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Geoecodynamics 1988,  TOPOGRAMM 1986-89 und Bild der Wissenschaften 1989,  Credibility of Ecology 1988 Global Change 1990, Harmonization 1990,  Access& Assimilation 1991,   Raum&Leere UN Year of the Mountains (synopsis 1986-2003) 2003, GRAND CHALLENGES, HIGHER EDUCATION

please visit August 2001 Knowmap version


Spacial versus Spatial - I :

Setting the Common Frames of Reference

Heiner Benking

Prologue to Spacial versus Spatial: 
Part II - Spacial Knowledge Maps and Knowledge Models Models and Spacial versus Spatial: 
Part III - Panoramic Thinking and End of This Journey.

Models - As a Means of Finding Our Way Within, Between, and Beyond Places, Languages, and Cultures and of Knowing, Connecting, and Transcending Places, Languages, and Cultures

Why spacial and not spatial? The distinction between spatial (two-dimensional) and spacial (three-dimensional) was made for the conference on Global Change in Moscow in 1988.

These differences between the abstract and flat spa-t-ial and the embodied deep spa-c-ial concepts might prepare us for the modern times of media and tele-technologies. The use of the new nested space-scapes may better help us combine and relate concepts and their context.

Spaces & Models & Maps

Figure 1: Referent and Context
Figure 1: Referent and Context

As a word of caution regarding my terminology: coming from a different cultural and language background than that of the English-speaking world, I use terms and keep the referent in mind. (See Figure 1)

This means I avoid abstract language, but try to ensure I synthesize and make it plastic and tangible, thus making through models and metaphors real and solid what I mean. Thereby, I hope you can envision what I have in mind so we then can jointly construct our journey.

A note on the terms I use

When I speak about space I mean something extensional, preferably orthogonal space, with coordinates in order to be able to locate and position objects and issues. When I speak about mapping, I mean a representation which is not a scribble or diagram, but a map from which I can establish positions, distances, and relations, something having scale and proportions, an agreed upon way to symbolize the objects explained in a legend. Perhaps you call it a chart or diagram depending on your field of expertise.

When I speak about a model, I mean for this purpose, something like a physical model even when it could be also a mental model. It may be a cubicle model, a prototype of what is not yet existing, what I want to construct in order to get an idea about how things look some time or some place. As I speak of organic knowledge architecture sections of the model, like a floor plan, I call these maps, as they are to a certain scale. A model is also a schema and also typically to a certain scale.

Here I also speak about a schema, as a schema is also concise and coherent, helpful by making visible (German: anschaulich) hidden relations and connections through prioritizing or generalization, by stepping back from the details and seeing the bigger coherent picture. Think of a model of a house or a resource location, how meanings like fields overlap and interact, and imagine how a certain region or place might look like in the future - a fully simulated situation or scenario of something out of our reach but filled with potential or challenge, with proportions and consequences that if we imagine it we may make it become real.

To put the terms in perspective: there is real space, physical space and potential or virtual space. Perhaps you want to call them realities or worlds. To make something come true, we materialize and create, make it real and happening. Alternatives are presented in scenarios we nowadays create movies from by using in-between conveyors of the whole picture. The challenge is to not get lost in one world only - in your sweet egocentric isolation.

Granularity and Context of Knowledge

Before we write more about knowledge it should be made very clear we must differentiate among these three types or levels of knowledge:

One of the central mandates of the Earth Summit in Rio 1992 was to define common frames of reference - so we have a common grid or map or matrix and not develop in sweet isolation.

So what we do here is on the third level, in the surveyor overview/high stand knowledge mode stepping back from the details or noise and roughly outlining areas and bodies of knowledge by just giving them an agreed upon location in an agreed upon framework. In this case a spatial and spacial extensional - not abstract framework.

Switching Systems

The moment we have an agreed upon a Masterplan (Benking and Kampffmeyer) for knowledge, we can start mapping certain classification schemas into this framework in order to bridge boundaries between the various specialist and route knowledge schemas of certain cultures, languages, or fields.

