Genre - H Benking  US Website 

    TKE '96 Terminology and Knowledge Engineering

INDEKS Verlag,  p. 35-47
Vienna  26-28 August 1996

Section 1: Terminology and Philosophy of Science


Heiner Benking, FAW Ulm - Research Institute for Applied Knowledge Processing, Germany
Based on the need for overview and the „whole picture" a conceptual space-scape or conceptual superstructure is proposed for universal ordering systems, to organise, explore and manipulate synthetic locations or areas/ domains analogue to physical mod-els. Beside the assimilation potential of visual access, some focus is laid on cognitive models, how to carry meaning and use metaphors in a repeatable and shared way.

In contrast to specialised terminology’s clarifying the context and usage by spe-cialised vocabulary, leading to an explosion of terms, in particular in multi-lingual and multi-cultural environments, the presented embryonic proposal proposes to model the context with high plasticity. By providing an image schema, map or scaffolding, context can be shared and „revisited", that means conventional for our thinking and how mean-ing is formed. This layout is a platform independent from jargon or specific national languages and can help as well to identify repositories for automated translation, ease training and media integration (BENKING 1996e).

By embodying thinking, by making hidden dimensions visible, pointing at relations and proportions, by griping and grasping, we can make real and abstract „realities" appreciable and tangible. Presented is a grid or scaffolding to form a common frame of reference, to identify and locate context. Ways are proposed to bridge cultural and con-ceptual barriers and finding understanding by comparison, integration, and morphing of views and metaphors, inviting and triggering mental mobility and sharing viewpoints. One central concern is how to deal with and exchange tacit knowledge, as we often have an idea in our minds’ eye and know intuitively on first inspection, but do not know how to share it. Looking with different eyes might help.

image schema, metaphors, world views, tacit knowledge, universal ordering, scaffold-ing, multi-lingual, multi-cultural, mind’s eye, mental models, representation, frames of reference

The work and proposals presented here were developed over the last seven years in projects to develop multi-lingual meta-databases for international harmonisation projects [2]  and in exhibitions [3] to exemplify and communicate challenges to science and public policy. This work on harmonisation and understanding was put forward to the international community in a key-note delivered on behalf of the Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reviewing the Objectives and Challenges after the Earth Summit in Rio, in particular the mandate [4] of the AGENDA 21. 

Beside the mandate to harmonise lies not primarily the necessity to reduce spend-ing and cut double work, but also to avoid the sectoral data-traps through transcendation (CROZE 1983), and maybe, as the hidden most critical dimension, to form common platforms of understanding.

The goal is not only to find appropriate terms, words, and theories and possibly common understanding, but also to share that understanding, develop a common con-sciousness, and act jointly on what we know.  This paper is forward for discussion to professionals focusing on the exchange of meaning between fields and languages. Related proposals have been presented to vari-ous groups and fields, ranging from governance to ethics, organisation, and education. In general, the more people were convinced they knew, and that a word could be understood only by using their specific definition, the less they were free to ask for the frameworks and circumstances of the statements, and the more they were willing to fight for their definition and their claim.
Accustomed to question statements and trying to get the meaning out of the con-text and situation, children, are in an „exploration mode". They appreciate grids and anchor points for the presented mental landscape. They orient easily through simple and basic questioning statements, positioning, relating, embodying, and applying meaning. They were keen on seeing „with new eyes" and playing in scaffoldings of meaning. Children shared observations and objections and dialogued extensively on the pros and cons.

In contrast, adults operate in a „protection and trading mode". They see benefit in transferring information along scales while protecting, presenting, and applying their knowledge to other domains and realms. An alternative „mode" of adults is to explore new „lands" through creative processes and following the „grid" to make inventions, not intuitively but in controlled and rationalised form. We adults do not question wholeness and interconnectedness any more and do not dare to ask for overview or orientation. This paper presents in embry- onic form a scaffolding for universal ordering of what we can see or know if we take on the macro-perspective, new glasses in the sense of (POPPER 1972) and his definition of „objective knowledge".  The design put forward is modular and coarse and allows to fill data and meaning upon demand. It tackles issues like: complexity, visibility, quality and quantity as applied to data, information, and knowledge. By embodying situations and metaphors displayed in a common image schema, the context becomes obvious and a communica-tion about patterns, structures, and relations is possible.

