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"new & old trends"
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a report from Asilomar 1997 and Ljubljana dialogues 1998
by    Heiner Benking

Embodying Situations & Issues,
Sharing Contexts, and Encouraging Dialogue

How can people go beyond the "Battle of Perspectives", to see where other persons are, physically and conceptually,
to find a way to reach them, co-create and encourage Voice in self-organizing Dialogue?

Many models many views  Invite, share, listen, co-create 
See who sees and reflect upon it     Global seeing & feeling

Illustrations: Tim Casswell
New Places for Spaces

Mothers in all cultures encourage their children to make words solid and to use verbs to bring them to Life. The reason? We need to share meaning in order to gain understanding and to cope better. This is done by sharing, translating, and transforming meaning, by using stories, metaphors, and analogies and so allow others to follow from the real to the abstract. And that is what this trend-letter is about, a way to bridge the real with all these new artificial "tele" and "virtual" worlds so that we can not only live in and with them, but return to the virtue of listening thereby allowing us to imagine more clearly what others see and feel.

Fact is, not only do we share one "skin" (as some Indian tribes say) we are fining that that we have an increasing number of skies above us and we are not sure just who is seeing which clouds. A confusion and sense of having lost ground and bearing has set in which led to a number of very dangerous metaphors such as: THE END OF GEOGRAPHY (Bates), THE END OF HISTORY (Webb), THE END OF DISTANCE (Gasman ), THE SECOND FLOOD (Ascott, Lévy) or THE THIRD BOMB (Einstein). But the opposite is true, as such confusion is illusion, we have not arrived at the end of anything, nor can we see what is final, but rather are beginning to envision a new and open sky - we just may not have come to grips with yet. Instead of believing that after CULTURE there will be CYBERCULTURE, we have to make sure that the new is inclusive and additional, and is connected to our living world.

It is typical that these trends of separation of the new individual and collective virtual worlds from the real world started with fiction. The science-fiction writer William Gibson "created" an extensive "electronic space", one without boundaries on context or content, ... an open ended universality, a chaos / Babylon. This is in line with the contextless subjectivism, meaningless and endless "lost in space" syndrom of post-structuralism. It is a nightmare for understanding and coping, for us, but more so, for our children. When thinkers like Pierre Lévy "postulate" or at least accept "as-given" that such a "Modern or Second Flood" Culture is unavoidable and irreversible, then it seems we viewing a really bad film. It is "not-given" in the sense of Schwarzkopf, we are cause and create such "doomsday" scenarios, we should not only change seats, but the script.

Leverage Points and Spaces

The necessary change in perception and attitude could happen by building a 'new' culture on the old one, the new media do not substitute the old one’s (McLuhan), nor can new possibilities substitute the old needs for living, sharing, and creating. But the result would still create a new 'composite' culture. This happens when we harken back to the original meaning of the word "kybernetes": a steering space - or, in a positive sense, an order or control space in the sense of Norbert Wiener. He had systems in mind in how to cope with problems; something which can help us, give direction and temper our fear so that we can cease being shocked into isolation and cocooning, and venture out under these new, open, and sheltering skies.

The trick – see above – would be to understand 'space' in its essence: as reality and potentiality. Just as Poincaré did for mathematics with imaginary axes/dimensions to make it more visible (anschaulich), why don’t we design in the same way a sharable action-, communication-, orientation-, or situation space/room?

These spaces need to be considered "real" and "synthetic", extensive spaces which can be embodied, made solid, augmented, and blended. They are immersive and collectively explorable environments (analoge to the "new" CVE’s –collective virtual environments- which are connected to the real world in order to allow orientation and a flow of meaning. The design to which we are referring was done in 1990, using a combination of spaces which help us blend and collectively enter into abstract subjects; just the same way as we are used to in physical object space, thereby bridging presentations, representation, and annotation.

   Blackbox Nature and the Cognitive Panorama
   More has been written elsewhere about transcending boxes of
   thinking, the fidelity and merging and morphing of models and
   metaphors, or "jumping" over the fences of the "res extensa".
   Given the above as 'second step', something must precede it:

   · encourage attention, co-creation & exchange,
   · promote participatory ways to share meaning via the art of
     conversation and dialogue: the "Art of the Arts".

Shared Conversations and embodied flows of Meaning and Assumptions

This was tried for example at the autumn 1997 ISI-Asilomar Conversations meeting, where we questioned how to build community while considering the fundamental building blocks -- by using good sound exchange and understanding. What happened there, and at the recent 'David Bohm Dialogues' in Ljubljana was based on the work of Anthony J. N. Judge, Brussels, and Heiner Benking, Ulm. It is a form of "Giving Ear and Voice" -- cultivating listening and empowerment by giving freely floating time credits. A "step towards civilized dialogue" as it was called. It is applied in new forms of conferences and roundtables, inter-faith dialogues and peace-making efforts.

Such a self-organizing form of dialogue, which is transparently visible, evolves and makes obvious who and how people manage or steal time (from others) for vested interests and hidden agendas, or only for ego-cultivation -without eyes and ears for others. – the typical "talkers" as David Bohm called them. All these "styles", strategies and tactics, become more obvious at real and "shadowy" round-tables.

Heiner Benking, Ulm
Consultant, Globalist & In-Betweener

Wisdom, imagination, order, and virtue get lost ...
when messages double, information halves, knowledge quarters, ...
and there is no way and direction to go in the sky



Conceptual Superstructure - Cognitive Panorama


My Favorite Poetry:

Whoever imagines mental barriers
which 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, Wisdom of Brahmins


Integrity / Ceptual Institute Homepage |

Newsletter     Volume 17  No. 3 / 4

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