Figure 2: : Thematic and Situational Zooming with a Flying Magnifying Glass


Another view for mapping of change or ecological dynamics at various scales and from various sources is the topogramm. We coined the term TOPOGRAMM in 1987 in view of the hologram or holarchies to show, like microscale in medicine where the term is used, how we can map life across scales.

The system is an approach for selective exploration with high-resolution cameras and sensors - flying magnifying glasses form a chain of methods to combine data acquisition and management of analog and digital sources.

Figure 3: Hierarchical Scale Platform Concept

Knowledge Maps, Knowledge Patterns, Knowledge Landscapes or a SEMANTIC WEB?

Instead of a network or rhizomes, we want to go on the meta-level, where the points and nodes are situated in special frames where you can:
  Such a translation from one schema and geometry to the next is another and important issue in order to overcome the right or wrong discussion of any statement or grid.

The criteria should be: is the model/configuration, easy, simple, practical, transparent and easily translated into other models for other people with other focus and application?

This question to consider for the semantic web is:


I have experienced opposition from both sides: some see dogma in being concrete, others want to give up responsibility and resign in view of the plethora or flood. I opt for both, as we need help with the details and to find close issues in the noise.

However, we also need the freedom to know what it is about and jointly check outcomes, scales, proportions and consequences. We need a gyro and slide rulers to help us share and realize our course!

Spacial versus Spatial - II :

Spacial Knowledge Maps and Knowledge Models

Spacial Knowledge Maps (KnowMaps) and Knowledge Models (KnowModels) are used for embodying and outlining what is known and unknown in image and insight scaffoldings and knowledge architectures.

Spatial Flatlander or Spacial Deep Searchers and Questioners

Let me take you on a journey.

When sailing we need not only a captain and a compass, but also a map (in German this can be easy remembered as "3K's": Kapitäen, Karte, Kompass). So when trying to leave the shores and the molds of our thinking, maybe we need other maps, models and even a gyro for the third dimension in order to be able to dive into information, instead of surfing on the surface, subject to many influences which can distract us.

We will have to share explorations in order to share common ground. We have to bridge and switch between models and scales, as one representation is not enough, and seeing from various distances, with different focus, lens and filter will help to establish common references even in uncharted terrains and vertical realms.

Figure 4: The Blackbox Nature - The Rubik's Cube of Ecology

The Rubik's Cube of Ecology was prepared for the German Chancellery as part of the Global Change touring exhibition. It challenged visitors to put these different observations into a single context.

Part of the systems earth section forms where we look into processes in fields, disciplines, and on various magnitudes. Ecologies interact along and across these scales, the ekistics planning sciences use exactly the grid of the floor plan, and schemes in knowledge organizations are compatible, therefore, allow switching to other terminologies.

The pictures purposely create some confusion, as some are turned and played with along and across scales, on our way to trying to understand certain aspects of Nature. The top of the Blackbox presents satellite and airborne imagery. The right picture shows the cube's left front. It presents a possible view into GAIA, the living Nature, but without scale. It is a motion graph showing, like breathing, a pulsation that can reflect the beauty and mystery of knowing and unknowing. It is the magic of a living thing we can look at with awe as we gaze.

It attracts and leaves us puzzled whether the picture is from the micro-, meso-, or macro-scale (cell, eye, star) (Santanya). The challenge is to combine creativity: detail and overview, comprehension and apprehension, and leave us with something to mull over.

HuMans or Humanity

This is a collection of objects (without direction) or a communion of subjects (Berry). We will try here to bridge objects and subject in a common grid, not to hold them in boxes but to invite them to jump over the meridian or borderline.
Whoever imagines mental barriers that actually do not exist?
And then thinks them away, has understood the world.
As space is entrapped in geometry's network of lines,
Thought is caught in its (own) inherent laws.
Maps make the world comprehensible to us.
We are still waiting for the star-maps of the spirit.
In the same way that ambling through fields
We risk getting lost; the spirit negotiates its terrain.
Friedrich Rückert
translation thanks to Claudia Robinson


Map and Model? Or Concept and Assumption Makers?


