantification can generate sudden moments of insight without any substance and simultaneously more information for those who already have some knowledge …

… an additional issue is the greater informational significance of large numbers, especially where locally and temporally compact events are concerned (many deaths in one accident, huge losses in one case of fraud) …

… if something increases, it simultaneously decreases … what it was before becomes simultaneously less than it is today …

… a society committed to growth is constantly threatening itself with its own past …

… in the case of stages operating the other way around or negative valuations, the opposite can then happen, of course: falling export figures or rising unemployment are examples of this …

… local relevance is another thing which lends weight to a piece of information, presumably because people are so confident of knowing what is going on in their own locality that every additional piece of information is especially valued …

… so distance must be compensated for by the gravity of the information or by strangeness, by an esoteric element, which simultaneously conveys the information that such a thing would hardly be likely to happen here …

… norm violations also deserve particular attention …

… this goes for violations of the law, but especially for violations of the moral code, and more recently also for violations of 'political correctness' …

… this intensifies the resonance, livens up the scene and rules out the expression of understanding and forgiveness that may occur upon the violation of a norm …

… where scandals are concerned, a further scandal can be caused by the way a scandal is commented on …

… by reporting such norm violations and scandals, the mass media are able to generate a greater feeling of common concern and outrage than in other ways …

… but when violations (that is, suitably selected violations) are reported as isolated cases, it strengthens on the one hand the sense of outrage and thus indirectly the norm itself, and on the other it also strengthens what has been called 'pluralistic ignorance', in other words, the lack of awareness of the normality of deviance …

… the effect of continually repeated items of information about norm violations might be the overestimation of the extent to which society is morally corrupt, especially if it is the behaviour of prominent people in society who 'set the tone' that is reported most …

… norm violations are especially selected for reporting when they can be accompanied by moral judgements, in other words, when they are able to offer an opportunity to demonstrate respect or disdain for people …

… in this regard the mass media have an important function in the maintenance and reproduction of morality …

… however, this should not be taken to mean that they are in a position to fix ethical principles or even just to raise society's moral standards towards good behaviour …

… it is only the code of morality which is reproduced, in other words the difference of good and bad, or evil, behaviour …

… the legal system is ultimately responsible for setting criteria …

… the mass media merely provide a constant irritation for society, a reproduction of moral sensibility at the individual as well as the communicative level …

… however, this leads to a kind of 'disembedding' of morality, to moralizing talk which is not covered by any verifiable obligations …

… in order to make norm violations recognizable, but also to make it easier for the reader/listener to form an opinion, the media favour attributing things to action, that is, to actors …

… complex background circumstances which might have motivated, if not coerced, an actor to do what he or she did cannot be fully illuminated …

… if they are thematized, then it is in order to shift credit or blame …

… it should be emphasized, by way of countering an error widespread in empirical sociology, that neither actions nor actors are given as empirical facts …

… the boundaries (and therefore the unity) of an action or of an actor can neither be seen nor heard …

… patterns of action are copied in a reciprocal fashion between the media and what presents itself as reality in everyday experience…

… unusual action wears off and is then built up again …

… by the same token, interest in particular people is reproduced, and this in forms which are not dependent upon having access to the biochemical, neurophysiological or psychical processes of the individuals concerned …

… people serve society as tangible symbols of an unknown future …

… the thematization of actions and particular people takes on the special function of disguising systems' boundaries and thereby also differences in different systems' operational mode …

… the concepts of action and person can be limited neither to social processes nor to processes of consciousness, to biochemical nor to neurophysiological processes …

… rather they presuppose that all this makes a contribution to the action and to being a person, without these concepts giving any clues as to how the combination comes about …

… apparently this lack of clarity makes for speedy communication …

… the requirement of topicality means that news items concentrate on individual cases - incidents, accidents, malfunctions, new ideas …

… events that make the news have already happened by the time they are made known …

… the requirement of recursivity leads to these events being referred to in subsequent news items - whether they are assigned a meaning that is typical, or whether they are woven into a narrative context which can continue to be narrated …

… clearly, it is only under certain conditions that events lend themselves to recursions being sought and series being constructed …

… in order to complete the recursions, schemata are used or even generated anew, whose effectiveness in the media is not, or only to a very minor extent, dependent upon them being confirmed by the actual circumstances of individual cases …

… what must be mentioned as a special case is that even the expression of opinions can be disseminated as news …

… the world is being filled, so to speak, with additional noise, with initiatives, commentaries, criticism …

… prior to decisions being made, prominent members of society are asked what they are demanding or expecting…

… after the decisions have been made, they are asked what they think of them …

… this is one way of accentuating what is happening anyway …

… but commentary too can become an opportunity for criticism and criticism can offer an opportunity for commentary …

… real events and opinion events are constantly being mixed together in this way, forming for the audience a viscous mass in which topics can still be distinguished but the origin of the information no longer can …

… all these selectors are reinforced and complemented by others by virtue of the fact that it is organizations which are dealing with the selection and which develop their own routines for the purpose …

… the work consists in fitting information which has already largely been pre-selected in the system of the mass media into rubrics and templates …

… time and available space (empty minutes of airtime, available column space) then play a decisive role in the final selection … …

Ricupero

… when reality is constructed selectively to such a great and successful extent, occasional breakdowns have to be reckoned with …

… the suspicion of manipulation which constantly accompanies this construction remains vague, as long as there is no tangible evidence - which always means, evidence furnished by the media themselves …

… a good opportunity for studying such a breakdown was provided by an interview with the brazilian minister of finance rubens ricupero, broadcast unintentionally on 2 september 1994 …

… elections were due to take place on 3 october that year… on 1 july the brazilian government had introduced a new 'hard' currency and taken drastic measures to reduce inflation …

… it had always been denied that this had anything to do with the election or with enhancing the chances of the candidate favoured by the business community, fernando henrique cardoso …

… there was in fact widespread uncertainty as to whether the piano real could even be sustained after the elections, but the government had committed itself to a political strategy based solely on economic considerations …

… something completely different came out in a conversation between the finance minister and a journalist (his cousin) at the rete globo …

… unbeknownst to the discussants, the conversation had been picked up and broadcast by parabolic satellite dishes, until an outraged viewer interrupted the conversation by phoning in …

… in the conversation, the minister made it unequivocally clear that public assertions did not correspond to actual intentions …

… the minister's 'smokescreen' tactics also became apparent …

… as the first shockwaves went out, the scandal was seen as a disaster for cardoso's candidature …

… no amount of soothing explanation (such as that it was only meant ironically) helped the situation …

… the minister felt forced to resign … the shares index on the sao paulo stock exchange fell by 10.49 per cent … the scandal was attributed to him personally and he was dropped …

… cardoso commented that this was not his problem, it was the minister's problem …

… the rete globo, whose mistake it had been, made attempts at damage limitation …

… the debacle was the topic of conversation for days …

… but not for the population … a few days later, a gallup poll revealed that the electorate was not responding …

… cardoso held on to the wide lead he had ahead of his main rival, lula …

… the entire affair, then, was being played out at the level of public opinion and, if we include the stock exchange, at the level of second-order observation …

… in the first round of the elections on 3 october 1994, cardoso was elected president of brazil with an absolute majority …

… but how do the suspicion of manipulation, which exists anyway, and people's general mistrust of politicians' honesty take effect? …

… it is generally assumed, after all, that there is a discrepancy between public pronouncements and actual intentions voiced only in private …

… contrary to all rationalistic assumptions about the truth-bearing impact of publicity, this case shows that truth is held to reside in private, rather than in public, communication …

Advertising

… after truth comes advertising …

… advertising is one of the most puzzling phenomena within the mass media as a whole …

… how can well to do members of society be so stupid as to spend large amounts of money on advertising in order to confirm their belief in the stupidity of others? …

… it is hard not to sing the praises of folly here, but it obviously works, albeit in the form of the self-organization of folly …

… everything we had always suspected anyway suddenly appears as truth here …

… advertising seeks to manipulate, it works insincerely and assumes that that is taken for granted …

… it takes, as it were, the deadly sin of the mass media upon itself - as if in so doing all other programmes might be saved …

… perhaps this is the reason why advertising plays with an open hand …

… it is here that the problems just discussed, concerning suspicion of motives, are resolved at a stroke …

… advertising declares its motives …

… it refines and very often conceals its methods …

… now, the point is no longer to describe the objects on offer appropriately and with informative details so that people know that they exist and at what price they can be had …

… psychologically more complex means are used in advertising, circumventing the cognitive sphere where criticism is more likely to arise …

… conscious attentiveness is only called upon for a very short period of time so that there is no time left for critical appreciation or considered decision- making …

… what is missing time-wise is made up for with graphicness …

… in addition, the advertising slots change their topics and forms of representation from moment to moment without the slightest consideration for 'intertextuality' …

… the law of interruption operates here, in the hope that the memory of what has just been seen w ill immediately be activated in this way …

… memory, which remembers things but actually prefers to forget them, is continually being reimpregnated …

… and the novelty of the information is more of an alibi for the intention to remind people that there is something to buy and that particular names or optical signatures therefore deserve special attention …

… but that changes nothing about the fact that there is no deception concerning the aim of advertising or the motive for utterance …

… in fact, we can assume the opposite: precisely because advertisers are completely open about their interest in advertising…

… they can be even more uninhibited in the way they treat the memory and motives of the person targeted …

… there are legal limits to deliberate deception, but that does not apply to the rather common complicity of addressees in their own self-deception …

… more and more advertising is based nowadays on the motives of the people targeted being made unrecognizable …

… this they will recognize that what they are seeing is advertising, but not how they are being influenced …

… they are made to believe that they are free to make a decision, as well as that they want something of their own accord that they did not actually want at all …

… this function of making the motives of the one being targeted unrecognizable is served above all by the trend towards formal beauty…

… which currently dominates advertising, both visually and textually …

… good form destroys information …

… it appears as though determined by itself, as if requiring no further clarification, as if it immediately made perfect sense …

… therefore it offers no occasion for further communication to which the further communication might then react with a 'yes' or a 'no' …

… another widespread technique of 'opaque-ization' lies in the paradoxical use of language …

… for example, we are told that by spending money we can 'save'; items are designated 'exclusive' in an advertisement which is obviously directed at everybody …

… the 'rustic' look is recommended for furnishing city apartments …

… it is precisely because we know that what we are looking at is advertising that we do not feel excluded …

… but rather included, by the word 'exclusive', not put off by the word 'rustic', but rather attracted …

… so this advertising technique amounts to an appropriation of the opposing motive …

… it is fairly common for the product being advertised to be tucked into the background in a set of images, so that one has first to turn the image inside out, as it were, in order to figure out what is being advertised …

… obviously this swapping of foreground/background and beginning/end requires some effort from the person who is at first uninterested; this effort then encourages and, if successful, fixes remembering as interest …

… such techniques of bringing paradox to the play of motives allow unlimited scope (or so it is thought, at any rate) for the paradox to be resolved by a decision for or against the transaction …

… but this itself entails expectations of success…

… what has to be done in the first instance is to break into a terrain in which interests are already fixed and to induce a specific uncertainty …

… advertising has already achieved success when people even ask themselves the question whether or not (a new kitchen ought to be bought) …

… since initially it is more likely that the mind is preoccupied not with one's kitchen but with something else …

… this of course is only true of advertising which has been rendered recognizable, and not for advertising which is not even perceived as such …

… in this case, advertising plays with the distinction conscious/non-conscious …

… the paradox here consists in conscious decisions being made non-consciously…

… but again in the mode of a free choice and not under compulsion or threat or the pretence of false facts …

… moreover, even camouflaged advertising is now so standardized in many cases that it is recognized as advertising …

… the fact that 'sponsorship' (note the specially coined term for it!) serves the purpose of advertising rather than good causes is surely now a commonplace …

… one of the most important latent (but, as such, strategically used) functions of advertising is to provide people who have no taste with taste …

… after it was proved to be impossible to turn education into money, the reverse possibility - making money seem like education - does have a certain chance of success …

… this function refers to the symbolic quality of objects which is partly, but not sufficiently, expressed in their price …

… with its help one can be provided, both visually and verbally, with the security of making the right selection in areas where one has no criteria of one's own…

… and one need not even buy anything, since advertising serves as a free service …

… this function, which substitutes for taste, is all the more important in that the old connection of social status and taste…

… taken for granted in the eighteenth century, has been broken today and in the upper social strata in particular there is a need for modernization due to rapid upward social mobility and unregulated marriage practices …

… taste itself serves in turn to structure desire …

… whether or not he or she buys anything, the consumer reacts in the same way as the next person, without any direct imitation of others being required to do so …