Communication is based on „abstract" concepts about objects such as (real/material objects, abstract objects/artefacts and issues. The paper argues that the transfer of concepts across foreign language, culture, community and subject fields bar-riers can be supported by defining roughly the frame or context,  the subject or topic dealt with. As different specialisations and cultures develop different mental models, it is advisable to attach a scene, context and possibly metaphors for better („to the point or issue") understanding. As this makes sense for human interaction, it makes even more sense for automatic translation, defining the theme, level and scope to outline and link the appropriate thematic areas and appropriate dictionaries and repositories.

The paper puts forward for discussion a scaffolding or framework we could call a universal [top-down bird’s eye] or wide-angle world-view which helps to map themati-cally locations in a „composite" landscape or space-scape. We call this configuration a Panorama because it is essential to maintain the overview, seeing the whole and the general layout and avoid getting lost in sectorial data-traps. The Pano-rama combines nested conceptual and real references stemming from the real world (space) or landscape, a context or themescape and a wordscape, (based on levels of harmonically structured universal coding and classification systems - based on the ICC (c) layout) (DAHLBERG 1982-1996). Exploring artificial realms, nowadays called virtual realities, makes sense for orientation and clarification of context and backgrounds. It can guide discourse, down to scales, proportions, relations, horizons, con-sequences, and thematical dimensions.

This proposal evolved in the field of design for multi-lingual multi-cultural infor-mation reposi-tories, and dealt with comparability and compatibility issues around stan-dardisation and harmonisation of termi-nology. Advanced visual access and assimilation strate-gies (BENKING/JUDGE 1994) can bring concepts onto „common grounds", thereby increasing understanding. Emphasis is laid on metaphors, how they bridge and explain, and how they could be mapped to secure the identification of ideas and concepts behind the words and oddities of daily language. One further underlying issue is „thinking in patterns" and/or lateral or diagonal thinking:

To design such a field of thinking operation we have proposed a „T" to visualise the different aspects of helping to find order and substantiate action (Harmonisation [5] - (transdisciplinary) - is the horizontal and Standardisation [6] - (sectoral) the vertical bar of the „T") (EEES 1986/87) (KEUNE et al 1991). The broader use of the „T" concept - for terminology (BUDIN 1996) or to „plot" comprehensive qualification profiles (MACHOL 1964; ROPOHL 1984, DÜRR 1987) - might help us accept lateral or diago-nal thinking (BENKING 1994) as a basic transdisciplinary quality and capability. The „T" can also symbolise the connecting, harmonic or vertical thread in the mesh of the knowable, which can help produce a „fabric" of „what we know and do not know" (BENKING 1996a).

This design, bridging real and synthetic realms, might be able to trigger ideas and to structure concepts in a creative and meaningful way. This composite of space-scapes has been called a Conceptual Superstructure (BENKING, JUDGE, UHLIR 1993) or in different areas of application „Spaces of Meaning" or „Situation Spaces" (BENKING 1996b,c).

The paper analyses the increase in terminology in specific domains and cultures. By making use of visualisation and new data organisation schemes or scaffoldings - ways are presented to reduces redundancies, ease retrieval to even fuzzy and discon-nected and non-linear subjects,  and help filtering different generations or lineage’s of source or origin. Of much concern is in this regard (JAENECKE 1994).   The objective is to better orient by providing a layout we can use for a general index and to discuss new approaches and technologies for ordering and accessing heterogene-ous data and knowledge. Diverse „universal" ordering systems exist for retrieval, but none can bridge repositories established in different contexts, cultures, and languages.

The proposed embryonic and unorthodox design consists of the following elements:

  • an artificial macroscopic view or overview. This overview encompasses any kind of date about objects, subjects, and their context,
  • designs a scaffolding bridging real and abstract domains,
  • makes use of the assimilation potential of visual access,
  • spacial or object/room metaphors to follow the way of conceptualisation and the way thinking goes from real to abstract situations or „imaginations/constructions",
  • panoptic integration of positions, aspects, and facets.