Man is a model-making animal.
His outstanding predictive power
gives him selective advantages
over his physically stronger rivals...
(Richardson, Marx and Tóth).

Man also needs to have a map for the new extra dimensions, for cyberspace or fantasia - the kybernetes of cyberia need a mother-map without wild beasts (dragons, Editor's note) at the ends and corners to help chart his course in difficult waters and narrow crossings, where he cannot always wait for a pilot to give him local expertise.

As Tóth proceeds in Models of Reality:

According to Piaget, the school-aged children think in a concrete operational way. If the teacher refutes one of two alternatives, his pupils will not accept the other until they can visualize it much as a motion picture. What they imagine, they would also like to catch, to build and to take apart. Abstract logic matures in them only at the end of the secondary school.

Before they are trained to be abstract and un-real, they imagine concretely and in an operational way. They do it as they play with Lego-toys and in the sandbox. There they are not afraid of imaginations or phantasms as they live in and combine parallel worlds.

So they do just what the military does in situation rooms, modeling potential outcomes and making accessible places and times they cannot go to. That is exactly what Gregory Bateson asked us to do - to develop extra antennas for long time frames, so we can feel and care for coming generations and that we are not confined to the limits of our direct physical senses, as we are not just making maps and models, but drawing assumptions and conclusions, directions and perspectives in order to share rationality, perceptions and feelings.
The central issue for society seems to be who sets the categories and rules the metaphors, as maybe the road less traveled makes all the difference for survival. This is analogous to: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the road less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." -- Robert Frost.

The evolutionary challenge is seen not in using one common image, term or metaphor, but in creating spaces for differences so we can gauge the human prospectus and share and compare our different ways of expression and feeling.

So what societies do is race with double the speed after losing the direction. We want to show here that using the metaphor of the navigation space (Norbert Wiener) instead of the electronic space of William Gibson and Pierre Lévy without places and distance makes all the difference for the way we share our positions, orientations, and futures.

Building a House of - Knowledge and Eyes - A House without Walls

Figure 5: Space-Time-Subject Cubes

We too can build models like a 1x1x1 meter or 20x20x20 meters, where objects in fields of (survey) knowledge, subject areas or discipline domains form one dimension, and in another dimension we have scales to see if this field is located in the micro-, meso-, or macrocosm, covering a small or large scale.

So we have a floor plan and can easily see like a patchwork or puzzle, where certain disciplines are at home, and maybe how they relate, physically in comparison to life sciences and the humanities, and where their focus overlaps!

As we speak about space or a house with many floors, we can plot certain time-levels and share with others where we know something, how it is or was categorized (in relation to other schema), and how a certain epoch or culture focuses their interest.

The moment we have built such a model or synthetic situation in space with nested fields, something interesting can happen. Let us call it imagination or mental mobility. As this was not planned or anticipated, let me tell you that we had built the space in Figure 4 as a model for a Global Change exhibition and curious children with open-ended thinking came along and questioned the design.

They asked:

Now you can answer these saying: "children can ask more questions than 10 000 wise people can answer".


You take it seriously and immerse into that construction with them, locate where a person or nation is standing and focusing, and jointly ponder how wide is their focus and attention span! Then suddenly understand that tolerance is understanding the other being without necessarily agreeing but seeing into shared solution in wicked and vicious problems cycles, by just being attentive and fair.


Spacial versus Spatial - III :

Panoramic Thinking and End of This Journey

Panoramic Thinking

Figure 4 (as in part II): The Blackbox Nature - The Rubik's Cube of Ecology

In workshops with children, viewing the original graphs from the first Club of Rome report, we see how different our focus and scope can be. Some people look from here (this position and expertise), and others from there. (See Figure 4, repeated here from Part II with animation.)