… this too has to do with the fact that there is no longer any convincing upper social stratum to which one might look to see what is 'acceptable' and what is 'not acceptable' …

… if anything, it is the other way round: the upper social strata follow the taste dictates of advertising in terms of what they desire and think is worth showing off…

… not least, in part, because the market offers nothing else, and only differentiates according to price …

… in relation to this, it might be worthwhile exploring the connection of advertising and fashion …

… here, advertising can largely withdraw into information, both as text and especially in images …

… for a sufficiently large number of people, fashion seems to be self-motivating …

… to go along with fashion - as soon as possible - is almost a must. (this much was remarked upon back in the seventeenth century when the term was introduced.) …

… from this there follows an interest in receiving information quickly …

… although fashion has to be planned several years in advance as far as colour ranges, for example, are concerned …

… it is not until there is a product that it appears, and then there is only a short amount of time to obtain information …

… in this instance, therefore, advertising is able to assume motives and has only to give them a little encouragement in the form of information …

… the trend is clearly towards mass production and mass fashion …

… the good ideas that come from very small suppliers are taken and copied by large suppliers at fashion fairs and then appear larger than life in their advertising so that there is little space left for combining uniqueness in design (especially in clothing) with fashion …

… advertising is thus a factor in the generation of the speed of change as well …

… even processes which are complex in terms of planning and production are affected by this…

… such as when cars suddenly have to be curvy rather than straight edged, slim rather than imposing …

… the fact that advertising (and especially fashion) goes on at the level of the use of signs need not be repeated …

… here, too, we are dealing with a construction of reality which continues its own reality …

… and as far as it is concerned, its primary reality …

… thus being able to outlast enormous fluctuations in the market and indeed to profit from them …

… at any rate, it is a matter not of subjectively attributable differences such as honesty/dishonesty or truthfulness/untruthfulness but always of pleasing appearances alone …

… the guiding idea for this form of mass communication can be traced back to the seventeenth century …

… in other words, to the time of courtly culture in which this first, operational reality of self-representation was still restricted to interaction …

… the alliance of pleasing appearances and short duration has been a subject of european debates ever since …

… advertising demands ever new things, and that is what the power of fashion is based upon …

… even ridiculousness can temporarily be nullified by fashion …

… perhaps the most important schema of advertising, however, lies in the relationship of surface and depth …

… as the divination techniques of wisdom once used to, it uses the lineations of the surface in order to suggest depth …

… to this extent it is the same as the art of ornamentation …

… but depth is no longer destiny, it is the vagueness of advertising instead …

… advertising cannot determine what its addressees will think, feel or desire …

… it may calculate its chances of success and seek payment for it …

… in this respect it makes an economic calculation …

… in the system of the mass media it follows other rules …

… it occupies the surface of its design and motions from that position towards a depth which remains inaccessible to itself …

… the foregoing discussion may have given the impression of a static stocktaking in the area of advertising. that requires correction …

… in the forty years alone in which television advertising has existed, considerable changes have become apparent …

… increasingly, the construction of reality itself has become a problem, a question of 'how? …

… linked with the discovery of the youth scene as a target group with buying power, as one which extends to those no longer so young, are new forms of the integration of marketing, advertising and the involvement of those targeted …

… 'trend scouts' are on the lookout for what will be 'in' …

… cult objects which enable young people to form themselves into a distinct group are created as products, equipped with design and name and simultaneously offered in advertising and production …

… (so it is no longer primarily a question of selling goods manufactured by mass production in as large a quantity as possible.) …

… the cult objects themselves generate the difference necessary for identification …

… this is why the ideological political difference cited in opposition to 'capitalism' becomes dispensable …

… concerns about cooperating with advertising = cooperating with capitalism fall away …

… those targeted by advertising allow cooperation …

… for a short time, and therefore all the more effectively, cult objects have to be staged as theatre …

… people call themselves 'scene' or 'technoscene' etc. with an open aspect on whatever is coming up next …

… and even the economic reasons used to rationalize expenditure on advertising appear to be changing …

… expenditure for advertising is increasing - measured, for example, in relation to what is spent on consumption …

… for car advertising alone, dm 2 billion are now spent in germany every year, more than dm500 for every car sold …

… there can be no question of a cost/yield calculation …

… rather, what seems to be at stake is the necessity to remain visible (just as, in economic calculations, keeping or increasing a market share has become more important than profit) …

… but that also means that more creative freedom is granted to the forms used in advertising, as long as they are only suitable for mobilizing attention, as long as they only function as communication …

… accordingly, it is precisely in the relationship of economy and advertising that we therefore find good arguments for an increasing differentiation of systems with a decrease in structural couplings …

… the success of advertising lies not only in the realm of economics, not only in sales success …

… the system of the mass media has its own function here as well, and that can be said to be the stabilization of a relationship of redundancy and variety in everyday culture …

… redundancy is generated by the fact that a thing can be sold, that it sells well, and variety by the need to distinguish one's own products in the market …

… under the conditions of industrial production, it is surely more of an act of desperation than reason to buy something again …

… therefore, additional support for motives is needed, and this is best done through generating the illusion that the same is not the same, but rather something new …

… given this, one of advertising's main problems is in continuously introducing new things and at the same time having to generate brand loyalty, in other words variety and redundancy …

… a bmw is still a bmw, but it gets better and better from one model to the next, and even the disposal of the object, so-called recycling, can be improved. in order to observe this, a minimum of information is indispensable …

… this is how a combination of high standardization with equally high superficial differentiation arises - a kind of best of all possible worlds with as much order as is necessary and as much freedom as possible …

… advertising makes this order known and enforces it …

… in any typical american restaurant you can choose between salad dressings (french or italian), but you cannot ask for olive oil and lemon juice or even decide on an appropriate mixture of the two …

… and obviously, under these circumstances, only few people take the escape route of going without salad altogether …

Entertainment

… in now coming to consider mass media 'entertainment', we are getting into quite a different kind of programme strand again …

… here, too, it is only the theoretically based issues which interest us …

… we are not concerned with the nature of entertainment or with how entertaining it is …

… we are not concerned with its quality, nor with differences in how demanding or otherwise it is …

… nor are we concerned with the idiosyncrasies of those who need entertainment or who simply enjoy being entertained and would miss it if it were not there …

… it is certainly true to say that entertainment is one component of modern leisure culture, charged with the function of destroying superfluous time …

… however, within the context of a theory of the mass media, we shall stick to problems concerning the construction of reality and to the question of what kind of effects the coding information/non-information has in this case …

… we are best served here by taking the general model of the game as a point of orientation …

… this will also explain to us why it is that sports programmes, especially where replays are concerned, count more as entertainment than as news …

… a game, too, is a kind of doubling of reality, where the reality perceived as the game is separated off from normal reality without having to negate the latter …

… a second reality is created which conforms to certain conditions and from which perspective the usual ways of living life appear as real reality …

… the constitution of a game requires a time limit that is foreseeable in advance …

… games are episodes …

… they are not transitions to another way of living …

… people are only preoccupied with them from time to time, without being able to relinquish other opportunities or to shed other burdens …

… but that does not mean that real reality exists only before and after a game …

… rather, everything that exists does so simultaneously …

… the game always contains, in each of its operations, references to the real reality which exists at the same time …

… with every move it marks itself as a game; and it can collapse at any moment if things suddenly get serious …

… the cat jumps onto the chessboard…

… the continuation of the game requires that the boundaries be kept under constant surveillance …

… in social games involving several partners, this will happen by means of an orientation to a set of rules which people have in mind when they identify their own and others' behaviour (within the game) as appropriate …

… behaviour both in accordance and in conflict with the rules is part of the game; but behaviour which breaks the rules is only allowed as long as it can be corrected by being pointed out …

… entertainment, on the other hand, is a different kind of game …

… it does not assume complementary behaviour on the part of a partner, nor any rules agreed prior to it …

… instead, the excerpt from reality in which the second world is constituted is marked visually or acoustically - as a book, as a screen, as a striking sequence of specially prepared noises which are perceived as 'sounds' in this condition…

… this external frame then releases a world in which a fictional reality of its own applies …

… a world! - and not merely, as in social games, a socially agreed sequence of behaviour …

… this difference to social games brings us back to the system of the mass media …

… just as in a game, so entertainment too can assume that viewers are able to observe beginning and end (unlike in their own life) because they experience things beforehand and still do afterwards …

… so they separate out, automatically as it were, the time of entertainment from the time which affects them themselves …

… but entertainment itself is by no means unreal (in the sense of not being there) …

… it certainly does presuppose self-generated real objects, double-sided objects so to speak …

… which facilitate the transition from real reality to fictional reality, the crossing of the boundary…

… these are texts or films …

… on the 'inside' of these objects the world of the imagination is to be found, invisible in real reality …

… this world of the imagination, because it does not have to coordinate the social behaviour of the observers, does not need any game rules …

… instead it needs information …

… and it is precisely this which allows the mass media to construct a programme strand called entertainment, on the basis of their information/non-information code …

… moreover, in entertainment, not everything should be fictional, especially when the story is told as a fiction …

… the reader/viewer has to be put in a position very quickly to form a memory which fits the story, which is tailored to it …

… and he or she can only do this if provided with sufficient familiar details along with the pictures or the texts …

… diderot made this point repeatedly …

… what is demanded of the reader/viewer, therefore, is a trained (and yet, not consciously handled) capacity for making distinctions …

… if these preliminary theoretical decisions are accepted, the problem then concentrates on the question of how, with the aid of information (instead of prescribed rules), a special reality can be excluded from entertainment …

… the answer to this question turns out to be more complicated than might at first appear …

… let us reiterate that information consists of differences which make a difference …

… the concept itself, then, presupposes a sequence of at least two events which have a marking effect …

… but then the difference which has been generated as information can in turn be a difference which makes a difference …

… in this sense, items of information are constantly and recursively linked together in a network …

… they emerge from each other, but can also be arranged in their sequentially with regard to more or less improbable results …

… this can happen in the strict form of a calculation (or a 'reckoning'), but also in processes …

… which, from one step to the next, include other non-programmed information …

… in other words, it can happen in processes which only reveal that further items of information are required …

… and which these are, once the result of a particular piece ot information processing has become apparent …

… in this case, we will be given the impression (no matter whether or not the process itself describes itself in this way) that what we have is not a calculation but rather a sequence of actions or decisions …

… it is only in the narrative context that it becomes clear what an action is, how far it extends into its past and into its future …

… and which of the actor's characteristics are part of the action and which are not …

… reference to other actions is indispensable for every constraint on the meaning of a single action - in everyday life just as in stories …

… this version of the problem of information presupposes that there are 'subjects', fictional identities which produce the unity of the story being told …

… and simultaneously facilitate a conceptual leap to a (likewise constructed) personal identity of the viewer …

… the latter can compare the characters in the story with himself …

… but that on its own does not justify viewing this kind of production of information generated from information (distinctions generated from distinctions) as a game or as entertainment …

… it presupposes further that the sequence of operations which process information generates its own plausibility itself …

… as is similar in the case of technologies, a closure of the process occurs in the face of uncontrolled environmental influences …

… whatever has made a difference adequately accounts then for which further differences are possible …

… in this sense the process generates and transports an uncertainty, which it itself produces and renews again and again, and which depends upon further information …

… it (the process) lives off self-produced surprises, self-constructed tensions …

… and it is precisely this fictional unity that is the structure which enables real reality to be distinguished from fictional reality …

… and the boundary from one realm to the other to be crossed …

… it is taken for granted nowadays that an audience is capable of following this distinction of real and staged reality …

… and that it therefore allows certain liberties to be taken with representations, such as speeding cars, which it would never allow itself to get away with …

… viewed historically, such an ability to distinguish is one result of an evolution that is nowadays traced back to the emergence of stage theatre in the second half of the sixteenth century …

… in contrast to medieval performance practice, the idea in renaissance theatre is no longer to make visible the invisible aspects of the world …

… not to bring things together again, to symbolize the visible and the invisible …

… but nor is it about any obvious confusion of game and reality (with the result that the audience has to be calmed down and kept from intervening) …

… rather, it is about an autonomous production which is experienced as merely being fake …

… and which, moreover, rehearses once again within itself the game of deception and realization, of ignorance and knowledge, of motive-led presentation and of generalized suspicion of underlying motives …

… individuals are thus at liberty to interpret their own life situations accordingly …

… above all, however, the schema of expecting there to be a difference of appearance and reality in all social relationships comes to be a fixed part of a culture …

… which in turn, with no further fuss, can then assume and build upon the fact that this is taken as given …

… it is still possible to find literature in the seventeenth century which takes this to be so remarkable that it draws attention to it specially, indeed virtually offers it as a product of individual learning and of the art of sophisticated living …