Different cultures and domains have different mental models and experience con-nected to them. Much can be achieved if we can agree on a common layout or map and have the tolerance to see the best in bridging mechanistic, organistic, and systemic world-views for the sake of functionality and simplicity.   The presentation explores ways to „embody" knowledge, to make it possible to outline its context and realm and grasp and feel it as issues become embodied, have a neighbourhood, and we can grasp and feel them, even if they are only jointly imagined in a synthetic space [7] . Such a conceptualisation and visualisation beyond narrow defini-tions of terms and fields. The idea is to find new ways to compose new concepts. The author invites discussion about how to use old and new ways of structuring information in combination with new potentials of displaying and retrieving data and knowledge.

Conceptual meeting-points and metaphors within a Conceptual Superstructure
Meaning is not in words alone. We only come to meaning and understanding through the association of context. So what is carrying the meaning? Largely Metaphors in image schemas, schematic spatial relations. Such thinking in image schemas can be more easy if we map and describe the context in a common layout - as we call the con-ceptual Panorama of „what we know and miss" (BENKING 1996a).

Our „architecture of thinking spaces" (BENKING 1996d) or spaces of meaning  provide a common framework to allow transfer, cross-domain mapping of real and abstract bodies, their features and relations. Such a transfer links concepts, typically taking experience out of our daily environment into synthetic new structures and rela-tions. But this experience is bodily, it has to do with how we perceive and feel objects in their context, and how we transfer conceptually and figuratively. The ways to structure semantic space, as thinking is based on metaphors, is of critical importance to the design below. General form concepts help to structure in a meaningful way and find the com-mon basis or similarity, whatever the scale or the domain.

The design described below frees us from thinking within limited slots or pigeon holes. It invites to go beyond our established language and concepts, facilitating new combinations, and transformations. To invoke an architectural metaphor: we try to think how the Japanese built and live in their homes - no fixed walls, flexible and modular open spaces and interior (BENKING 1996d). Our challenge is to combine space and place, interior and exterior design, to use metaphors in our reasoning about conceptual or synthetic objects, to attach and see positions, levels, neighbourhoods, contexts. Thus generating new views, perspectives, insights and combination!
The design is a combination of three layouts or spaces in form of nested modular scaffoldings we call space-scapes, a deep structured hierarchical order. As a global index or bird’s eye beyond words. It scans positions, general structure, relationships, and form concepts.  Of course no single model can suffice to organise our knowledge. Nevertheless the Panorama’s three-fold design (3Space/Time see Fig. 2) matches many aspects, links to other ways of representation, and can be recast in their terms, so that we can translate fairly easily from one to the other. For example:

  • Karl Popper proposes three universes of discourse, the world of objects, the world of subjective experience and the world of meanings
  • Pauli and Jung explore the transcendental connections between the inner and the outer worlds, the bridges between subjective and objective.



Fig. 1:  Concept and Context mapping. Access to factual, thematic and semantic spaces, places and their specific „extended" location. Needed are co-ordinates for real and abstract realms, to bridge or provide locations for cross-domain mapping (metaphors). By providing a background, lineage and context for concepts and have proper co-ordinates we can see how image schemas work and how reality is „abstracted" and transferred to other realms of mean-ing, modular scaffoldings as laid out in Fig. 2.

Fig. 2:    3xSpace/Time links objects and subjects in open spaces. Please understand subjects in this context as disciplines or fields of expertise  - The objective is to transcend  and transform by thinking within, between and beyond, not inside „boxes", fields, „territories" or domains.
Each of the three domains of the Panorama design is a depiction in three-dimen-sional space. Each has three axes which can be correlated and translated into other versions. Different world-views may be mapped and compared; we can also navigate amongst them. Similarities and differences emerge and attention can be focused on gaps and unknowns.

The subject-box enables us to map how we are looking at the objects in the object-box. The context-box enables us to map the metaphors of understanding (the kind of reality in which this is taking place). Cognitive images provide means of trans-port between the different elements of the display, representing movements of thought. By having such an extended space-representation of our concepts, it is possible to discover dynamic and integrative patterns of thinking. The Panorama design uncouples rigid approaches which can weigh down our thinking and ordering. It invites fuzzy and not-connected areas and boundaries between bodies of objects, themes and issues.
The centrepiece of the proposed Panorama of Knowledge and meta-knowledge is called „Blackbox Nature" and can be understood as a mirror or translator between objects and subjects (see Jung/Pauli above).  The proposed architectonic of open real or abstract spaces links entities (real and abstract objects) and concepts into a common context or layout. Scape is a term we use to indicate deep structured spaces (BENKING/BRAUER 1994b).

