Explanations and more details done for the entry in the

The International Encyclopaedia of Systems and Cybernetics, 2nd edition at the Saur Library


The  Blackbox Nature, “ECO-CUBE” or Rubik’s Cube of Ecology was developed in 1989-1990 first to structure Space/Time information for the TOPOGRAMM System development and later in for the GLOBAL CHANGE exhibition for the German Chancellery in conjunction with the WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE on GLOBAL CHANGE.

The design allows not only a way to structure and use, but share and discuss or negotiate information, immerse into data and their contexts.



It needs to be seen as a “back-box” and “white-box” ” (see International Systems and Cybernetics Encyclopedia - for which this web-page was made),  – as an opaque and transparent, illuminated and immersible “space” or “space-scape. It is an information space which can be combined with the physical space or terminology spaces like in a 3Space/Time Cognitive Panorama (see Council of Europe – meta-paradigm paper) and the links below, or what you can call embodied or extensional “information cartography or information modelling ***more soon on modeling and the “General Model Theory plus “systematic neo-pragmatism”.  See Stachowiak at http://quergeist.net/Stachowiak


UPDATE: please see this Paper by Anthony Judge to put the Cube into context and perspective:

Pointers to possibilities: Ekistics, Dymaxion World and Eco-Cube



See also: A way to integrate spaces in a 3Space/Time Conceptual Superstructure:  (A meta-paradigm) or A Paradigm Shift? Orchestrating Representations Like Knowledge Trees and Knowledge Spaces, both

COUNCIL OF EUROPE 1995 and the links below.





The design and construction of Heiner Benking from 1987- now was recently published in an article for UN year of the Mountains (on in German) or with INST. We recommend a trilogy in the KNOWMAP Journal about “Spacial and Spatial” or earlier articles about Info about Information,  Harmonisation  or Access and Assimilation in GeoJournal (KLUWER)


Earlier approaches or similar concepts in this overall general direction can be seen in:


Sources or similar concept mind sets can be seen not only in:

Constantinos A. Doxiadis and his Ekistic Grid 1950/60ies see: Ekistics or Ekistic Education  

Guilford, J. P., The Nature of Human Intelligence, New York: McGraw Hill, 1967. See augmented understanding

Howard White and Belver Griffith, "intellectual space" (White and Griffith, 1982)





Below you can find earlier writings and excerpts to help further explorations.


A Systems View:

ISSS 1996 40th Anniversary session:




ISSS WHOLENESS SEMINAR Part 1: A PANORAMA OF UNDERSTANDING - Being and Feeling  Part of Life and Nature

in a Panorama for helping to find and share Orientation and Understanding


and Part 2: Towards a Panorama of Understanding  -  Nature as a Blackbox;

Towards a Panorama of Understanding  - A Broader Spectrum for Floating Between and Beyond What we Know and Miss


ISSS Atlanta 1998: HOUSE OF EYES.

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION & Creative Catalytic Imagery and Metaphor 

A HOUSE OF HORIZONS AND PERSPECTIVES - A cognitive deep openspace for positioning, comparing, merging and morphing our metaphors, models, maps and views1

http://www.ceptualinstitute.com/genre/benking/edu/education.htm#"Inner Eye"




SHOW, SCHAU, and MEDIA issues:




http://benking.de/ISSS/  or http://benking.de/culture/




THE FOLLOWING EXCERPTS might help to start into the matter:

Proposing a Conceptual Superstructure

Work-Report of a Vision to explore issue-scapes like virtual landscapes
by making use of Surveyors' abilities and Views



The papers outlines some concepts behind the RIO 1992 EARTH SUMMIT proposals like

· transdisciplinary panning and zooming with varying foci

· interaction along and across hierachical scales

· documentation and more transparency, and

· communication within common frames of reference.