Some look wide (overview) while others are focused on the specifics. As you can image the descriptions would vary from a worm's eye view (tunnel vision) to a fish or a frog (personal local perspective, seeing the world, which is directly around you, enlarged and close) and a bird (the overview). (Benking and Rose)

Figure 6: Panoramic Bridge View of a 3Space/Time Cognitive Panorama

Figure 6 is view of a 3Space/Time Cognitive Panorama showing humans as relay-points for information between subjects and objects and using their imagination and creativity to overlay, merge and modify/edit knowns and unknowns

Thus our perspective evolved and we discussed other cultural assumptions. Not as right or wrong, but by keeping everyone's background, position, focus, perspective and range in mind, tolerantly. In that way we overcame the boundary and right or wrong thinking of the grown-ups. We just developed: models of me, you, we and others as ways to overcome the omnipresent, prevailing ego-centrism of our western education.

We were able to connect the scopes and ranges not only between the different foci of the Club of Rome report, but also of the different terminological and geographic projections. This we did in what we called a cognitive panorama, a landscape of connected spaces, physical landscapes, and cognitive space-scapes as described above.

Also we used terminology spaces with different languages forming different levels in order to find something independent of the language used for coarse granularity knowledge orientation switching systems - not for precision and knowing exactly.

A House of Knowledge

We need wisdom to manage our knowledge maps, keep our house of knowledge in order, and maintain all our values. In generation dialogue we learn that wisdom is more situational and concise or learned by experience keeping the bigger or social picture in mind.

We can discuss in the above framework some of the basic questions and so experience is not hierarchically pushed but collectively co-created. Maybe you can see ethics as concrete and in context, an "ethics with time and space horizon" as the philosopher Hans Jonas urged us to consider extra categories and develop ex-centric positions. (Plessner)

A strange idea, but if we dare to leave the shores of conventional flat or abstract thinking we can move from dualistic and flat to a deep and embodied representation (synthetic and plastic models of augmented realities) and we know that we can train and keep our potential of having real imaginations.

If not - do not worry - we can build it together in virtual reality for adults or those who have lost their daring to be creative and inventive, and see it not as natural to share imagination and fantasies.

Profound Ignorance and In-Between

The outcome of creating such a knowledge-space is quite unsettling and makes people educated through nominal thinking feel very much at unease, as we map through what is known and what is unknown. Lewis Thomas was right in saying that we are "profoundly ignorant", that "we know very little and understand even less" so making this obvious is often not appreciated.

People feel fine with icons (images) and symbols, but when Peirce in his sign theory introduced something in-between what he called index they are somehow destabilized and frightened - not able to believe in the either - or world of words or metaphoric pictures.

Just for the exercise we want to test Peirce's index here by considering his third category a spacial map or model. This would create room for communication and sensations when linking and merging of realities and bridge the media breaks. This in-betweening is further explored in:

The test is not how much you know or if you have information at your fingertips (conduit metaphor of the Information Anxiety). The supreme test is whether you can get along in life, if you can cope and survive - not alone but as a whole as a community and humanity (Benking, Knowledge or Wisdom Society)!

Global Brain and Beyond

The Cyber-culture and Global Brain discussion has had major impacts onto our thinking and socialization. We can benefit much from knowbots and agents helping us find certain facts in volumes of noise, but we must be aware of what we are looking for and what it is about: what scale, context, culture and situation.

Because the biggest problems in knowledge organizations and life arise when we think we know but we don't and when we (as society) double our efforts when we are lost, not knowing where we are, want to go, with whom, and for how long.

We can embody and outline fields of knowledge the moment we agree on common frames of reference, as long we see them as one possible way or model, but not the only one. Also that we never mix "the map and the territory" (Bateson) but use it to develop and adjust the highly needed extra antennas to make us aware and able to talk about complex and dynamic issues (Bateson). In this way we can agree on a local coordinate system to bring our orientation and context knowledge into one that is easily memorized and in practical order.

What is needed is just to agree and see how it works. To see what the benefits are in overlaying and visualizing the common grounds between and before separate fields of knowledge, and by accepting also something out of the grid we are getting out of the boxes of our thinking. Just ask Watzlawik to help us understand that we need to construct our solutions by leaving the mold or fixed patterns of our thinking and behavior.

The End of This Journey and on to the Next

So if you are ready to fasten your seatbelts I invite you on a further spacial journey. Start by reading the essay Show or Schau? and following the links that will continue to be organized and updated for anyone interested in shared spaces for augmenting and sharing what we know and what we should explore.

