Genre - H Benking  US Website 

Appeared in PATTERNS – Newsletter and ISI-Conversations – A report of the social system design meeting in ASILOMAR 1997 (this is the original and long version by Janet Eaton)

SHARING VOICES/ SHARING SPACES -[To Know, Connect, Transcend]

by Janet M. Eaton, Canadian co-ordinator of the ASCD STCT Network, ISI Research Fellow and Asilomar Conversation Community. 

Heiner Benking , Creative Member of the Club of Budapest, co-editor of the ISSS Wholeness Seminar, and Associate of the FAW Research Centre for Applied Knowledge Processing in Ulm , Germany parachuted into this years Asilomar conversation with a whirlwind of words and wisdom of world wide significance about "hamonization" developments he has been involved in which seek to move us towards a global sustainable peaceful culture.

His two presentations, which he conceptualized as "Sharing Spaces/Sharing Voices" subtitled "To Know , Connect, Transcend" included 1) his model Cognitive Panorama, which he also refers to as a Metaparadigm, Sharable Framework, a new space for culture and society, and a mental architecture and 2) the concept of the "magic round table". which offers a way of "sharing voices".

He prefaced his presentations by sharing with us the chronological and conceptual basis of his own vocational background and training and his multidimensional career which assisted the listener in grasping why and how he came to his immediate tasks of finding ways for "Sharing Spaces and Sharing Voices". In particular he felt that his training as a map-maker, engineer, planner and builder and related experiences in the world of work from town and state planner, marketing and market research consultant and being on the forefront of developing and marketing computer graphics and visualization tools provided the platform for presenting visual models of conceptual frames and spaces for sharing cognitive representation. His meeting along the way with well know futurists, holistic, systemic and evolutionary thinkers who have assisted him greatly, his presence at some key conferences where the need for harmonization was being recognized also played a crucial role in his arriving present focus on Sharing Voices, and Spaces.

For one who has worked at designing conceptual frameworks for use at an organizational or community level in order to appreciate world views and coming from a back ground in education, social policy and social system design, it was of great interest to learn of so many parallel developments emerging in the graphic arts, engineering, knowledge management and organization, futures, computer technologies which are grappling with the need of finding methods, and models for what we would call in idealized social system design- "group transcendence" which at a global level recognizes the larger scale problems of different languages, and more perspectives and world views which must be harmonized. It was also illuminating to hear of so many developments of global significance happening in Europe - initiatives that we do not hear always hear about in the United States and Canada.

I noted with interest the following developments that Heiner spoke of which had been directly involved in or which had influenced the direction of his work:

i) the Nov 1996 Conference at Prague Castle on "A New Space for Culture and Society. Participants included Ralph Abraham, Ilya Prigogine, Ervin Laszlo and Heiner on A Paradigm Shift: Orchestrating ...Knowledge Spaces.

ii) the 1997 Amsterdam Designing Interactive Systems [DIS] Conference of which he mentioned in particular the importance of Issue -based Information Systems (IBIS) which offer not only a 'system of procedural steps of planning and design but also a method for cooperative problem solving in the field of planning and design. Heiner presented his application of Hyper-IBIS for the UN population conference in Cairo as an example of how entries of the Encyclopaedia of World Problems and Human Potential (UIA Brussels Anthony Judge) can be synoptically displayed and ever user can follow up vicious problem cycles and the checks and balances connected with any issue.

iii) Club of Budapest Conference December 6th 1997 at UNESCO, Paris - From Planet to the Individual featuring Ervin Laszlo speaking on the State of the World Today, Heiner speaking about ‘Culture and Cyberculture and many other earlier initiatives.