The test on how different models and explanations can be used, transferred and „morphed" must be: co-existence, compatibility, correspondance, and coherence with other and alternative approaches or concepts focusing on different aspects and applications. Lot of work has been invested into metaphors and spacial metaphors and how languages are based on metaphoric principles and content. The issue is critical as new developments in computer interfaces and monitors go into the direction of 3-dimensional entry and manipulation platforms. What this means to communication and understanding is widely underestimated but we see that monopolisation goes on as rigid frames with pigeonholes are introduced, proprietary warehouses and kiosks of data and knowledge.   Mobility in a physical and mental/cognitive sense, using also vehicles like images and metaphors, allows to transcend situations and carry meaning between conceptual and mental models by culti-vating the mind’s eye, allowing it to see a bigger picture.

Thinking Architectonics - building conceptual scapes or SPACES OF MEANING
The vision and the mission is to integrate what we know and focus on what we do not know in one frame-work or picture. As this frame-work needs to be deeply structured within a higher order, (similar to implicate orders), we propose the following set of three connected nested scaffoldings (3Space/Time) which form one conceptual superstructure and leave time as a dimension ruling all master reference schemes. The following three modules are designed to allow integral thinking and coalescence of different aspects, facets, and views:
The land-scape
This space is basic to human experi-ence and understand-ing. Now we add instru-ments panning and zoom-ing. Using telescopic approaches to „scapes" (deep struc-tured spaces) the horizon can be enlarged. We envisage a continuous picture with high variety seen from a high „stand" or outlook.
As optics and ethics are etymologically linked, we can see and evaluate approaches from varying distance in any environment as a way to clarify and make transparent structures and relations. (The resulting understanding and transparency through means like lenses, the character-isrica universalis by Leibniz, or computing in modern times was always exciting and con-sidered mystic as long as people could not see and follow what was going on).

The central „context or situation box" as a theme-, context-, or issue- scape
The definition and concept of Ecology is to visually and conceptually integrate and interact along and across hierarchical scales (like the subjects axis, and magnitude and time scales), to present proportions and conse-quences and allow communication about the interconnectedness of Nature (see: Blackbox or Rubik’s Cube, Fig. 3 an exhibit in the „GLOBAL CHANGE" exhibition). The Cube combines high resolution art work and scientific visualisations to show selected win-dows or crystal frames „into" the precious scale-transcending „precocious germ". With many windows left blank or black we real-ise our limited understand-ing. Our only intui-tive approach to beauty and harmony result-ing hopefully to decency and cautioning critical action.
As Ecology is defined as the interaction along and across hierarchical scales, and (CASTRI, di/HADLEY 1985-88) with the dimension: subjects, disciplines, and time scales (see the top cubes), it was indicated to actually built and display the action realm of Ecology for the Federal Chancellery GLOBAL CHANGE exhibition in 1990. This physical model is called Blackbox Nature displaying the dynamics, complexity and interconnectedness. High resolution scientific graphics or aesthetic arts, and „black holes" for areas „we do not know" provided an attractive, aesthetic way to introduce to the public, academy and decision makers complex questions. It graphically pres-ents our need to see the whole picture. But we can conceptualise wholeness and interconnectedness and see the general picture and design.

Fig.3:  Four views of a conceptual crystal cell framework designed to search for patterns and to go beyond thinking in positions, slots, or pigeon holes only.

The subject axis of the Cube in the lower left is based on the Ekistic (c) grid, as conceived by DOXIADES (1968) for planning sciences. Ekistic is derived from term „oikos". We can search not only for words, but for „areas" of data in a fast and efficient way, possibly supported by new ways of presentation and access management . Maybe we can see faster than we can think.