… however, this way of reading reality becomes so rapidly widespread via the printing press that the mass media (then in the process of taking shape) are prepared for it and, if anything, have the problem of mobilizing ever new interest in it …

… the element of tension already mentioned, of generating and dissolving a self-created uncertainty, will have been useful for this …

… it is the modern novel which provided the model with the greatest impact in this respect …

… the novel is clearly itself a product of the mass media and their calculated effect upon an audience …

… it is possible to read off from a key figure like daniel defoe that the modern novel arises out of modern journalism, and this on account of the need to distinguish facts and fictions with regard to printed publications …

… the printing press changes the way in which the world can credibly be presented to an audience, namely by asserting facts, or writings which have actually been discovered (but are recognizable as fiction), through to purely undisguised fictional stories which nonetheless contain enough familar material to be able to count as imagined reality …

… that the distinction of news or in-depth reporting (both of which can be proven to be factual) …

… and sufficiently realistic fictional stories comes about at all is down to technology, which enables printed products to be manufactured …

… it is this distinction which enables fictional literature's loose link to reality and its larger liberties to be used to tell stories which, while fictitious, nonetheless provide readers with certain points of reference that relate back to the world they know and to their own life …

… however, because what happens in the stories is fictional, those points of reference are left up to the individual, although the range of possibilities is based on a general structure which underlies every kind of entertainment, namely the resolution of a self-induced uncertainty about how the story will end …

… epic elements were already being eliminated during the course of the eighteenth century, and there was an acceleration of the plot, which is held up only by the intrigues generated within the novel itself …

… this is why planning a novel requires a reflection of time in time itself …

… the perspective is future-oriented, and therefore tense and exciting …

… at the same time, however, an adequate past must be provided to explain at the end how the uncertainty is resolved by information …

… which had already been introduced but whose function had not been realized …

… one has to be able to return to something in order to close the circle …

… however future-oriented the plot is, 'the knot is untied only by the past and not by the future' (as jean paul instructs the novelist) …

… if the story aims to satisfy certain basic requirements for its own consistency (and fairy tales are a much discussed exception here), the way it unfolds must be able to refer back to the beginning of the story …

… in any case, the elements needed for resolving the tension have to be introduced before the end, and only the reader or viewer is left in the dark …

… this is why it is not worth reading something twice - or it is only worth doing if the reader wishes to concentrate instead on admiring the writer's artistic skill or if someone watching a film wants to focus on the way it has been produced and directed …

… for a text or story to be exciting and entertaining, one must not know in advance how to read it or how to interpret it …

… people want to be entertained each time anew …

… for the same reason, every piece of entertainment must come to an end and must bring this about itself …

… the unity of the piece is the unity of the difference of future and past which has been allowed to enter into it …

… we know at the end: so that was it, and go away with the feeling of having been more or less well entertained…

… by generating and resolving uncertainty of its own accord, a story that is told becomes individualized …

… this is how there can always be something new of interest in spite of the stereotypical repetition of the way stories are produced …

… the reader or viewer does not have to be told to forget as quickly as possible so that new things can be written and sold, as ludwig tieck asserts…

… rather, this happens of its own accord as each element of tension is individually built up and then resolved …

… in order to be able to generate and sustain tension, one has to have the author stepping back behind the text, because inside the text he would be someone who already knows the ending or who at any moment can make things turn out just as it suits him …

… every trace of his involvement has to be erased …

… the mechanism of generating the text must not appear again in the text itself, because otherwise it would not be possible for self-reference and other-reference to be clearly distinguished …

… although entertainment texts also have an author and are communicated, the difference of information and utterance must not appear in the text …

… if it did, the discrepancy of constative and performative textual components would come to light and the attention of the one engaged in understanding would be drawn to this difference and thereby diverted …

… he would waver and have to decide whether he should pay more attention to the utterance and its motives or indeed to the beauty and connotative intricacies of its poetic forms …

… or whether he should just give himself over to being entertained …

… for entertainment means not seeking or finding any cause to answer communication via communication …

… instead, the observer can concentrate on the experience and the motives of the characters who are presented in the text and in this respect learn second-order observation …

… and since it is 'only' a matter of entertainment, the problem of authenticity does not arise, which it would in the case of a work of art …

… as an art form, then, the novel departs from the sphere of entertainment around the middle of the nineteenth century, with flaubert's l'education sentimentale, with melville's the confidence- man, and gives it over to the mass media …

… indeed, twentieth century art can no longer be described as fictional at all, since fictionality presupposes that we can know what the world ought to look like in order for the fiction to be able to count as a correct description of the world …

… it is precisely this description, however, which is systematically boycotted in modern art - and, as we can say once more, is left to the mass media which thus fulfil the requirements for entertainment …

… as is always the case with operational closure, differentiation generates surplus possibilities in the first instance …

… forms of entertainment therefore differ according to how these surpluses are reduced …

… the basic pattern for this is the narrative, which in turn has differentiated itself into a considerable abundance of forms …

… apparently there are only a few functional equivalents to this (always from the perspective of entertainment and not, for example, of art) …

… one example would be competitions of all kinds, such as quiz programmes or broadcasts of sporting events …

… we do not need to go into detail here, but the question remains as to how this imaginary variety of events is linked back to external reality …

… it seems that knowledge which viewers already have must be referred to copiously …

… in this respect, entertainment has an amplifying effect in relation to knowledge that is already present …

… but it is not oriented towards instruction, as with news and in-depth reporting …

… instead it only uses existing knowledge in order to stand out against the latter …

… this can come about when the individual viewer's range of experience - always random - is exceeded …

… be it in terms of what is typical (other people are no better off than i am) or in terms of what is ideal (which, however, we do not have to expect for ourselves) …

… or again in terms of highly unlikely combinations (which we ourselves luckily do not have to encounter in everyday life) …

… in addition, it is possible to engage body and mind more directly - for example, where erotica is concerned, or detective stories which initially mislead the viewers who know they are being misled, and especially foot-tapping music …

… by being offered from the outside, entertainment aims to activate that which we ourselves experience, hope for, fear, forget - just as the narrating of myths once did …

… what the romantics longed for in vain, a 'new mythology', is brought about by the entertainment forms of the mass media …

… entertainment reimpregnates what one already is; and, as always, here too feats of memory are tied to opportunities for learning …

… films in particular use this general form of making distinctions plausible by having distinctions arise sooner or later within the same story …

… they condense them even further by including distinctions which can only be perceived (not narrated!) …

… the location of the action, its 'furniture', is also made visible and, with its own distinctions (elegant apartments, speeding cars, strange technical equipment etc) …

… simultaneously serves as a context in which action acquires a profile and in which what is said explicitly can be reduced to a minimum …

… one can 'see' motives by their effects and can get the impression that intentions behind actions are only a part of the whole series of events …

… and that those engaging in action do not have a clear idea themselves of what they are doing …

… almost imperceptibly viewers come to understand themselves as observers of observers and to discover similar or perhaps different attitudes within themselves …

… the novel itself had found its leitmotifs in the bodies of its protagonists, especially in the barriers to the controllability of bodily processes…

… this explains the dominance of the erotic and of dangerous adventures in which the reader can then participate voyeuristically using a body-to-body analogy …

… the tension in the narrative is 'symbolically' anchored in the barriers to controllability of each reader's body …

… if the story is also filmed or broadcast on television, these emphases on the erotic and on adventure do not need to be changed …

… but in pictures, they are capable of being presented in an even more dramatic, complex and simultaneously more impressive way …

… they are also complemented in specific ways - for example, by time being made visible through speed or by boundary situations of bodily control being presented in artistic film components and in sport…

… through which boundary cases the problem of the sudden change from control to lack of control becomes visible …

… this is why sports programmes on television (as opposed to the results which one can read) are primarily intended for entertainment …

… because they stabilize tension on the border of controlled and uncontrolled physicality …

… this experience makes it clear in retrospect how difficult, if not impossible, it would be to narrate the course of sporting events - of horse races through to tennis matches …

… one has to go there oneself or watch it on television …

… the artistic form of the novel as well as fictional forms of exciting entertainment derived from it posit individuals who no longer draw their identity from their background but who instead have to shape it themselves …

… a correspondingly open socialization, geared towards 'inner' values and certainties, appears to begin amongst the 'bourgeois' classes of the eighteenth century; today it has become unavoidable …

… no sooner than he is born, every individual finds himself to be someone who has yet to determine his individuality …

… or have it determined according to the stipulation of a game 'of which neither he nor anyone else back to the beginning of time knew the rules or the risks or the stakes'…

… it is extremely tempting to try out virtual realities on oneself - at least in an imagination which one can break off at any time …

… the form of narrative entertainment gained as a result of the novel is no longer the sole dominant form today …

… at least since television became widespread, a second form has appeared alongside it, namely the genre of highly personal experiential accounts …

… people are put before the camera and asked all kinds of questions, often with interest focused on the most intimate details of their private lives …

… whoever agrees to get into this kind of situation can be assumed to be willing to talk …

… the questioner can proceed freely and the viewer can enjoy feeling no embarrassment whatever …

… but why? it seems that interest in such programmes lies in being presented with a credible reality, but one which does not have to be subject to consensus …

… despite living in the same world (there is no other), viewers are not expected to join in any consensus of opinion …

… they are at liberty to agree or to disagree …

… they are offered cognitive and motivational freedom - and all this without any loss of reality! the opposition of freedom and coercion is dissolved …

… one can make a choice oneself and is not even obliged to stand by what one thinks of oneself if things get serious …

… entertainment performances, therefore, always have a subtext which invites the participants to relate what they have seen or heard to themselves …

… the viewers are included as excluded third parties - as 'parasites', as michel serres puts it…

… the sequences of distinction, which develop from one another by one providing the opportunity for another, make a second difference in their world of imagination …

… the difference to the knowledge, capabilities and feelings of the viewers …

… the issue here is not what impression the text, the programme, the film makes on the individual viewer …

… and neither can the effect be grasped with the simple concept of analogy formation and imitation…

… as if one were trying out on oneself what one had read in a novel or seen in a film …

… one is not motivated to align one's own behaviour (this would quickly place too much strain on one's own capabilities and, as we know, would look ridiculous) …

… one learns to observe observers, in particular, looking to see how they react to situations, in other words, how they themselves observe…

… at the same time, as a second-order observer one is cleverer but also less motivated than the one whom one is observing …

… and one can recognize that the latter remains largely nontransparent to himself…

… or, with freud, not only has he something to hide, but he is for himself something that remains latent …

… what goes on in each individual viewer, the non-linear causalities, dissipative structural developments, negative or positive feedback messages etc …

… triggered by such coincidental observations, can simply not be predicted; neither can they be controlled by programme choices in the mass media …

… psychological effects are much too complex, much too self-determined and much too varied to be capable of being included in communication conveyed via the mass media …

… what is meant here, rather, is that every operation that goes on in the fictional sphere of the imagination also carries with it an other-reference …

… that is, the reference to real reality as it has always existed - known, judged and always having been there as the topic of normal ongoing communication …

… and it is above all this orientation of the distinction of real and fictional reality that produces the entertainment value of entertainment communication …

… the 'trick' with entertainment is the constantly accompanying comparison …

… and forms of entertainment are essentially distinguished from one another in how they make use of world correlates…

… confirming or rejecting them, uncertain of the ending right until the very last moment or calmly with the certainty that: that kind of thing cannot happen to me …

… psychic systems which participate in communication through the mass media in order to entertain themselves are thus invited to make the connection back to themselves …

… this has been described since the eighteenth century by the distinction of copy and authentic 'being oneself'…

… and there are certainly imitational self stylizations which are more or less unconscious, whose widespread existence can only be explained in this way…

… for example, a gesture of casualness or of brashness, expressing autonomy in the face of expectations …

… but this imitation/authenticity distinction does not adequately explain how the individual identifies herself within this bifurcation as an individual …

… this seems to happen in the mode of self-observation, or to put it more precisely, by observing one's own observing …

… if the imitation/authenticity option is given, one can opt for both sides or sometimes for one and sometimes for the other…

… so long as one is observing oneself and is looking to find one's identity therein …

… reflection can only yield up a characterless, non-transparent i which, however, as long as its body lives and places it in the world, can observe that it observes …

… and only thus is it possible, in determining what everyone is for oneself, to do without indications of background …

… this discussion has made plain the special contribution of the 'entertainment' segment to the overall generation of reality …

… entertainment enables one to locate oneself in the world as it is portrayed …

… a second question then arises as to whether this manoeuvre turns out in such a way that one can be content with oneself and with the world …

… what also remains open is whether one identifies with the characters of the plot or registers differences …

… what is offered as entertainment does not commit anybody in a particular way …

… but there are sufficient clues (which one would find neither in the news nor in advertising) for work on one's own 'identity' …

