Tearing off the labels

Saturday, 1.45 am. A dancefloor in the German City of Leipzig is packed. The laser beams cut through the darkness. Behind the turntables, DJ Bertolt. Black sweater, white shirt, black jeans. His fingers fly across the equipment, halting the records, operating switches and pressing buttons. The cold, electrical beats boom from the speakers.

Bertolt is 43, he has spun records for more than half his life already. Whether in clubs, at the legendary “No No No!-Partys” in Leipzig, or during a picnic in the park, he fights the stereotype that DJ’s aren’t musicians. He is all the more enthusiastic when people ask him who the last track was by. It was his own. Music is very emotional for Bertolt. He enjoys it most when the chemistry fits and becomes one with the crowd.

Wednesday, 1.45 pm. The lecture hall of the Technical University Chemnitz, Germany is packed. Behind the podium, psychology Prof. Dr. Meyer. Grey jacket, beige jumper, white shirt. Very enthusiastically and without preaching, he speaks about diversity. His sentences are as complex as the topic at hand. You have to really pay attention to keep up with him as he has lots to say.

The Musician and the Professor: Passion and Profession. These are just two of the many sides of Prof. Dr. Bertolt Meyer. He works in Chemnitz but lives with his husband Daniel, an artist and architect, in the city of Leipzig. He navigates seamlessly between the very hierarchical and factual world of the university on the one hand and the artistic world on the other. Confident and out of the box, Bertolt Meyer is a performer who loves and lives diversity - whether behind the turntable or the podium.

Bertolt conducts applied research into the interface between man and technology. Diversity, leadership and the changing demographics of the workplace are his main research topics. "Exploring how people interact with one another in an increasingly heterogeneous society and how to ensure that they approach each other with openness is fantastic." Meyer has a passion for his research. Helping his students expand their world view is a privilege for him. 

How about stereotypes? “Stereotypes are the enemy of diversity. They are generalized assumptions about groups of people that totally disregard individuality.” As examples, he offers: “Italians make the perfect pasta” and “Germans are always punctual.” “Our brain is a cognitive scrooge. Stereotypes unconsciously guide us and help us to go through life with as little cognitive energy as possible.” As stereotypes evolve, it's hard to get them out of society. However, we can train ourselves to not blindly let our behavior be guided by stereotypes."

Recently, Meyer and a colleague published a study which shows how new bionic technology can change the stereotypes towards the disabled. “We can see that people wearing a bionic prosthetic are perceived completely different. Almost exactly like able bodied people. Bionic technology therefore offers a high value both functionally and psychologically.“

Diversity is not only a central element of his own personality. For him, it is one of the central social resources, as it contributes significantly to the performance of a society.

“People come in all shapes and sizes: young and old, big and thin, gay and heterosexual, disabled and abled body. The ideal of an inclusive society means: All people have a right to participate”

Life Without Limitations means I can do exactly what I want to do.

Prof. Dr. Bertolt Meyer was born without his left forearm due to a rare condition called  Dysmelia. He uses a bionic hand prosthesis to compensate. His i-Limb Quantum is a multi-articulating prosthesis, which means that it offers five individually-powered digits. Electrodes on his forearm register the muscle signals from the muscle he would usually use to bend his wrist and feed them to the prosthesis. The i-Limb Quantum offers 32 grips and gestures, which can be accessed via 4 control methods. A grip can therefore not only be accessed by muscle contractions, but also by gesture control, a “grip chip”, or a click in the mobile app.

The prosthesis facilitates Bertolt’s life, especially the little, everyday things like tying shoelaces, cooking, typing, riding his bicycle and driving his car. However, the psychological benefit is also enormous. “The standard model you receive via the insurance system has a flesh colored plastic glove. You feel ashamed and people react with pity – a stereotype. Ever since I’ve worn the bionic hand, people show positive interest. This has influenced my own attitude towards my disability in a positive manner.”