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Now, this is Joanna.
Joanna works at a university in Poland.
And one Saturday morning at 3am,
she got up, packed her rucksack
and traveled more than a thousand kilometers,
only to have a political argument
with a stranger.
His name is Christof, and he's a customer manager from Germany.
And the two had never met before.
They only knew that they were totally at odds over European politics,
over migration, or the relationship to Russia or whatever.
And they were arguing for almost one day.
And after that, Joanna sent me a somewhat irritating email.
"That was really cool, and I enjoyed every single minute of it!"
(Laughter)
So these are Tom from the UK and Nils from Germany.
They also were strangers,
and they are both supporters of their local football team,
as you may imagine, Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspurs.
And so they met on the very spot where football roots were invented,
on some field in Cambridge.
And they didn't argue about football,
but about Brexit.
And after talking for many hours about this contentious topic,
they also sent a rather unexpected email.
"It was delightful, and we both enjoyed it very much."
(Laughter)
So in spring 2019,
more than 17,000 Europeans from 33 countries
signed up to have a political argument.
Thousands crossed their borders to meet a stranger with a different opinion,
and they were all part of a project called "Europe Talks."
Now, talking about politics amongst people with different opinions
has become really difficult,
not only in Europe.
Families are splitting, friends no longer talk to each other.
We stay in our bubbles.
And these so-called filter bubbles are amplified by social media,
but they are not, in the core, a digital product.
The filter bubble has always been there.
It's in our minds.
As many studies repeatedly have shown,
we, for example, ignore effects that contradict our convictions.
So correcting fake news is definitely necessary,
but it's not sufficient to get a divided society
to rethink itself.
Fortunately, according to at least some research,
there may be a simple way to get a new perspective:
a personal one-on-one discussion
with someone who doesn't have your opinion.
It enables you to see the world in a new way,
through someone else's eyes.
Now, I'm the editor of "ZEIT ONLINE,"
one of the major digital news organizations in Germany.
And we started what became "Europe Talks" as a really modest editorial exercise.
As many journalists,
we were impressed by Trump and by Brexit,
and Germany was getting divided, too, especially over the issue of migration.
So the arrival of more than a million refugees in 2015 and 2016
dominated somewhat the debate.
And when we were thinking about our own upcoming election in 2017,
we definitely knew that we had to reinvent the way we were dealing with politics.
So digital nerds that we are,
we came up with obviously many very strange digital product ideas,
one of them being a Tinder for politics --
(Laughter)
a dating platform for political opposites,
a tool that could help get people together with different opinions.
And we decided to test it
and launched what techies would call a "minimum viable product."
So it was really simple.
We called it "Deutschland spricht" -- "Germany Talks" --
and we started with that in May 2017.
And it was really simple.
We used mainly Google Forms,
a tool that each and every one of us here can use to make surveys online.
And everywhere in our content, we embedded simple questions like this:
"Did Germany take in too many refugees?"
You click yes or no.
We asked you more questions, like, "Does the West treat Russia fairly?"
or, "Should gay couples be allowed to marry?"
And if you answered all these questions, we asked one more question:
"Hey, would you like to meet a neighbor who totally disagrees with you?"
(Laughter)
So this was a really simple experiment with no budget whatsoever.
We expected some hundred-ish people to register,
and we planned to match them by hand, the pairs.
And after one day, 1,000 people had registered.
And after some weeks, 12,000 Germans had signed up
to meet someone else with a different opinion.
So we had a problem.
(Laughter)
We hacked a quick and dirty algorithm
that would find the perfect Tinder matches,
like people living as close as possible having answered the questions
as differently as possible.
We introduced them via email.
And, as you may imagine, we had many concerns.
Maybe no one would show up in real life.
Maybe all the discussions in real life would be awful.
Or maybe we had an axe murderer in our database.
(Laughter)
But then, on a Sunday in June 2017,
something beautiful happened.
Thousands of Germans met in pairs and talked about politics peacefully.
Like Anno.
He's a former policeman who's against -- or was against -- gay marriage,
and Anne, she's an engineer who lives in a domestic partnership
with another woman.
And they were talking for hours about all the topics
where they had different opinions.
At one point, Anno told us later,
he realized that Anne was hurt by his statements about gay marriage,
and he started to question his own assumptions.
And after talking for three hours,
Anne invited Anno to her summer party,
and today, years later,
they still meet from time to time and are friends.