… fictional reality and real reality apparently remain different, and because of this, individuals remain self-sufficient, as far as their identity is concerned …

… they neither must nor can communicate their identity …

… therefore, they do not need to commit themselves in any particular way …

… but when this is no longer required in interactions or when it fails time …

… and again, one can resort instead to materials from the range of entertainments offered by the mass media …

… in this way, entertainment also regulates inclusion and exclusion, at least on the side of subjects …

… but no longer, as did the bourgeois drama or the novel of the eighteenth century, in a form which was tied to a typified expression of emotion …

… and thus excluded the nobility (not yet having become bourgeois) and the underclass …

… rather, it does so in the form of inclusion of all …

… with the exception of those who participate in entertainment to such a small extent that they are unable in certain cases to activate any interest …

… and have, through abstinence (often arrogant abstinence), become accustomed to a self that is not dependent upon it and thus defines itself accordingly …

Individuals

… if, therefore, there is every indication of a differentiation of the programme strands news/in-depth reporting, advertising and entertainment, what evidence exists for their coming together in one and the same function system …

… reasons related to printing and broadcasting technologies could be put forward …

… for the mass media use the same technology in every instance to differentiate themselves from the contexts of interaction of everyday life …

… further reasons can be found in the information/ non-information coding common to all three, and in the function of the system …

… these are important, but extremely formal, characteristics which shed little light on the meaning of programme type differentiation …

… the question remains: why like this and not differently …

… when seeking an explanation that is more concretely applicable …

… it becomes apparent that differentiation brings out forms in which modern society makes individual motivational positions available for communication …

… this explanation presupposes that what is meant by 'motive' is not causal factors operating on a psychic or even neurophysiological level …

… but rather that it is exclusively a matter of communicative representations …

… in other words, of how attribution to individuals is dealt with in communication …

… for communication about motives must accept the fact that it cannot really discover and verify the causalities implied …

… so there can only be talk of the 'reasons' for action which refer explicitly or implicitly to individuals …

… but which, viewed from an operational perspective, are artefacts of social communication …

… and can only contribute as such to generating further communications - whatever the individuals involved might be thinking at the time …

… news and in-depth reporting start from the assumption of individuals as cognitively interested observers who only take note of things that are presented to them …

… at the same time, the media balance this implied passivity by singularizing individual actors being reported on as the cause of their own action …

… what is thereby registered is that only socially allocated prominence empowers an individual towards influential action, …

… or, alternatively, some kind of conspicuous, strange, often criminal individual behaviour is in evidence …

… in either case, viewers are implicitly kept from drawing any conclusions about themselves …

… their passive role as one among many billions is confirmed for them, as is also, in the case of exceptions, their individuality … … advertising starts out from the assumption of an individual as a being who calculates his profit …

… in doing so, it assumes a standard pattern of motives that describes all individuals …

… one which has proved its worth since the seventeenth century in theories of political economy and then in the modern monetary economy …

… these theories have to make abstractions, since in order to explain the economy they need concepts of motives …

… which are able to describe individuals in very different positions in relation to transactions …

… both as someone who fulfils his desires directly, and as someone who merely receives money …

… and both as someone who buys and as someone who does not buy and keeps his money or prefers to spend it differently …

… in spite of its standardization, the motivational position taken on flatters the individual …

… because it describes him as the master of his own decisions, as the servant of his own interests alone …

… entertainment is a different matter altogether …

… here, the medium of narrative fictionality is chosen to individualize motivational positions …

… individuals appear here with a biography, wtith problems, with self-generated life situations and sham existences …

… with a need (understandable to an observer) for suppression for unconsciousness, for latency …

… the medium of fictionality has the advantage of being able to bring about or at least allude to concrete realities …

… whilst at the same time being able to leave it to the readers or viewers whether or not they wish to draw any conclusions for themselves or for people known to them …

… the historical models for this begin as far back as in early modern theatre, then in the modern novel …

… and in the bourgeoisification of narrative culture …

… and, at the end of these traditions, they feed into the metanarrative of psychoanalysis …

… into the narrative of the 'economy' of the household of psychic energy …

… which has to cope, not perhaps with 'debts', but certainly with suppression and disturbances from the subconscious …

… with this apparatus, the mass media can present offers - 'subject to alteration' …

… at every level of triviality and refinement, from which individuals can select (as they can from what is offered by advertising) what they need psychically and what they can cope with … … the significance of personal individualization becomes even more clearly visible if one observes the temporal relations of narratives loaded with tension …

… on the one hand, the people who appear in the narrative gradually come to be known, they have names, they act, one finds out a little about their past …

… they are individualized through their own history …

… on the other hand, one still does not know how they will act, …

… especially in situations that are as yet unfamiliar and in the face of unknown provocations from others' actions …

… in people, then, a known or at least knowable past, at any rate one which is unchangeable, encounters an unknown future …

… people symbolize the unity of the known/unknown schema, interpreted through the temporal difference of past and future …

… they thus absorb, as it were, attentiveness to time, they serve as tangible symbols of time …

… they integrate past and future in their actions, and they have to be individual …

… that is, distinguishable, so that it becomes visible that this can happen in very different ways …

… but another aspect of this form of observation of time thereby remains explicated …

… namely, the fact that there might also be quite different ways of separating and reintegrating the past and the future …

… for example, by means of organization …

… although this does not explain why these different forms of calling individual motives to account in the different programme strands have developed historically …

… a structure can be recognized …

… in each case there is an 'interpenetration' …

… that is, a possibility of taking account of the complexity of the formation of individual consciousness within social communication …

… and in each case the solution to this problem takes on what is ultimately a paradoxical form …

… the individual who participates in communication is, in one way or another, simultaneously individualized and de-individualized …

… that is, standardized or fictionalized such that communication can continue to make reference to individuals without being able to include the operations …

… which cause each individual for itself to come into being as a unique, operationally closed system …

… the differentiated offerings of the mass media allow social communication to be furnished with an ongoing reference to individuals, without having to consider the specificities of other function systems …

… the media need neither outdo the personalizations of family systems nor the anonymizations of the economic system …

… standardizations suffice which are chosen in order to allow the participating individual to determine and select the meaning of his or her participation - or to switch off …

… 'the person' is therefore implied in all programme strands of the mass media …

… but not, of course, as a real reproduction of his or her biochemical, immunological, neurobiological and consciousness related processes …

… but only as a social construct …

… the construct of the 'cognitively more or less informed, competent, morally responsible person' helps the function system of the mass media constantly to irritate itself with regard to its biological and psychic human environment …

… just as in other function systems, this environment remains operationally inaccessible …

… it cannot be divided up piece by piece, and for precisely this reason must constantly be 'read' …

… the 'characterization' of people, constantly reproduced in the way described, marks those points on the inside of the system boundaries of the mass media where structural couplings with the human environment come into effect …

… the billion fold igniting of psychic events is brought into a form that can be reused within the system …

… and which in turn is psychically readable in the sequence of differences which arise from them …

… as is always the case with structural couplings, these relations are far too complex to be represented in the conceptual terms of linear causality or representation …

… nonetheless, they have neither arisen randomly nor can they be modified at whim … … the co-evolution of social and psychic systems has taken on forms …

… which reproduce highly complex systems with their own dynamics on both sides and which keep themselves open to further evolution …

… in the system of the mass media this construction of the person reproduces the myth of service to the person …

… this person is 'interested' in information, indeed is dependent upon information in vital ways; so he must be informed …

… he is morally prone to temptations; so he must constantly be taught the difference between good and bad behaviour …

… he drifts out of control in the flow of circumstances; so he must be presented with a range of possible decisions …

… or, to use the catch-phrase of one media company, 'mental orientation' …

… these meanings have by no means become obsolete now that there are image media as well as print media …

… but more and more they also serve the fulfilling interpretation of familiar faces (often also of bodies and movements) and names …

… although we have too little empirical knowledge about it, …

… this may lead to a simplification and a simultaneous nuancing of the constructs used …

… it would be a serious misunderstanding if one were to conceive this 'constructivist' representation of the system/environment problem as pure self-delusion on the part of the mass media …

… indeed, this would presuppose that beyond illusion there is still a reality to which one could reach out …

… it is, if anything, a successful attempt at keeping self-reference and other-reference in harmony under very strict system-specific conditions …

The Construction of Reality

… every constructivist theory of cognition will find itself facing the objection that it does not do justice to reality, and this one is no different …

… in the traditional schema of human capacities, knowledge was distinguished from will …

… and only the will was acknowledged to have freedom of self-determination (capriciousness) …

… knowledge, on the other hand, was held to be subject to the resistance of reality …

… and could not simply proceed in an arbitrary way without thereby failing to fulfil its function …

… however, this division of labour is already flawed inasmuch as from an empirical point of view there is no such thing as arbitrariness …

… and even self-determination (autonomy) is only possible in a system which distinguishes itself from the environment …

… and, whilst not being determined by its environment, is certainly irritated by it …

… but then the question as to how we are to understand the resistance with which reality confronts both knowledge …

… and wanting only becomes more urgent …

… and if we wanted to relinquish the concept of resistance as an indicator of reality, we would have to do without the concept of reality or, breaking with tradition, develop a totally different concept of reality …

… but that is not necessary … … hegel himself dealt with this problem in his phenomenology of spirit, in the chapter entitled 'sense-certainty', but at that point he still thought the problem could be solved by the ultra-potency of the mind …

… all that has remained of this is the deferability (differance) of every distinction …

… and with it the capacity of every construction to be deconstructed …

… at the same time, however, linguistics for its part offers an adequate adaptation of the concept of reality which, mutatis mutandis, we can adopt for a theory of social communication …

… and therefore also for a theory of the mass media …

… put briefly, it goes like this: resistance to language can only be put up by language itself …

… and as a consequence, in so far as language is the point at issue, language itself generates its indicators of reality …

… this is none other than what we have already formulated using the concept of 'eigenvalues' …

… the same would be true for the degree of alertness in conscious thought or for the brain's neurophysiological mode of operation …

… all operationally closed systems have to generate their indicators of reality at the level of their own operations; they have no other alternative …

… resistance can then crop up internally as a problem of consistency, which is interpreted as memory, for example, even though it always only manifests in the moment …

… and has to be newly actualized time and again …

… the more presuppositions upon which the operational closure of a system is based (that is, the more improbable from an evolutionary perspective), the more demanding …

… and specific its tests of reality will turn out to be …

… this applies spectacularly to modern science …

… and it applies equally to the system of the mass media … … we have already identified the mechanism used here …

… it consists in opinions about circumstances and events themselves being treated as events …

… this is how the system allows new blood to flow in; this it does in a way that is in precise correspondence with the system's code and its mode of operation …

… in this way the system itself is able to generate resistance to its own habits …

… it can produce 'changes in values', it can give preference to minority opinions that push themselves to the fore, perhaps especially because they appear as spectacular, full of conflict, deviant …

… and therefore trigger the 'spiral of silence' identified by elisabeth noelle-neumann …

… so there are very many different individual possibilities, but they all basically lead to the media generating resistance to themselves …

… a further possibility for testing the mass media's construction of reality lies in empirical social research …

… in contrast to what is widely assumed, the point of this kind of research lies less in the core domain of scientific research, that is, in the verification …

… and falsification of theories …

… and more in obtaining data as documentation for decisions in politics …

… and the economy, or perhaps in correcting stereotypes which have developed …

… and become established through the mass media's news and reporting …

… for instance, about the demotivation and 'drop-out' trend among youth at the end of the 1960s, or about the extent of discontent among the population living in the states of the former east germany … … the intention of making visible long-term changes (or even just fluctuations) which escape the attention of the mass media should also be acknowledged in this context …

… special credit is due here to the allensbach institute for public opinion research; one gathers that no german university wanted to take on the burden of continuing this research …

… but even if one takes account of the independence of this research with due respect, it can only have an effect if the mass media take up its findings …

… ultimately, then, it is the self-correction of an operationally closed system that is at issue in this instance as well …

… here too, being awarded the 'reality' seal of quality can only happen in a system which first generates inconsistencies in order then to construct whatever is to be taken as reality …

… this can be corroborated by biological epistemology, semiotics, linguistics and even sociology …

… and all these are empirical sciences (not arts!) …

… however, at the same time, this radical constructivism does not go very far, being limited by the realization that, at the level of firstorder observation, illusion and reality …

… and therefore also real reality and imaginary reality cannot be distinguished from one another …

… logicians would probably have to say: at this level, the systems do not have sufficient logical values at their disposal …

… although it is possible to see through this illusion …

… and represent it, it cannot be removed in a way that would mean it no longer occurred …