Visual access, in particular in a crystal cell framework, is a fast and secure way to overcome barriers between coded- and non-coded data, look „through" positions, and maybe train spacial conceptions. The above crystal-cell framework helps to see issues, may they be physical or imaginary. It allows to communicate and conceptualize scales, relation, and proportions by exploring and outlining situations and issues like regiones..
The word-scape or term- /theme-scape (semantic space)
The semantic space was first very vaguely defined. It was originally based on the rough categories: in-animate, animate nature, culture, and the system of Ekistics (c) see also (DOXIADES 1968 - Fig. 3) which was developed for the art of planning and had a strong retrieval component.
After research into universal thesauri and classification and coding systems, one system was identified in the field of library reference systems that matched the original internal structure and was applicable to the favoured spacial storage and retrieval. This scheme or global index is called the Information Coding and Classification System (ICC (c)) (DAHLBERG 1980-96) . The matrix of global subjects and general form concepts, and a depth dimension (specific facets or categories) is a semantic explora-tory navigation space, which allows storage without redundancies as well as access and permuta-tions within underlying structures and patterns, and provides clues to the logical processes governing conceptual structuring (MASSIMILIANO/NEGRINI 1994). For „Functional Classification" as partially based on the ICC, see in particular (JUDGE 1973, UIA/JUDGE 1905-96) and on the „hot" debate on data overload and confusion due the inflation of terms in specific domains, for example in the social sciences, see (Dahlberg 1996).
Many schools in the field of classification and retrieval sciences insist on „open design" and open layouts. They refuse any kind of outline or boundary and use the model of living, growing systems. They want to extend at the edges of lattices and use this concept of extendible frameworks for external or quantitative grows of the reference scheme. This design favours for universal systems internal extensions equivalent to qualitative and quantitative growth. Grids or scaffoldings help to find locations and places, but they should be seen as geographic co-ordinates, abstract and immaterial, arbitrary but very useful, available everywhere, providing reference if needed.



 General Form Concepts 





Form & Structure Area

Theories, Principles 


Energy and Matter Area

Objects, Components


Cosmo & Geo Area

Activity, Process


Bio Area 

Property, Attribute


Human Area 

Persons or Contd 


 Socio Area 

Institution or Contd





Science& Information A.



Culture Area

Distribution & Synthesis


Fig. 4: A simple, complete and highly controversial „universal" classification system, the ICC (c). It is of no relevance if some fields are left empty or aspects are possibly misinterpreted by other domains. Critical is only the necessary broad agreement on the general layout. With visual overlays and logical spacial retrieval techniques, subjects and themes could be outlined in a spatial and spacial sense  and combined to form new or identify similar topics or issues.

Fig. 5: A top-down index linking physical, thematic and semantic spaces - in-scape, reference-scape and out-scape - (3xSpace/Time). This reference and representation paradigm is a „high stand" or bird’s eye, an OPEN SPACE and map of what we „know and do not know". The guiding idea is to avoid getting lost in details, instead seeing and exploring conceptual realms.

Universal ordering proposals in library sciences or information retrieval face a lot of opposition because all systems are implemented in specific frameworks and under certain specific aspects and requirements. Most systems in place are historic and based on hierarchical knowledge tree or root structures. In times of individuality and subjectivism „objective" knowledge and wholeness are „out" and fights for details and definitions are „in", „Views of the Trees, not the Woods" and sectarianism prospers.

As there is a high necessity and immediacy spelled out clearly by politicians and children „to look for the whole picture" and „common frames of reference" the author risks exceeding his expertise and experience. He applies his professional approaches after mapping and managing earth resources to conceptual spheres. After the invention of the „perspective" in the medieval ages, it seems possible and necessary to dare the next step,  using space and perspectives for synthetic and aperspective realms as well. Time will show if it makes sense to use our experience of permutations and transforma-tions also to „embodying" visions.

As children we explore senso-motorically our direct environment (see PIAGET, J.. INHELDER, B.: 1993). Later, as grown-ups, we explore our village and other countries. Next is the venture into into abstract and conceptual realms, trying to understand and learn how to live, with minimum impact, in harmony, as part of Nature. This is a gradual development not based on automated systems but on developing our senses and conceptual powers: our consciousness.

In literature we see some ways to augment the human intellect. The perspective, optical instruments, the characteristica universalis, but also the computer and in particular visualisation, are seen as typical means to widen the horizon and allow more under-standing, differentiation and overview. We see the option of enhancing the human intel-lect by seeing with „new eyes" (BENKING 1996f), allowing creativity, intuition and imagination (eidetics), and being more aware of patterns, scales, and dimensions. On the other hand we have to be aware of the dangers involved with visualizing the „non-existent" [10].