Works Cited

Bateson, Gregory. Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York: Dutton, 1972.

Bateson, Gregory. Mind and Nature, a Necessary Unity. New York: Dutton, 1979.

Benking, Heiner. "Cyberculture versus Humane Information Society, A Humane Information Society or Information War? Reflections about Societies, Cultures, Human Potentials and Tools such as: Filters, Brokers, Agents, Knowbots, and Maps", Global Learn Day 1998, http://benking.de/information-society-1998.htm

Benking, Heiner. Knowledge or Wisdom Society (Wissen oder Zurechtfinden) [handout] See http://benking.de/zurechtfinden.htm or www.bildung2010.de/gutzuwissen

Benking, Heiner. "Knowledge Organization and Education in the Age of Digital Culture", Ptolemy Conference in co-operation with MEDICI, Premier forum des solutions pour développement des musées et expositiones - Journée Access Multimedia, Paris, Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, Novembre 17-19, 1998.

Benking, Heiner. "A Metaparadigm or Sharable Framework (Cognitive Panorama)" and "A Paradigm Shift? Orchestrating Representations Like Knowledge Trees and Knowledge Spaces" presented at Conference On A New Space For Culture And Society - New Ideas In Science And Art, Council Of Europe, Prague, November 19-23, 1996. http://benking.de/meta-paradigm.htm

Benking, Heiner. "A Panorama of Understanding: Parts 1 & 2" and other papers at presented at The Fortieth Annual Meeting Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences, Budapest, September 17-20, 1996. http://benking.de/ISSS-Primer-wholeness.html

Benking, Heiner. "Proposing a New World View - Our View-of-Life is too flat and Visual Access Strategies for Multi-Dimensional Objects and Issues", XIII World Conference of World Futures Studies Federation, Coherence And Chaos In Our Uncommon Futures, -Visions, Means, Actions, Turku, Finland, August 3-27, 1993. www.ceptualinstitute.com/genre/benking/edu/education.htm

Benking, Heiner. "Sharing and Changing Realities with Extra Degrees of Freedom of Movement", Computation for Metaphors, Analogy and Agents: An International Workshop, Aizu-Wakamatsu City, Japan, 6-10, 1998. Formerly available at: http://benking.de/ceptualinstitute/landscape.htm

Benking, Heiner. "Show or Schau? Invited Comment to Policy And Life Sciences Round-Table: "Is Humanity Destined to Self-Destruct?" by Lynton Keith Caldwell", Twentieth Annual Meeting of the Association for Politics and the Life Sciences, Washington D.C. August 31-September 3, 2000. www.benking.de/show-schau.htm

Benking, Heiner. "Worldview Compositions in Anschaulichen Cognitive Spaces - a Necessary Evolutionary Step", Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research, Altenberg Workshops, Emergenz Und Die Psychologie Des Menschen, Altenberg, Austria, January 30, 1997. http://benking.de/worldview-compositions.html

Benking, Heiner and Ulrich Kampffmeyer. "Bridges and a Masterplan for Islands of Data in a Labyrinth of Environmental and Economic Information", The Thirteenth International CODATA (Committee on Data for Science and Technology) Conference, Beijing, China, 19-22 October 1992. www.benking.de/bridge-masterplan.html

Benking, Heiner and James N. Rose. "A House Of Horizons And Perspectives: A Cognitive Deep Open Space for Positioning, Comparing, Merging and Morphing Our Metaphors, Models, Maps and Views". Proceedings of the Forty-Second Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences. Atlanta,GA, July 19-24, 1998. www.ceptualinstitute.com/uiu_plus/isss98/house-of-eyes.htm

Berry, Thomas. "Ethics and Ecology": a paper delivered to the Harvard Seminar on Environmental Values. Harvard University, April 9, 1996. Full-text at www.ecoethics.net/ops/eth&ecol.htm

Botkin, James W., Mahdi Elmandjra and Mircea Malitza. No Limits to Learning: Bridging the Human Gap (A Report to the Club of Rome). New York: Pergamon Press, 1979.