… and even second-order observation has to attribute reality to the observer whom it is observing …

… it can select him, but not invent him …

… this is simply because every observation has to work with the distinction of self-reference …

… and other-reference and must fill the functional position that is other-reference with some kind of content … … to put it differently: it must use this distinction as its blind spot, for it cannot see (observe, describe) the fact that this distinction owes its existence to the paradox of re-entry …

… whereas subject-based epistemologies had already spoken of an inaccessible outside world but had foundered on the problem of the plurality of subjects, operational constructivism is based on the recursivity of its own systemic operations …

… and, linked to this, on the system's memory which constantly applies tests of consistency to all the system's operations as they occur (without relating any of these to a 'subject', an author, an i) …

… if you have guests and you give them wine, you will not suddenly be struck by the notion that the glasses are unrecognizable things in themselves …

… and might only exist as a subjective synthesis …

… rather, you will think: if there are guests and if there is wine, then there must also be glasses …

… or if vou receive a phone call and the person on the other end of the satellite turns nasty, you're not going to say to him: what do you want, anyway, you're only a construct of this telephone conversation! …

… you will not say this, because it can be assumed that the communication itself is carrying out tests of consistency …

… and that it can be predicted how the communication will react to such unusual contributions …

… the weak spot along the continuum of perception that is the world is, of course, thought …

… just as theory is the weak spot along the continuum of communication that is the world …

… for, at the level of thought and of theory formation, tests of consistency can lead to opposing outcomes …

… both neurophysiology and language research force one to accept operationally closed systems, that is, operational constructivism …

… but then one also has to see that perceptions …

… and communications are dependent upon externalities and do not therefore include information which denies the existence of an outside world …

… individual participants' own autopoietic self-reproduction in terms of life …

… and consciousness is by no means called into doubt …

… on the contrary, it only becomes conceivable as the environment of the autopoietic social system in its autonomy …

… the 'i' as the central phantom of recursivity of experience …

… and action still lives from the body as the ground of all perception …

… but it finds itself additionally enriched and confused by what it knows through the mass media …

… all this is also true of the reality of the mass media …

… here too it is operationally not possible - and this can be known - to include the selectivity of published information in the recursivity of social communication …

… we react much as did horatio, whom we have already quoted: 'so have i heard, and do in part believe it …

… we might well doubt one or two details and each might find opportunities to enter into communication with particular opinions …

… but communication in the social system cannot exclude the framework of tests of consistency, recursivity …

… if it did, it would lose almost all daily necessary meaning …

… the controversy surrounding constructivist theories of cognition becomes much less clear-cut when the complexity of the issues is elucidated and a plurality of distinctions is attached to it accordingly …

… sociology and social theory in particular thus gain the advantage of no longer having to rely upon the dogma of classical epistemologies …

… instead they are able to seek out the ways and means in which reality is constructed and used as an experience of resistance in every place where autopoietic, operationally closed systems come into being …

… and the same goes for the domain of the mass media … … perhaps the most important outcome of these considerations is that the mass media may generate reality, but a reality not subject to consensus …

… they leave the illusion of a cognitively accessible reality untouched …

… 'radical constructivism' is indeed correct with its theory that no cognitive system, whether it operates as consciousness or as a system of communication, can reach its environment operationally …

… for its own observations it must keep to the distinctions it has itself made and thus to the distinction of self-reference and other-reference; and this is not only true for the system of the mass media itself, but also for all psychic and social systems that are irritated by it …

… but at the same time, it is also true that no cognitive system can do without assumptions about reality …

… for, if all cognition were held to be cognition's own construction and were traced to the way in which the distinction of self-reference and otherreference was handled, this distinction itself would appear paradoxical and would collapse …

… other-reference would be merely a variant of self-reference …

… the idea of reality secures the autopoiesis of cognitive operations by its own ambivalence …

… it could either be an illusion or the 'reality principle' as psychiatry has it …

… either way, what remains important is that in its cognitive operations the system is forced, not all the time but only in certain instances, to distinguish between the environment as it really is and the environment as it (the system) sees it …

… and what would be the exceptions? it seems to be the case that here in modern society, which secures its knowledge of the world through mass media, a change has come about … … according to the classical model of the rationality of truth with its logical and ontological premises, it was only a question of ensuring that errors were avoided …

… the reasons for error played either no role at all or only a secondary one, namely, only when one wanted to avoid repeating the same error …

… it was assumed in principle that the error could be corrected at the point where it occurred, and the method recommended for this was specifically intended to neutralize the influence of individual characteristics of systems seeking cognition …

… provision for correcting errors was built into communication …

… for the modern world after descartes and after freud, this is no longer enough …

… the cognitive system that we now call 'subject' might infer self-confirmation from every cognition (be it true or untrue), because in the end this is how it confirms its autopoiesis …

… but it is just this which no longer leads directly to confirmation of the reality value of the knowledge …

… self-correcting mechanisms are complemented by self-accusing mechanisms …

… this happens with concepts such as 'projection' or with the highly fragile distinction of normal and pathological …

… expanding the suspicion of motives in this way tendentially leads to a self-psychiatrization of communication …

… as has long been recognized, this includes the communication of psychiatrists or other therapists who are at risk of succumbing to their professional deformation …

… the distinction of normal and pathological does not say clearly where the boundaries are to be drawn …

… the fragility of this distinction, its capacity to be transferred into ever new terrains of suspicion, exactly reflects the functionally necessary ambivalence of the understanding of reality …

… psychiatry itself cannot do without a reality somehow guaranteed by the world; otherwise it would have to cease its own activity …

… in other words, it cannot really accept that it is simply pursuing its own projections with the assumption of pathologies …

… at the very least it will have to accept that there are more and less painful pathologies … … the distinction of a world not subject to consensus, one that can be touched on individually, could be a third solution to this problem, and it seems that this is precisely the solution offered and disseminated by the mass media …

… one must simply be able to accept one's own way of looking at reality - and be able to distinguish …

… one must just beware of believing that it is generally valid, that it is reality per se …

… one must be in a position to adjust one's own contributions to communication according to this difference …

… one must be able to think or communicate with others on two levels at the same time (and by 'one' here, we mean, as always, both psychic and social systems) …

… communication individualized in this way is neither obliged to represent itself as error or as pathological, nor compelled to dispense completely with a reference to reality which still hangs in the balance …

… it can quite harmlessly communicate itself as well and leave it to further communication whether it will attend more to the motives for the utterance or to the topics …

… if this is an accurate diagnosis, it becomes clear why fundamentalisms of every kind develop under these conditions of communication …

… one can step up and say: this is my world, this is what we think is right …

… the resistance encountered in the process of doing this is, if anything, a motive for intensification; it can have a radicalizing effect without necessarily leading to doubts about reality …

… and unlike in the older model of 'enthusiasm', one does not need to rely on divine inspiration nor to give oneself over to the opposite assertion that this is an illusion …

… it is sufficient to weld together one's own view of reality with one's own identity and to assert it as a projection …

… because reality is no longer subject to consensus anyway …

The Function of the Mass Media

… if, from this analysis, one wants to derive something about the social function of the mass media, one must first return to a basic distinction, namely the distinction of operation and observation …

… operation is the factual happening of events whose reproduction carries out the autopoiesis of the system, that is, the reproduction of the difference of system and environment …

… observations use distinctions to describe something (and nothing else) …

… observing is, of course, also an operation (otherwise it would not exist), but a highly complex operation which separates off what it is observing from what it is not observing with the aid of a distinction; and what it is not observing is always also the operation of observing itself …

… the operation of observing is in this sense its own blind spot, which is what enables something in particular to be distinguished and described in the first place …

… we need the distinction of operation and observation in order to be able to examine in social theory an insight which is becoming widespread in biological evolutionary theory …

… this is the realization that the adaptation of living beings to their environment cannot be traced to cognitive capacities and achievements, but rather that life and adequate adaptation to it must always already be secured if a system which can develop cognitive capabilities is to exist …

… of course, in the first instance, this is no argument for the same being the case with social systems …

… but when one gets the problems clear in one's own mind, one soon realizes that if it were to be expected that a system ought to adapt to the environment via cognition alone, this would lead to every system demanding more of itself than it could possibly achieve operationally …

… this is necessarily the case if only because given the complexity of the environment, the system does not have the 'requisitive variety' (ashby) …

… and even the concept of observation is meant to register that the world can never be observed, let alone understood, because every observation generates with an 'unwritten cross' an 'unmarked space' which it does not observe …

… it is hard to see how systems of consciousness or communication-based social systems might break free from this disparity of system and environment …

… the question can only be what share an environment-related cognition has in the evolutionary opportunities of particular kinds of systems …

… but what must first be ensured is that the environment tolerates the autopoiesis of the system …

… in the case of the social system society, then, it must first be ensured that communication connects onto communication and that not every transition from one communication to another would have to keep a check on the entirety of environmental conditions necessary for this, that is, would have to communicate, amongst other things, about whether the participants are still alive …

… under these conditions, therefore, cognition is primarily deployed in such a way that it is oriented to the inside … … the first thing to be sure of is that one communication fits onto another …

… what is important, then, is adequate behaviour - and not, for example, whether there is enough air to carry a sound from one organism to another …

… if, unexpectedly, conditions are no longer given, this will be registered as a disturbance and ways out will be sought (again by means of communication) …

… this leads to the fundamental question of how communication must be, in order that it can not only reproduce itself but also take on cognitive functions and separate reproductive or informational components …

… the answer is that communication only comes about at all by being able to distinguish utterance and information in its self-observation (in understanding) …

… without this distinction, communication would collapse, and participants would have to rely on perceiving something which they would only be able to describe as behaviour …

… the difference of utterance and information corresponds precisely with the requirement of not making the progress of communication to communication dependent upon information being complete and relevant …

… and only because this primary, constitutive difference exists can communication code itself in a binary form (for example, with regard to acceptable/not acceptable, relevant/ not relevant) and in this way feel its way around the environment with a distinction for which there is no correlate whatever in the environment itself …

… without this distinction, which has been entered into its own operation, the system would not be capable of constituting any recognizable identities or developing any memory …

… nor could it evolve, or build up its own complexity, or test the possibilities for structuration positively/negatively and thus meet the minimum condition for the continuation of its own autopoiesis …

… society as we know it would be impossible …

… for the same reasons, no great expectations can be placed on the understanding of communication …

… expectations can certainly be raised forcibly, but they then require special differentiated discourses …

… normally, ambivalences and misunderstandings are borne along as well, as long as they do not block communication; indeed, understanding is practically always a misunderstanding without an understanding of the mis …

… it is a big jump from these general systems-theoretical and socialtheoretical considerations to the mass media of modern society …

… the function of the mass media lies after all that in the directing of self-observation of the social system - by which we do not mean one specific object amongst others, but a way of splitting the world into system (that is, society) and environment …

… what is involved is a universal, not an object-specific observation …

… we have already spoken, in another context, of the function of the system's memory which provides a background reality for all further communications, which in turn is constantly reimpregnated by the mass media …

… what is also involved is an observation which itself generates the conditions of its own possibility and in this sense occurs autopoietically …

… for the uncertainty as well as the distinctions used for observation are products of the system and are not simply pregiven attributes of the world or ontologically or transcendentally provable decomponates ('categories') of the unity of the world …

… this means also that the impetus for further communication is reproduced within the system itself and cannot be explained anthropologically, as a drive for knowledge, for example …

… therefore, one cannot comprehend the 'reality of the mass media' if one sees its task in providing relevant information about the world and measuring its failure, its distortion of reality, its manipulation of opinion against this - as if it could be otherwise …

… the mass media realize in society precisely that dual structure of reproduction and information, of continuation of an always already adapted autopoiesis and cognitive willingness to be irritated …

… their preference for information, which loses its surprise value through publication, that is, is constantly transformed into non-information, makes it clear that the function of the mass media consists in the constant generation and processing of irritation - and neither in increasing knowledge nor in socializing or educating people in conformity to norms …

… the descriptions of the world and of society to which modern society orients itself within and outside the system of its mass media arise as a factual effect of this circular permanent activity of generating and interpreting irritation through information tied to a particular moment (that is, as a difference which makes a difference) …

… of course, it should not be implied that irritation happens only in the system of the mass media and not, for example, in marriages, in school lessons or in other interactions; just as power is present not only in the political system, standardizations not only in the law, truth not only in science …

… irritability is the most general structural characteristic of autopoietic systems, which in modern description occupies that place once accorded to nature and to the essence of things defined as nature …

… irritability arises from the system having a memory that is actively involved in all operations and therefore being able to experience and balance out inconsistencies - which means nothing other than being able to generate reality …

… this points to a recursive constitutive context of memory, irritability, information processing, reality construction and memory …