iv) the Union of International Associations directed by Dr. Anthony Judge , prolific writer of numerous papers on the UIA website such as "Reflections on Organization of Transdisciplinary Conferences, "Sustaining the Coherence of Dialogue through Apartness" and "Devising a Paradigm -Shifting Device. In addition the UIA puts out a Yearbook of International Organizations, is developing multilingual reference books on CD ROM, and has produced a multilingual 100,000 word Thesaurus. Anthony Judge also edits for the UIA the " Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential" which examines world problems, and innovative strategies. []

v) The Rio Earth Summit and Dr. Noel Brown's [Dir. of UNEP-RONA ] review of Earth Summit and Agenda 21 which challenged the scientific community to establish "common frames of reference." Heiner went on to present a Key-note speech on behalf of Dr. Brown in Melbourne entitled "Proposing a Conceptual Superstructure - A Work Report and a Vision to explore issue-scapes as virtual landscapes by making use of surveyors abilities and views.

vi) the culminating work of one Mrs. Dahlberg, who has developed a deep-structured matrix approach to knowledge management. This approach to order subjects and phenomena as a switching system for multi-lingual library applications is also the basis of Anthony Judges Functional Classification. Both are backbone and consonant to Heiner’s context and semantic spaces for construing meaning, which he called in 1990 Magic Cube or Black Box Nature, which he also called Rubik’s Cube of Ecology.

Mrs. Dahlberg is founding president of the International Society for Knowledge Organziation ISKO and her model holds hope for a future where knowledge is organized and managed with a deep integral structural framework which transcends the more simplistic systems currently in vogue.

Heiner's model - which emerges from his life world journey, his "Cognitive Panorama" uses three reference frames related to subject , object and context with the spaces in between representing the unknown, the many questions still unanswered. This scaffolding or platform allows one to step outside one's usual thought process into a meta-cognitive space providing a top down perspective. He notes how his model matches many other perspectives including Popper's three universes of discours, ecological frameworks, etc. and its co-existence, compatibility and coherence with approaches, concepts, and metaphors of other well-known thinkers from various fields and perspectives. The model was developed working with children to ensure its relevance.

And what of its relevance to education?

Heiner notes " The fundamental barrier to integrated research and management, as well as to education , are over-specialization, territorial thinking, and sectarianism i.e. concepts diametrically opposed to concepts relying on transdisciplinary linkages and inter-relationships. Consequently it is critical to knowledge models (such as Heiner’s Cognitive Panorama) that we begin to focus on linkage of scapes. The environment is an area in which this approach is critical, as are related subjects such as education, policy and management, law and ethics.

Heiner's other presentation focused on "Sharing Voices". With the Academy for Co-operation and Security (ASCE), the (former) "think-tank" of the CSCE, they brought together different parties and voices from which emerged the "magic round table" for allowing disempowered voices to be heard and for sharing time amongst participants. A central feature of the "magic round table " was the use of "time credits" which he urged could be anything -(he brought in short sticks collected outside) We played out the scenario with five participants at the round table and the rest of our group involved as watchers who were able to direct the conversation by giving their time credits to those whom they felt should be heard . In Heiner's case it was found to be very useful in international meetings where there had been a tendency for certain people to dominate and control the agenda and discussion. The basic intention he said was to develop more tolerance, caring about others whether participants speak up or not! Such a time and compassion sharing, giving voices and learning again to listen is even more basic then going into abstract realms and trying to understand where we are, and which proportions and consequences are connected with how we think and what we do.           For more see:

In our case at Asilomar there was mixed reaction - some felt it could be useful, others felt the same thing could be facilitated in related ways which they would prefer.

A final reaction to Heiner - He notes on his website that some friends called him a go-getter, facilitator, catalyst, in-betweener, community-designer, bridge-builder, ... and that better friends even called him even a nomad, free-wheeler and hasardeur (risk-taker) - All of these and more!

Listening to Heiner's free flowing thought is somewhat like walking on shifting sand - where the scape is constantly changing but always touching some part of your plantar surface (sole) from whence you regain your balance after each step through the interspace ultimately feeling that the truth is just below the surface.

Heiner's publications and work can be found on the following websites:  
      and Club of Budapest Homepage

His e-mail is

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