Dahlberg, Ingetraut. "Knowledge Organization and Terminology: Philosophical and Linguistic Bases", International Classification, Vol.19, No. 2, 1992, p. 65-71.

Dahlberg, Ingetraut. "Classification structure Principles: Investigations, Experiences, Conclusions", Fifth International Society for Knowledge Organization Conference, Lille, France, August 25-29, 1998.

Earth Summit in Rio, 1992 see www.benking.de/Global-Change/global-integral-agenda.html

Frost, Robert. The Road Not Taken.

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace Books, 1994.

Global Change Conference, Moscow, 1988 and beyond, see www.benking.de/Global-Change/global-integral-agenda.html

Jonas, Hans. Das Prinzip Verantwortung (Principle Responsibility). Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1979. See also Symposium in memoriam Hans Jonas http://benking.de/jonas-1993.html

Judge, Anthony. Strategic Correspondences: Computer-Aided Insight Scaffolding, Union of International Associations, 1996. www.uia.org/uiadocs/corresp.htm

Judge, Anthony. Globalization Of Knowledge And Insight: Envisaging A Paradigm-Shifting Software Package. Union of International Associations, 1995. www.uia.org/uiadocs/globknow.htm

Kant, Immanuel (1724-1804). Kant's Latin Writings, Translations, Commentaries, and Notes, trans. Lewis White Beck in collaboration with Mary Gregor, Ralf Meerbote, John Reuscher. New York: Peter Lang, 1986.

Lévy, Pierre. The Second Flood - A Report on Cyberculture, Culture Committee (CC-CULT), Council of Europe, October, 1996.

Meadows, Donella H. et al. The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind. New York: Universe Books, 1972. See also viewgraph from Figure 1 of this book at http://benking.de/kli/kli-cor-grid-s.html

Peirce, Charles Sanders. Collected papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. Cambrdige, MA: Harvard University Press, 1958.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. Semantische Schriften. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1990.

Plessner, Helmuth. Gesammelte Schriften III: Anthropologie der Sinne. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1980.

Popper, Karl. Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972. (See Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for a list of Popper's other works http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/popper/)

Richardson, Jacques, George Marx and Esther Tóth. Models of Reality - Shaping Thoughts and Action (in particular chapter "Models in Science Education"). UNESCO: Lomond Books, 1984.

Rückert, Friedrich. Wisdom of the Brahmins. Translation thanks to Claudia Robinson.

Wiener, Norbert. Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 1948, 1961.

Santanya, George (1863-1952). Selected Critical Writings by George Santanya, edited by Norman Henfrey. London: Cambridge University Press, 1968.

Thomas, Lewis. "Hazards of science", The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher. New York: Viking; 1979, p. 73.

Watzlawick, Paul. Die Unsicherheit unserer Wirklichkeit : ein Gespräch über den Konstruktivismus. München: Piper, 1981.

Heiner Benking
Heiner Benking is part of the Millennium Project of the American Council for the United Nations University (AC/UNU) and worked with ExperConsult and technology think- tanks like the Research Institute for Applied Knowledge Processing (FAW) in Ulm, Germany and The Club of Budapest. He is a technician, engineer, planner, consultant, communicator and facilitator with an academic background in engineering, planning and other studies ranging from geophysics to philosophy and including regional and global modeling geo-ecology and geomorphology, and computer graphics programming. Benking has served as a consultant and facilitator, writer, curator, and organizer.

He began using maps and models 1970s as a surveyor and geophysicist in exploration and planning on a regional and national level. In the 1980s he explored the realms of mapping and modelling further by using drafting, visualization and management software. Benking participated in several global change related gatherings, exhibitions, and conferences from 1988-1995, in particular the 1990 Global Change exhibition where he helped design posters and exhibits.

In the past ten years Benking has focussed on education and policy-making. This has led to new forms of conferencing, dialogue and projects in knowledge organization, multi-lingual repositories, metaphors as interface projects, and culture navigation - defining reference rooms for library and museum information concepts. His activity areas range from Future studies to questions related to culture, cyberculture, creativity and cognition.

For more information on Heiner Benking, visit his website at http://www.benking.de/