… the differentiation of a function system specialized in this serves to improve and simultaneously normalize a means of communication likewise specialized in this …

… only from the mass media do we expect this special performance every day, and only thus is it possible to arrange modern society in its execution of communication in an endogenously restless way like a brain and thereby prevent it having too strong a link to established structures …

… in contrast to the function system of the mass media, science can be specialized in cognitive gains, that is, in social learning processes, whilst the system of law takes on the ordering of expectation which is normative, held onto in spite of the facts and to this extent unwilling to learn …

… however, the cognitive/normative division between science and law can never divide up among itself and thereby cover the entire orientational requirement of social communication …

… under normal circumstances social communication is oriented towards neither science nor the law …

… but neither can it be left in modern global society to the merely local everyday knowledge that is only found in the nearest vicinity …

… accordingly, it seems to be the function of the mass media to remedy this neither cognitively nor normatively specified requirement …

… the mass media guarantee all function systems a present which is accepted throughout society and is familiar to individuals, and which they can take as given when it is a matter of selecting a system-specific past and establishing decisions about future expectations important to the system …

… other systems, depending on their own requirements, can then adapt themselves to the past reference of their anticipation; for example, the economy can adapt itself to new circumstances in companies or in the market, and on this basis establish their own connections between their past and their future …

… it was parsons who saw that the particular contribution of the mass media to the 'interchanges' of modern society lies in the increase in levels of freedom of communication - analogous to the function of money in the economy …

… this diagnosis can be broadened if one additionally takes into consideration the increase in society's capacity for irritation and the recursive interweaving of mass media communication with everyday communication in the interactions and organizations of society …

… on the one hand, the mass media draw communication in, on the other, they stimulate ongoing communication …

… so they continuously apply new communication to the results of previous communication …

… in this sense they are responsible for the production of modern society's 'eigenvalues' - those relatively stable orientations in the cognitive, the normative and the evaluative domain which cannot be given ab extra but rather arise out of operations being applied recursively to their own results …

… it seems that a centuries-old tradition has led us astray, with the result that mass media appear in an unfavourable light …

… the tradition says that the stability of the social system rests upon consensus - or even on an explicitly/implicitly agreed social contract, and if no longer upon a commonly held religion, then at least on consensually accepted background convictions, encapsulated in jiirgen habermas's concept of lifeworld …

… were this not the case, the mass media would be a destabilizing factor, only out to destroy these presuppositions and to replace them with something the french might call symbolic violence …

… in fact, however, the stability (= reproductive capacity) of society is based in the first instance on the generation of objects, which can be taken as given in further communication …

… it would be much too risky to rely primarily on contracts or on consensuses that can be called for as a normative requirement …

… objects arise out of the recursive functioning of communication without prohibiting the opposing side …

… and they only leave residual problems for deciding the issue of whether one wants to agree or disagree …

… modern society owes it to the mass media that such objects 'exist', and it would be hard to imagine how a society of communicative operations that extends far beyond individual horizons of experience could function if this indispensable condition were not secured through the communication process itself …

… this merely serves to re-confirm the fact that communication has a problem of time to solve in the first instance, and this also applies to the mass media in particular which operate under pressures of acceleration …

… the problem is how one gets from one communication to the next, especially if the social system has become highly complex and non-transparent to itself and takes on an enormous variety every day which it has to transfer as irritation over to communication …

… it is impossible to make this dependent upon a previously secured consensus that is to be made sure of operationally …

… on the contrary: every explicit communication poses the question of acceptance and rejection anew, puts consensus at stake, knowing full well that it is still possible to communicate further even and especially where dissent exists …

… under modern conditions, this risking of dissent, this testing of communication by communication, is more or less freed of any inhibitions …

… this is precisely vvhv communication has to be run alongside objects constituted by itself which can be treated as topics …

… it is therefore incumbent upon the mass media in the first instance to generate familiarity and vary it from moment to moment so that in the following communication one can risk provoking either acceptance or rejection …

… this analysis can be summarized in a theory of the memory of society …

… a system which is able to observe the system/environment difference generated by its operations needs a temporal double orientation for its observing operations (or, with spencer brown, for bringing about the re-entry of this difference into the system) …

… this double orientation, comprising a memory on the one hand and an open future on the other, maintains the possibility of oscillating between the two sides of any distinction …

… the problem which is posed for the social system and is essentially solved through the mass media is as follows: how memory function and oscillator function can be combined if only the present, that is, practically no time at all, is available to do so …

… and that is just another form of the old question as to how a complex system can secure sufficient redundancy and sufficient variety at the same time … … if one wants to describe the function of memory with regard to the future right from the start, one must let go of the psychologically plausible idea that memory has the task, only needed occasionally, of recalling past events …

… rather, memory is performing a constantly co-occurring discrimination of forgetting and remembering that accompanies all observations even as they occur …

… the main part of this activity is the forgetting, whereas only exceptionally is something remembered …

… for without forgetting, without the freeing up of capacities for new operations, the system would have no future, let alone opportunities for oscillating from one side to the other of the distinctions used in each instance …

… to put it another way: memory functions as a deletion of traces, as repression and as occasional inhibiting of repression …

… it recalls something, however short- or long-term, when the current operations offer an occasion to repeat, to 'reimpregnate' freed capacities …

… it does not follow from this that memory operates with reference to the environment, serving the ongoing adaptation of the system to changing circumstances in its environment …

… it may indeed look that way to an external observer (with a memory of his or her own) …

… however, in the system itself all that is going on is a constantly re-activated internal test of consistency, in which the memory performs recursions and organizes the system's resistance to surprising new demands placed on meaning …

… and as we have already said, it is through resistance of the system's operations to the system's operations that the system generates reality …

… the feats of memory of communicative systems in general and of the mass media in particular are furnished by topics of communication …

… for only that which can organize a sequence of contributions and is open for future yes or no options will coagulate around a topic …

… topics are extracts of communicative relevances, 'local' modules, as it were, which can be swapped and changed as required …

… as a result they make possible a highly differentiated memory that can tolerate and indeed facilitate a rapid change of topic with the proviso of return to topics put aside at that moment …

… all function systems have a memory specific to them …

… thus, for example, the money economy has a memory that is designed to forget the origin of amounts of money paid in each instance, so that turnovers may occur more easily …

… the memory of the mass media likewise functions internally to the system, but additionally produces functions appropriate for the entire social system …

… obviously this social use of the mass media constantly to link past and future is connected to the extremely high expectations of redundancy and variety which modern society poses and which it must attribute temporally and take account of via the distinction of past and future …

… for without this temporal, dimensional stretching, ongoing reconstructed reality would collapse due to internal contradictions …

… and it is not least this which explains that this feat requires strong selectors which in turn must be protected by differentiation and operational closure …

The Public

… it may be gathered from the preceding observations what kind of questions need to be asked about the 'function' of the mass media …

… they make a contribution towards society's construction of reality …

… part of this includes a constant reactualization of the self-description of society and its cognitive world horizons, be this in a form marked by consensus or dissent (for example, when the real causes of the 'dying of the forests' are at issue) …

… the mass media may not have an exclusive claim on constructing reality …

… after all, every communication contributes to constructing reality in what it takes up and what it leaves to forgetting …

… however, the involvement of the mass media is indispensable when the point at issue is widespread dissemination and the possibility of anonymous and thus unpredictable uptake …

… as paradoxical as it may sound, this means not least, when it is a matter of generating nontransparency in reactions to this uptake …

… the effect if not the function of the mass media seems to lie, therefore, in the reproduction of non-transparency through transparency, in the reproduction of non-transparency of effects through transparency of knowledge …

… this means, in other words, in the reproduction of future … … this at first paradoxical thesis, only resolvable through the distinction of past and present that is present in each instance, can be treated further if one distinguishes between the system of the mass media and the public …

… in order to do this, we must first introduce a concept of the 'public' which differs clearly enough from the system of the mass media as well as from the concept of 'public opinion' …

… it seems that there has always been an element of unpredictability built into the concept of the 'public' …

… in classical juridical discourse, 'public' is defined by accessibility for everyone, that is, by the inadmissibility of control over access …

… in this sense, the printed products and programmes of the mass media are public because there is no control over who pays attention to them …

… but from the point of view of this conceptual scheme, this is only part of the public …

… public toilets are neither opinions nor a product of the mass media …

… the concept of accessibility refers in a real or metaphorical understanding to space and to action … … this limitation can be corrected if one switches from action to observation …

… then, following dirk baecker's suggestion, one can define the public as a reflection of every system boundary internal to society, or again, as the environment, internal to the system, of social subsystems, that is, of all interactions and organizations, but also of social function systems and social movements …

… the advantage of this definition is that it can be transferred onto social function systems …

… the 'market' would then be the environment, internal to the economic system, of economic organizations and interactions; 'public opinion' would be the environment, internal to the political system, of political organizations and interactions …

… it still holds that system boundaries cannot be crossed over operationally …

… but it is also the case that every observing system can reflect this …

… it sees on the inside of its boundary that there must be an outside, otherwise the boundary would not be a boundary …

… if specific experiences of irritation repeatedly crop up internally, the system can assume that there are other systems in the environment which are responsible …

… if, on the other hand, the system reflects that it is being observed from outside, without it being established how and by whom, it conceives itself as observable in the medium of the public …

… this can, but need not, lead to an orientation towards generalizable (publicly defensible) points of view … … functionally equivalent strategies are those of secrecy and hypocrisy …

… thematic groups around secrecy, simulation, dissimulation, hypocrisy come to be worked out especially in the (printed!) literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and this occurs by no means merely as political theory going by the name of state reason, but is also exemplified in theatre, with reference to the market and for social behaviour per se …

… in the eighteenth century, the emphatic demand of public life as a means for establishing reason came to be directed against this stress upon the necessity of social intercourse …

… but this is a rather narrow, as it were constitutionalized, concept of public life with demands such as freedom of opinion, freedom of the press, abolition of censorship …

… the polemic itself is based on a much more general concept of the public, which forms the background to precisely such strategies as secrecy and hypocrisy and later the effort to protect a 'private sphere' …

… public life is therefore a general social medium of reflection which registers the non-exceedability of boundaries and, thus inspired, the observing of observations …

… even before an emphatic concept of public opinion arose towards the end of the eighteenth century, the printing press had been used to achieve public resonance for politically ambitious communications and thus to expose decision-making authorities to the dual grasp of writing directed towards them and of its public resonance …

… in england, petitions directed at the crown and at parliament were printed as early as the seventeenth century, although they retained the form of a letter with address and deferential politeness …

… in france, the courts began in the eighteenth century to have their remonstrations directed at the king printed in order to play the public off against the sole acknowledged 'public person', the monarch … … public accessibility of communications in the political apparatus of domination is thus expanded with the aid of the printing press, and only afterwards does the idea emerge of public opinion as the ultimate authority for the judging of political affairs …

… although, indeed because, the public cannot decide politically, but rather lies to an extent outside the boundaries of the system of politics, it is used politically in politics and copied into the system …

… the function of the mass media would therefore be not the production but the representation of the public …

… and what is meant here is 'representation' in a 'contrasting', reductive sense …

… precisely because the 'public' always describes the other, inaccessible side of the boundaries of all systems, including the mass media, and cannot be specified in the direction of particular partner systems, it is necessary to represent them in the form of constructions of reality in which all subsystems, indeed, all people, can have a part, without any obligation arising to go about it in a particular way …

… thus the representation of the public by the mass media simultaneously guarantees transparency and non-transparency as events continuously happen, that is, particular thematic knowledge in the form of objects that are made concrete in each instance, and uncertainty in the issue of who is reacting to them and in what way …

… as we have already noted repeatedly, this is an 'autological' concept …

… it applies also to the mass media themselves … … by reproducing themselves as a system, they too generate boundaries with an inside and an outside that is inaccessible to them …

… they too reflect their outside as public life, so long as specific external relationships, such as to politics or to the advertisers, are not in question …

… this reflection has for them, however, a different status, because their function becomes recognizable here …

… so there is largely no recourse to the functionally equivalent strategies of secrecy and hypocrisy, even if ultimately it is said hypocritically that there is no hypocrisy …

… a metaphorical redescription can attach to this - for example, in the form of professional ethics, which allows journalists to understand their efforts as a service to the public, and this as a justification for claims to autonomy and as a reason for neutrality of interests, and to institutionalize critical standards and professional consensus for it …

… there is good reason for the restriction to journalism/profession/ethics if it is the self-regulation of the system of the mass media that is at stake …

… it also offers a starting point for an independence, however utopian, from the desires of the audience or of particular interest groups …

… but these achievements have to be bought with a severely restricted concept of autonomy …

