»Between words and images« – article in Vidya magazine

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This article appeared in the August 2020 #386/387 issue of Vidya, the magazine of the Triple Nine Society

Ever since I can remember, my essential way to connect with the world have been words and images. As a kid I loved drawing; I also used to literally eat books and write a lot of stories and letters, make up fictional advertising, brochures, magazines and riddles.

After finishing school I had to make a choice—in Germany, university education is very much sorted into strict boxes, you can never really combine fields of knowledge or surf along the border, it’s always either or. For me that meant: either words or images. I chose the latter: Visual Design, which I studied at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd, a successor of the famous Bauhaus.

After that I did what everybody does: during my twenties and thirties I was busy with my career, moved to London for my first job and spent a couple of years in Berlin. I was quite successful in the design industry as Managing Director of a German based brand agency and after that Managing Director of an international design consultancy in the automotive industry.

Yet, in 2017, I found myself in the midst of a Sinnkrise (no proper word for that in English, I’d say “crisis of meaning”), triggered by the ongoing buzz of the digital transformation. I had the feeling there was a huge societal shift going on and nobody really talked about the consequences — only techno buzz utopia and never ending success stories on Linkedin. So I quit my job, to have time to think about what technology and the digital transformation really mean for humans, for our society, our everyday life, our relationships, our perception of reality.

During all these years, the words — the very words I had left behind forced to make a choice — came back haunting me. And with it, the idea of being a writer.

After I quit my job, I started my blog “diary of the digital age” and decided to pursue my old plan this time: to become a writer, a chronicler of the digital age. At the moment, I am working on my first book, which will be published in March. To earn a living, I work as a story consultant, to help others pursuing their own story.

My discovery of giftedness started with my two sons having difficulties at school. In search of solutions, both of them took an IQ test and proved to be gifted, my younger son twice-exceptional with dyslexia. A school coach I was talking to said something that made me think: “Intelligence runs in the family.” Sensitized to the topic, I decided to take an IQ test, actually because I was interested in a Mensa membership. At the test I wasn’t sure if it was “enough” for that. But then it turned out I even qualified for TNS.

Ever since, a lot has become clear to me: Why everything in life had always come so easily to me. Why many people often looked at me as if I was a bit weird — today I know it’s because my thinking speed is many times faster than theirs and because I constantly jump between different levels of abstraction. Why I am often the odd one out in social life, particularly when mothers and wives mingle to endlessly go on about children, husbands and household. Why many people often found me bossy, too intense or intimidating. Why I can never relax, always want to learn something new (I’m constantly reading about seven books at once.) Why I can’t help but see everything in a global or historical context, link all sorts of things in an abstract way and often get on people’s nerves with that (including my husband’s and my sons’ — they usually roll their eyes when I excitedly report some interesting insights I found in a book, e.g. about the Roman empire).

At this point in my life, I see all the threads coming together at last. I am pursuing my new life as a writer, spending a lot of time reading and researching. All my life I have been searching for the invisible things in our collective knowledge: the world of stories, the ancient memory kept in stories; the tacit knowledge, implicit knowledge; the way society and science organize knowledge; hidden, forgotten or forbidden knowledge; history and historiography: Romans, Celts, Prussia, European history, ancient world, middle ages, expeditions, discoveries; history of language, history of knowledge and science; the collective and societal construction and perception of reality; and, last but not least, how this all connects and reflects with the present and everyday life, particularly in the context of the digital age. I think that many problems and misunderstandings have their roots in the fact that they are invisible and that there is no language to describe it. It’s making the invisible visible with words — what I see as part of my new mission.