So our algorithm matched, for example, this court bailiff.
He's also a spokesperson of the right-wing populist party AfD in Germany,
and this counselor for pregnant women.
She used to be an active member of the Green Party.
We even matched this professor and his student.
(Laughter)
It's an algorithm.
(Laughter)
We also matched a father-in-law and his very own daughter-in-law,
because, obviously, they live close by but have really different opinions.
So as a general rule,
we did not observe, record, document the discussions,
because we didn't want people to perform in any way.
But I made an exception.
I took part myself.
And so I met in my trendy Berlin neighborhood called Prenzlauer Berg,
I met Mirko.
This is me talking to Mirko. Mirko didn't want to be in the picture.
He's a young plant operator,
and he looked like all the hipsters in our area,
like with a beard and a beanie.
We were talking for hours, and I found him to be a wonderful person.
And despite the fact that we had really different opinions
about most of the topics --
maybe with the exception of women's rights,
where I couldn't comprehend his thoughts --
it was really nice.
After our discussion, I Googled Mirko.
And I found out that in his teenage years, he used to be a neo-Nazi.
So I called him and asked,
"Hey, why didn't you tell me?"
And he said, "You know, I didn't tell you because I want to get over it.
I just don't want to talk about it anymore."
I thought that people with a history like that could never change,
and I had to rethink my assumptions,
as did many of the participants who sent us thousands of emails
and also selfies.
No violence was recorded whatsoever.
(Laughter)
And we just don't know if some of the pairs got married.
(Laughter)
But, at least, we were really excited and wanted to do it again,
especially in version 2.0,
wanted to expand the diversity of the participants,
because obviously in the first round, they were mainly our readers.
And so we embraced our competition
and asked other media outlets to join.
We coordinated via Slack.
And this live collaboration among 11 major German media houses
was definitely a first in Germany.
The numbers more than doubled: 28,000 people applied this time.
And the German president --
you see him here in the center of the picture --
became our patron.
And so, thousands of Germans met again in the summer of 2018
to talk to someone else with a different opinion.
Some of the pairs we invited to Berlin to a special event.
And there, this picture was taken,
until today my favorite symbol for "Germany Talks."
You see Henrik, a bus driver and boxing trainer,
and Engelbert, the director of a children's help center.
They answered all of the seven questions we asked differently.
They had never met before this day,
and they had a really intensive discussion
and seemed to get along anyway
with each other.
So this time we also wanted to know
if the discussion would have any impact on the participants.
So we asked researchers to survey the participants.
And two-thirds of the participants said that they learned something
about their partner's attitudes.
Sixty percent agreed that their viewpoints converged.
The level of trust in society seemed also higher after the event,
according to the researchers.
Ninety percent said that they enjoyed their discussion.
Ten percent said they didn't enjoy their discussion,
eight percent only because, simply, their partner didn't show up.
(Laughter)
After "Germany Talks," we got approached by many international media outlets,
and we decided this time to build a serious and secure platform.
We called it "My Country Talks."
And in this short period of time, "My Country Talks" has already been used
for more than a dozen local and national events
like "Het grote gelijk" in Belgium or "Suomi puhuu" in Finland
or "Britain Talks" in the UK.
And as I mentioned at the beginning, we also launched "Europe Talks,"
together with 15 international media partners,
from the "Financial Times" in the UK to "Helsingin Sanomat" in Finland.
Thousands of Europeans met with a total stranger
to argue about politics.
So far, we have been approached by more than 150 global media outlets,
and maybe someday there will be something like "The World Talks,"
with hundreds of thousands of participants.
But what matters here are not the numbers,
obviously.
What matters here is ...
Whenever two people meet to talk in person for hours
without anyone else listening,
they change.
And so do our societies.
They change little by little, discussion by discussion.
What matters here is that we relearn
how to have these face-to-face discussions,
without anyone else listening,
with a stranger.
Not only with a stranger we are introduced to
by a Tinder for politics,
but also with a stranger in a pub or in a gym or at a conference.
So please meet someone
and have an argument
and enjoy it very much.
Thank you.
(Applause)
Wow!
(Applause)
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【TED】Jochen Wegner: What happened when we paired up thousands of strangers to talk politics (What happened when we paired up thousands of strangers to talk politics | Jochen Wegner)

1201 Folder Collection
HungPin Chen published on September 28, 2019
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