… here and here alone, therefore, is there reason to speak, in what is in itself a paradoxical sense, of 'relative autonomy' … =Schema Formation=… the discussion thus far has opted decisively and exclusively for the system references 'society' and 'mass media' and has banished everything else in their 'environment' …

… this involved disregarding individuals as living bodies and as systems of consciousness …

… true, we were able to speak of individuals, and in fact no system of the mass media can get by without naming names or conveying images of people …

… but those are obviously only topics of communication or objects that have been depicted, and in every case it is due to decisions in the system of the mass media, that is, to communications, whether or not they are named or shown …

… it is not the individuals themselves …

… it is only persons, only 'eigenvalues', which every communication system has to generate in order to be able to reproduce itself …

… obviously, the theory of operational closure of autopoietic systems does not say that these systems could exist without any environment …

… the suspicion of 'solipsistic' existences was always an absurd one and says more about whoever formulates it as an objection than about the theory being attacked itself …

… certainly, cognitive systems are unable to reach their environment operationally, and so they cannot know it independently from their own structural formations … … nonetheless, there are structural couplings between autopoietic systems and systems in their environment which are compatible with autopoiesis …

… they do not bring about any determination of systems' conditions through conditions or events in the environment …

… systems can only determine themselves, and this they can only do through self-generated structures …

… but massive and repeated irritations can still arise, each of which is then processed into information within the system …

… viewed over the longer term, structural development is thus explained by the constant supply of irritations from certain sources - and by the lack of stimuli on the part of other segments of the environment …

… maturana called this evolutionary tendency 'structural drift' …

… of course, this coupling in the relationship of individuals and social systems presupposes that individuals are able to perceive, that is, externalize an environment worked out internally …

… moreover, it depends upon the perceiving of others' perceiving - otherwise no individual could generate anything that was meant to be perceived by others …

… equally without doubt, language must be available, for perception as well as for communication …

… but these presuppositions do not offer us any hypotheses about the direction taken by structural drift when knowledge of the world is generated almost exclusively by the mass media … … we still lack a concept, for example, which might explain (or which might lead to hypotheses which might explain) how knowledge of the world arising from life in the family households of traditional society is suppressed or covered over by participation in the output of the mass media …

… for this issue, a repertoire that has provoked broad discussion with terms such as schema, cognitive map, prototype, script, frame might be useful …

… these are psychological terms, but ones that are increasingly being used to explain social coordinations or so-called 'collective' behaviour …

… their starting point is memory's need to discriminate constantly in the torrent of operations which occupy a system between forgetting and remembering, because without forgetting, the capacities of the system for further operations would very quickly be blocked and, to put it another way, one would only ever be able in future to experience or do the same thing …

… forgetting sets you free …

… but since for its part forgetting cannot be remembered, one needs a schema that regulates what is retained and can be reused …

… these may be schemata of perception which enable the gaze to be focused and the unfamiliar to be recognized by setting it against what is familiar …

… but they may also be more abstract categorizations, or both at the same time if, for example, people's qualities or behaviour are inferred from racial characteristics … … schemata do not force repetitions to be made, neither do they specify action …

… in fact, their function is precisely to generate space for freely chosen behaviour in a system which with its own past has put itself in the state (and in no other) in which it currently finds itself …

… this is what abstraction (not necessarily conceptual) is for, the disregarding of the repression of the countless details which mark situations as unique and unrepeatable …

… but abstraction also means that new situations can modify the schema …

… the schema allows for supplements and replenishments; it cannot be applied 'schematically' …

… deviations come as a surprise because of the schema; they become conspicuous and thus imprint themselves on the memory …

… schemata are instruments of forgetting - and of learning; they are limitations to flexibility which make flexibility within prestructured barriers possible in the first place …

… as kant taught us, schemata are not images but rather rules for accomplishing operations …

… the circle schema, for example, is not the depiction of any circle, but the rule for drawing a circle … … the diversity given to the inner meaning in the form of time differences can only be reconstructed as procedures (also presupposing time) for purposes of knowledge …

… for kant, this copying of time from the empirical over into the transcendental sphere was the reason why a relationship of similarity could be assumed in spite of the radical difference of objects and ideas …

… this problem does not arise if one takes on board a radically constructivist epistemology …

… but it remains the case that schemata are not images which become concretely fixed at the moment of depiction; they are merely rules for the repetition of operations (which then are concrete again) …

… thus, memory does not consist of a supply of images which one can look at again whenever necessary …

… rather, it is a question of forms which, in the ceaseless temporal flow of autopoiesis, enable recursions, retrospective reference to the familiar, and repetition of operations which actualize it …

… schemata can refer to things or to persons …

… the utility meaning of things is one schema, the hierarchies among people or standardized role expectations are another …

… 'script' refers to the special case where temporal successions are stereotyped (for example, the fact that we are supposed to buy a ticket before getting on a train) … … the observation of causal relationships typically follows a script because it cuts out other, equally realistic possibilities for causal attribution …

… it is only by way o f a script that one comes to attribute effects to actions …

… a script is therefore an already fairly complex schema which also cuts out many things and presupposes both a stereotyping of events and a standardized coupling of their succession …

… if thing or person schemata are linked to a script, it also means that the observer is no longer free to choose between object schema and time schema or to let his or her gaze oscillate, but that object schema and time schema enter a relationship of mutual dependence where the one cannot be chosen without consideration of the other …

… we have already considered such a case using the example of the narrative structure of novels: the sequence of actions characterizes the people whose motives then make the sequence of actions understandable again - with sufficient scope for surprises …

… now, we assume that the structural coupling of mass media communication and psychically reliable simplifications uses, and indeed generates, such schemata …

… the process is a circular one … … the mass media value comprehensibility …

… but comprehensibility is best guaranteed by the schemata which the media themselves have already generated …

… they use a psychic anchoring for their own workings which can be assumed to be the result of consumption of mass media representations, and indeed can be assumed to be such without any further tests …

… let us elucidate this using two examples: the production of causal scripts in domains that are inaccessible to individual experience and thus very typical in the case of ecological problems; and the presupposition of different person schematizations depending upon whether it is oneself or other people who are involved …

… communication about ecological problems is a particularly good example for our purposes, because it goes far beyond the individual's world of experience …

… (who could say from their own knowledge what would have happened to the contents of the brent spar platform, given the pressure operating on the sea bed, if it had been sunk?) the mass media too are unequal to the task, and when they turn to science, they will typically be given more knowledge and more ignorance at the same time …

… so, we are dependent upon schema formation …

… it might be normative sentences which are set against a 'virtual reality' and are very typically fashioned metaphorically … … for example, the ocean should not be used as a rubbish dump …

… this is self-evident, so to speak …

… if one asks further, more scripts are brought to bear …

… out of innumerable possible causal constellations, one is picked out which can be made plausible …

… usually the points at issue are the effects of actions, not nature's own course …

… effects can then be coupled onto this which are sufficiently worrying to prevent people from asking any further as to how likely they actually are …

… to put it another way, what is involved are schemata of change which correspond to the selection criteria of news and in-depth reporting (for example: new, action, drama, morality) …

… environmental pollution changes the living conditions of people on earth to the point of conditions which make the continuance of life impossible …

… there is no coming up against difficulties with individuals' memories or their world of experience here …

… they have not yet experienced such things or can at best, if the script is offered, activate experiences of their own that fit (the layer of filth on the car parked outside) …

… so it is not a case of the 're-education' of individuals, of them unlearning, in a more or less difficult process, something that had been thought of as knowledge …

… the ecological imagery, its schemata, its scripts are developed on a greenfield site, so to speak, they form a terrain that is not yet occupied … … people speak of a 'transformation of values' …

… the question, however, is whether the reorientation with newly recommended values is beginning, or whether it is the causal scripts which impress us first; whether, that is, it is the change which we find fascinating and which then leads to values being associated with it …

… salancik and porac speak of 'distilled ideologies' and mean by this, 'values derived from causal reasonings in complex environments' …

… anyone who adheres to ideas such as 'objective truth' or psychically binding 'consensus' will not be able to accept this analysis and will accuse the mass media of superficiality, or even manipulation …

… if, on the other hand, one takes the individuality and the operational closure of autopoietic systems seriously, one will see that it cannot be otherwise …

… from the point of view of society, structural coupling mediated via schemata has the benefit of accelerating structural changes in such a way that, if this acceleration is successful, it will not break the structural coupling of media and individuals but will simply link up to other schemata …

… from the point of view of the individual, the advantage of schemata is that they structure memory but do not determine action …

… at the same time, they offer liberation from burdens that are too concrete as well as a background against which deviations, opportunities for action and constraints can be recognized …

… individuals are still at liberty in this instance to get involved or to leave it be …

… they can allow feelings to arise and identify with them, or they can observe this in others and think of it as strange or even as dangerous …

… and with that, we have arrived at our second theme, a complementary hypothesis about relationships between mass media and individuals … … in psychology, it has long been common to distinguish the schematization of one's own person (that is, answers to the question: who am i?) from the schematization of other persons …

… the distinction is interesting in various respects - qua distinction …

… first of all, every human being is given as a concrete individual, that is, different from others in terms of appearance, name and other characteristics …

… why then is it not sufficient and since when has it no longer been sufficient to distinguish oneself from others just as every individual does from every other? …

…why is it not sufficient to use the same list of objective characteristics (age, sex, family, goodlooking or not so good-looking, place of residence, virtues, vices etc) and to concretize the person being referred to only by a combination of these? …

…there would be unlimited possibilities which could be supplemented as required …

… furthermore, why, when one is dealing with concrete individuals, is schema formation necessary at all? …

…as in the case of ecology, we have to assume non-transparency, which is what offers the occasion in the first place for simplifications or, as we also call it nowadays, 'identity' …

… but why is someone non-transparent to himself, that is, in need of a schema, even though, according to descartes, he cannot doubt his thinking existence? …

…we can be certain of the fact that the difference of one's own i from other individuals is given from the start, meaning as early as a few days after birth …

… the newborn child has to practise complementary behaviour, not an imitative one, such as reversing right/ left perceptions …

… infant socialization after this presupposes what stein braten calls 'dialogic closure', that is, systems that can be fenced off to the outside, in which there is provision for a place for a 'virtual other', that is, for effective occupation … … this position of the virtual other can only be occupied with the aid of schemata, since it requires recognition, that is, memory …

… on the other hand, one does not need a 'virtual ego' …

… one is who one is from the start …

… but how then does a secondary need for self-schematizations arise? and what happens when the requirement of a direct 'dialogical closure' is overstepped and the occupation of the position of 'virtual other' no longer occurs effectively (in the sense of virtus), but is 'enriched' by fictional components? we can assume that effects of the mass media become visible at this point …

… early modern theatre in particular will have introduced this new development first …

… it offered the possibility of making actors' inner processes of opinion formation, conflicts and uncertainties visible on stage through language …

… it might be that the actors would address themselves directly to the audience in forms which implied that the other players on the stage could not hear it (but how does one learn this unusual, counterfactual implication?); or else it might occur in the form of monologues or soliloquies …

… the audience could then observe how the actors on the stage motivate themselves and deceive themselves and others, and that this process initially remains invisible to other participants in the play …

… in the finely honed dialogues of vienna theatre (for example, schnitzler's liebelei ('light-o'-love') or hofmannsthal's der unbestechliche ('the incorruptible one')) the sentences themselves are constructed in such a way that the audience is able to observe more than those being addressed … … the emergence of this complicated, as it were highly charged, cultural form of observation of observers and the development of suitable schematizations is therefore not a direct product of the printing press or of the mass media …

… but once this specific form of second-order observation with its schemata of motives (love, criminality, sincerity/insincerity etc) is practised and can be presupposed as a way of observing, it can then be used in other contexts as well, such as in the novel and ultimately even in philosophy …

… and then the viewer or the reader is tempted as well to take a second look at his or her own way of observing and its motives …

… shaftesbury seems to have been one of the first to retreat to a private conversation with himself in order to gain clarity about himself, in spite of having clear misgivings about the printing press and its commercial publishers, of which, of course, he himself makes use …

… rousseau likewise has his confessions printed, even though he explicitly exempts himself from the criteria of judgement which apply also to others …

… the romantic era plays with doppelgangers, twins, reflections, in order to represent the transformation of identity into communication …

… towards the end of the nineteenth century, william james, georg simmel and many others would speak of the need for a 'social self' or an 'identity' which is to be, or is to pretend to be, a fragmentary, turbulent, chaotic individual, in order to be something for others which it itself is not by itself …

… and now the 'search for meaning' begins - at least in printed texts …

… we arrive at a time in which literature and life in literature can no longer be separated … … the problem of 'self-realization' is invented and is taken up and disseminated by the mass media …