It is frequently not realized that tools can be conceptual as well as physical. Maybe attrqctive and meaningful 'tranlation' systems can help to interact within and between mental and physical models, subjects, and objects, can help us identify and portray unrecognized relationships and serve as a organization, orientation, correction, and memory device by helping us to see holistic patterns of knowledge and action (Bohm 1980, Judge 1984).


[1] This subtitle is one of the requests which were put forward politics under the title „Challenges in Search for Policy" to challenge science to contribute in order to meet the stipulations set in AGENDA 21, as established at the EARTH SUMMIT in Rio de Janeiro. As the relation to this paper is explained in the Foreword, it needs to be indicated that further attempts along the mandate (EEES 1987) are also on „hold" see (BENKING, JUDGE, UHLIR 1992), also, higher-order knowledge-bases (BRAUER 94b).
[2] (BENKING 1990, 92a,b, 94), (-/KAMPFFMEYER 1992a) settling for a meta-data-base, not for meta-information, context behind the words or objectives.
[3] GLOBAL CHANGE travelling exhibition, opened in May 1990 in the Federal Chan-cellery in Bonn. A central exhibition piece is the „Blackbox" concept for scale inte-gration and interaction, and the LOCAL AND GLOBAL CHANGE exhibition, invit-ing international organisation to present their research and co-ordination tasks and pre-senting concepts under the title: „Integrated moni-toring and modelling bridging meas-urements, theory, and validation" - "for Environmental Research and Management" to fuel the discussion on integration via scale platforms and other „tricks" like „conceptual meeting points" (Posters, Reports, (BENKING/KAMPFMEYER. 1992a).
[4] The mandate put forward by the Director of the United Nations Environ-ment Program (UNEP) in New York was: (extract) establish common frames of refer-ence, Develop common understanding, common levels of co-operation and common strategies, mobilise best and brightest, harness capabilities, initiate more solid founda-tions for policies and strategies, gauge the human prospectus, .... BENKING (1994) for conclusions and proposals on behalf of the Director of UNEP-RONA summarizing results from long requested initiatives, e.g. G7 summits or world wide expert hearings (EEES 1986/87).
[5] across disciplines, - between applications,- comparability, -bottom-up.
[6] along subjects, -within procedures, -compatibility, -top-down (BENKING 1992b).
[7] Synthetic spaces or virtual realities. This are new words based on new technologies just beginning to find their place in common understanding. As Virtual Reality is often used to simulate what is already there, or might be built, it specialises on animating scenes to live in or escape from. The author favours the term synthetic or conceptual realities, maybe Cyberspace (BENKING  1995), as virtual reality has some misleading connotation and applications not to be confused with this proposal. Distinction needs to be made between animated worlds to work with or play in, or conceptual worlds. In both we are operating with real and abstract bodies, but in the synthetic spaces we have also conceptual bodies (real and abstract objects) which can help us to see and experience relationships,  proportions and consequences, beyond single context and scales! The navigation or exploration realm of the Panorama invites to play along and across scales, taking Ecology as the master-frame.
[8] As with all functional lay-outs, practical consid-erations and genuine capabilities of man can be combined, opening a vista for assimilation poten-tials of visual access. - DOXIADES mentioned later the possibility to project this grid into the third dimension (time). This conventional approach  can be applied for other applications with large volumes of heterogeneous data.
[9] Distinction between spatial and spacial (2- or 3-dimensional) was made with the help of editor-in-chief of GeoJournal Wolf Tietze (BENKING 1989). This distinction was necessary to separate flat and deep approaches towards the environment. Attention was not only on the increase of data involved and the ability so see stereo-scopically, navigate and organise information, far different from flat tables and „mathematically" spatial representations and monocular mindsets still ubiquitous. The Webster Dictionary still uses as spacial as the old and British form, just as spacing and spacious, but in technical and modern (American) English presentation seems to be imaginable only „spatially"!? How about the new 3-dimensional graphical user interfaces (GUI’s)? (BENKING/JUDGE 1994).
[10] („visual demagogy" BENKING 1988, 1995) and political/ethical reflections on orientation (BENKING/GOPPOLD 1994).

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