… individuals are encouraged to believe that, although they have without doubt been really alive since conception, and certainly since birth, they must become even more real (or unreal?) than they already are …

… this semantic ambiguity can be understood if we read it as an indication of a need for a schema that cannot, however, be admitted …

… we can recognize schemata, in others and in ourselves, if we take them to be cognitive routines, abbreviations for something that might be elucidated …

… but this itself would also be a schema which conceals the issues that are ultimately involved …

… in view of the unobservability of the world and the non-transparency of individuals to themselves and to others, schema formation is unavoidable …

… without it there would be no memory, no information, no deviation, no freedom …

… one can also, with spencer brown, understand this as the necessity of a form which marks a distinction, one side of which must be marked if one wants to observe and to formulate more operations …

… this does not stop us from asking about the social conditions of the plausibility of such schemata … … in the age of the mass media, they are virtually unthinkable without the participation of the media …

… like theatre, the mass media also put the individual into a scene that is outside the scene set on the stage …

… we have described this as a technical condition for the differentiation of a media system …

… this distance has to seem ambivalent to the individuals: on the one hand they are not themselves the text being performed for them; and if, like rousseau, they have written and published it, they are it no longer …

… neither do they see themselves on television, and if in an exceptional case they do, it is with special pleasure in the self-recognition only found in exceptions …

… on the other hand, the mass media produce the world in which individuals find themselves …

… this is true of all programme sectors: of news, advertising, entertainment …

… what is presented to them affects them too, since they have to lead their lives in this world; and it affects them even when they know very well that they will never get into the situations or play the roles presented to them as factual or fictional …

… instead, they can still identify with the cult objects or the motives which the scripts of the mass media offer them … … when individuals look at media as text or as image, they are outside; when they experience their results within themselves, they are inside …

… they have to oscillate between outside and inside, as if in a paradoxical situation: quickly, almost without losing any time, and undecidably …

… for the one position is only possible thanks to the other - and vice versa …

… the consequence must be that the individual must resolve this paradox for herself and construct her identity or her 'self' herself …

… the materials used for this can be the usual ones …

… but there is no possibility of taking on an 'i' by analogy from outside …

… no one can be like someone else …

… no one sees himself as the reflection of another …

… the only point of agreement is the necessity of using schemata for sustaining a memory …

… but self-schematization cannot relieve the strain on itself through the illusion of an 'objective' (even if disputed) reality … … on the one hand it (self-schematization) is indisputable, for no one can perform it for another, and on the other it is under threat of constant dissolution …

… this is because no one can know whether he will remain who he had thought he was …

… he cannot know because he himself decides the issue …

… the structural couplings between individuals and society affect the whole of reality …

… this is true of all social formations …

… however, the mass media vary the structural conditions of these structural couplings because they change the need for schemata as well as what they offer …

… the schemata and scripts of ecological concerns and the necessity of schematization of one's own person are only extreme examples chosen to illustrate this …

… and perhaps it is no coincidence that these two environments of social communication, the complexity of non-human nature and the auto-dynamic and non-transparency of human individuals, are dependent in a particular way upon schemata and therefore upon structural couplings to the system of the mass media …

Second-order Cybernetics as Paradox

… the second-order cybernetics worked out by heinz von foerster is rightly held to be a constructivist theory, if not a manifesto for operational constructivism …

… the reverse does not apply, however …

… constructivist epistemologies do not necessarily have the rigour of a cybernetics of cybernetics …

… one can observe cognitions as constructions of an observer, without linking with this the theory that the observing observer observes himself or herself as an observer …

… this difference is so crucial that we must devote a final chapter to it …

… the discussion thus far has been guided by two points of departure …

… the first is that the mass media, like any broadcasting system, are an operationally closed and, in this respect, autopoietic system …

… the second emphasizes that this is also true of cognitions, because cognitions are also operations and can therefore only be produced in the system …

… this remains the case even when one considers that in society communication can take place with the system of the mass media from out of the latter's environment, for these communications too are possible only on the basis of the knowledge that the mass media have provided …

… furthermore, the mass media understand what is uttered to them only on the basis of their own network of reproduction of information …

… every communication in and with the mass media remains tied to the schemata which are available for this purpose … … this theoretical description is designed in the mode of secondorder observation …

… it observes and describes observers …

… but it does not presuppose that the mass media observe themselves in the mode of second-order observation …

… the media designate what they are communicating about and must therefore distinguish it …

… for example, they inform people about scandals and in doing so must presuppose that non-scandalous behaviour would have been possible as well …

… what is not reflected here, however, is that one could pose the question (which a sociologist might pose) why something is even being observed in the schema scandalous/non-scandalous at all, and why the frequency of use of this schema is clearly increasing …

… in other words, the media remain (for good reason, as we shall presently see) invisible to themselves as an observer …

… they are turned towards the world in their operations and do not reflect that this turning itself generates an unmarked space in which they find themselves … … we can reformulate this statement by splitting our concept of autonomy …

… first, there is autopoietic autonomy which is based on operational closure and means that the system can only reproduce its own structures and operations with its own operations, that is, from its own products …

… this is to be distinguished from cognitive closure, and, correspondingly, cognitive autonomy …

… this says that along with all its cognitions the system is also observing that these are only its own observations …

… only having reached this point do we find ourselves on the terrain in which second-order cybernetics in the strict sense is interested here, the question 'who is the ob-server?' is asked universally and is also applied to the observing system …

… questions about the observer take the place of questions about reasons, which would necessarily result in an infinite regress …

… and therefore, whoever wishes to give reasons for his own experience or actions must observe himself as an observer and, in doing so, allow access to the choice of the distinctions which guide his observing …

… but how is that possible? obviously, from an empirical point of view, the system of the mass media does not operate at the cognitively closed level of second- order cybernetics …

… it does distinguish self-reference and other reference …

… in its attitude of other-reference it reports on facts and opinions …

… this includes the possibility of observing observers … … the second-order observation common in modern society comes about in this respect …

… but this merely leads into the infinite regress of the question as to which observer is observing this …

… in the system itself, there is no final figure of the ambiguous 'observing system', no autological realization that whatever is true for observers is also true for the system which is observing them …

… thanks to the distinction of self-reference and other-reference, the system of the mass media can also mark itself in contrast to everything else …

… it can make its own structures and operations into a topic as though they were objects …

… but it does not additionally ask: how am i operating as an observer and why do i make distinctions in this way and not another? with every distinction it uses it places itself in the unobserved, unmarked space, and this is even so when it marks itself in contrast to other things …

… every distinction makes the observer invisible - but this is precisely what we can still know …

… if she wanted to de-invisibilize herself, she would have to mark herself, that is, distinguish herself …

… and then one would again have the question, who is the observer who distinguishes thus and not otherwise? this is also true of modern society, and also in conditions which some people describe as 'postmodern' …

… it even applies if one renounces absolute demands for validity which in the tradition went under names such as god or nature or reason …

… this renunciation is presented as relativism or historicism … … one accepts the contingency of all criteria and of all possible observer positions …

… but that only means that one is able to switch from any distinction to another, that, for example, one can take into account fashions or transformations of values …

… in fact, these are now accepted schemata …

… the problem of transformation and of contingency has been digested and can be expressed with the normal schematisms of the mass media …

… the system may then be operating at a level of greater uncertainty, but that is also true of the other function systems, of the money economy, art, science, politics …

… in accepting this characteristic postmodern style the mass media are merely following what the form of social differentiation suggests …

… but with a constant change of perspectives, the observer who is performing this transformation with the before/after distinction still cannot be grasped …

… 'god is dead', they said - and meant: the last observer cannot be identified …

… as a reaction to this finding, attempts have been evident for some years now to shift the problem onto ethics …

… this is true throughout society and thus also in the mass media …

… for example, a code of ethics for journalists can be drawn up and the attempt made to apply it via the profession's self-regulatory procedures …

… the fact that this cannot be an ethics of reasoning in the academic style is easy to see if one follows the academic debate about transcendental ethics, utilitarian ethics or value ethics …

… in none of these cases have radical deductive steps towards decisions succeeded … … we can know this … therefore, these can only be conventions which continually find themselves confronted with new situations …

… nor does this ethics, if it is not condensed into norms of law, contain any indication of how deviants are to be treated …

… the position of a second-order cybernetics offers an opportunity to reflect this flight into ethics as a displacement of the problem …

… after all, whatever else it is understood to be in concrete terms, ethics too is a distinguishing practice …

… it distinguishes standards and ways of behaving, it distinguishes conforming and deviant behaviour and usually even in a moral sense good and bad, or evil, behaviour …

… moreover, it is a part of its presuppositions that deviations are attributed to behaviour and not to inappropriately chosen standards or, as critical sociologists thought for a while, to 'labelling' …

… even if strong ties and highly charged emotions are to be expected in heavily moralized domains, second-order cybernetics can still ask: why are you distinguishing in this way and not in another? …

… or again: who is the observer who is trying to impose these schemata here? … … standard authors of constructivist epistemology, such as humberto maturana and heinz von foerster, have attempted to develop a new ethics on this basis …

… however, they have not gone beyond making a few suggestions, and it is doubtful whether this venture can succeed …

… for an ethics would sabotage itself if what was demanded of it was that it make distinctions and simultaneously reflect that it is itself making these distinctions …

… even in the face of numerous efforts to find ethical foundations, second-order cybernetics can only ever repeat the question: who is the observer? it can direct this question to every observing system, and therefore also to itself …

… every cognitive, normative and moral - and therefore also every ethical - code is thus undermined …

… this might lead one to deny second-order cybernetics any practical relevance or possibility of being implemented empirically …

… but we should guard against reaching foregone conclusions … … it is noticeable that in praxis-oriented efforts which understand themselves as therapy, this second-order cybernetics is playing an increasingly significant role …

… this is obviously true of family therapy and organizational consultancy …

… equally, though, one might think of psychotherapies or of cases in which pain cannot be controlled medically and the advice given is: observe your pain …

… along with constructivist concepts of therapy, then, a practicable directive has been discovered which is formulated with the concept of paradox …

… the rhetorical tradition has already recommended the figure of the paradox as a technique for shattering ingrained belief, communis opinio, common sense …

… this description of function can now be linked to second-order cybernetics and thus also grounded epistemologically …

… one always has the possibility of asking after the observer, but this question, when applied to itself, amounts to a paradox, an injunctive paradox …

… it calls for something to be made visible which must remain invisible to itself …

… it contradicts itself …

… it executes a performative self-contradiction and thus avoids appearing dogmatic or prescribing cures …

… by leading us back to the paradox of the observer, second-order cybernetics overcomes the distinction of 'critical' and 'affirmative' still common amongst sociologists and intellectuals …

… this too is a distinction, that is, an instrument of observing … … if we observe the one who with the aid of this distinction opts for the one side (and not for the other), a further version of the observer paradox emerges …

… whoever opts for 'critical' (as do most intellectuals) must have an affirmative attitude towards the distinction itself …

… whoever opts for 'affirmative' must accept a distinction which also allows one to adopt a critical attitude …

… this is why observers who choose this distinction must remain invisible …

… at best, they can say: i am the paradox of my distinction, the unity of what i claim is different …

… the paradox offers the observer exactly the same concentration on a single point that cannot be condensed any further as does an autological, second-order cybernetics that includes itself …

… this itself suggests the theory that second-order cybernetics lends the form of a paradox to what its observing observes …

… this does not have to mean that we leave the matter there …

… as the theory and practice of systems therapy teach us, the form of the paradox is only a stopping- off place … … the distinctions we have been used to up to now, with the question of the observer, are identified as paradoxical, they are driven back to the question of the unity of the difference, in order then to have the question posed, which other distinctions are able to 'unravel' the paradox, to resolve it again …

… treated thus, the paradox is a temporal form whose other side forms an open future, a new arrangement and a new description of habits as questionable …

… as also in autopoiesis, there is no final form which, either as origin or as goal, does not allow the question of the 'before' and the 'afterwards' …

… one can feel free to make suggestions; but if one wants to handle the position of second-order cybernetics consistently, these can only be initial ideas for further thought …

… the primary goal would have to be to teach clients to see the paradox inherent in all distinctions for themselves and also to see that observations are possible only when the paradoxes are brought back into the form of a distinction that seems convincing at the time …

… if sociology takes up the position of a second-order observation cybernetics, it does not renounce communication, but it will have to send its communication via the diversion of paradoxy - like a therapist …

… the stark contradiction between the selection procedures of the mass media and their success in constructing reality, towards which society orients itself, may be a particular occasion for this …

… we therefore repeat our initial question …

… it is not: what is the case, what surrounds us as world and as society? it is rather: how is it possible to accept information about the world and about society as information about reality when one knows how it is produced? …