3.1 The VISION - Part A: The Imaginary Theme-scape

The Concept and Development of the Hyperlink ECO-CUBE

The author has "borrowed" the definitions for the three axes of the Cube: TIME; SCALE, and SUBJECT (diCastri, Hadley 1985-88) and has tested the universal applicability during the last seven years (see also literature and chapter 4). Describing the System Earth in the Global Change touring exhibition for the German Chancellery, Lange, Benking, et.al. (1990) used this three dimensional scheme and called the subject dimension (bio)diversity. In this way the dimensions could be named Complexity, Differentiation, and Dynamics. As we learned recently the Australian geographer R.G. Cant had already used a similar Cube concept with the dimensions: Phenomenon, Position and Time in 1969! The particular terms or labels for the dimensions are of little importance as long as they are meaningful, simple and universal; what is critical is the orthogonal design with "normalised" entities and the usage of the concept beyond words.

Creative catalytic imagery and the communication bandwidth are decisive if we are to arrive at other qualities by using our "Inner Eye". One positive effect of using an "agreed upon" framework: views and positions can be located, better communicated, and repeated.

Given the volume and heterogeneity of highly differentiated and ambiguous information, a new concept merging human and machine power seems appropriate. But we must keep in mind that man, being the threshold to creativity and imagination, makes use of number-crunching and visual volume processing only as a supportive action rather than what is critical for the overall concept.

Architects and geographers, as well as town and state planners, are used to organising and structuring data and to looking for a synthesis in complex, heterogeneous and voluminous issues. The planner Doxiades for example, with the Ekistic grid, made use of visual recognition according to a comprehensive structuring system. Visual inspection and differentiation is one of the key elements in the chain of methods proposed. Using as an example the representation of the Ekistics was therefore the logical step. Projecting the Ekistic grid into the third dimension Time was also already anticipated. For more information and how content can be displayed in one graph, instead of key-words or abstracts, presenting context and qualitative information, see Doxiades (1968).

Besides the organisation and classification schemes of Ekistics, there are various schemes introduced to structure available subjects in a congruent and systematic way. Best are systems which are close to the inherent structures of the real world and which allow the combining of knowledge beyond the collections and terms, or jargon of specific disciplines or groups. Only a few organisation schemes allow for the presention of relations between the main categories in visual form.

One such practical universal system, even broader than the Ekistik classification, has been developed as the Information Coding Classification System (ICC) during the last 20 years by Dahlberg (1994 and Annex) . Such a system can be easily translated into other schemes and referenced to other more detailed discipline oriented classification systems. It is important to note that such systems can coexist and can be linked with modern hyperlink technology, and can help flexibly structure the critical non-linear terminological axis in the twined three-dimensional reference system combination proposed in Part C.


Matrix-cell combinations and flexible categories to structure information visually

Our eye can identify information and structures easily. The use of a grid to structure information helps to organise information according to the dimensions and scales selected. Using a grid is actually a trick to better utilise human capabilities. By properly structuring and positioning the information, later processing can be made much easier.

The basic grid of the first box has 3x3x3 cells. If we use 5x5x5 cells, we can already structure and detail very complex situations and see "at a glance" areas of concern or interest. The 5 cell cube shows for example a working area of towns and regions in the natural and social context studying settlements before Christ and the disciplines involved in the research. This image can show where a colleague is working, and might be the search key for an indexing and graphical retrieval system.

The Rubik's Cube of Ecology has just 3 categories for each side: Inanimate-, animated Nature, and Culture; Micro-, meso-, macro-scale; past, present, and future. Ekistics have used much more detailed systems with 5 categories: Nature, Man, Society, Infrastructure, Structure (Shell). The Blackbox Nature has 7 categories: Theoretical Natural Sciences, Applied Natural Sciences, Geo-, Life-, Economic-, Social- and Cultural- Sciences or the ICC (Dahlberg 1994).

Ekistics, as a science, structures the impact of human activities. Main categories are: economic, social, political, administrative and technical sciences and art. This organising and classification scheme is used, for example, to classify articles in the Ekistics Journal visually and thereby help readers to identify topics of concern at a glance, by just browsing through the pages and looking at the grid at the top of the page. This example shows the potential of information, classified and organised in a meaningful way, in an easily accessible layout. In the field of urban planning, individual and community requirements cover large volumes of complex and interdependent data. The science of the broad and complex field of "human settlements" is called Ekistics, derived from the Greek word oikos. The Cube is just a concept across scales, holding similar structures and rules at all orders of magnitude, for example, planet, country town, house, plant..., The actual axis description is of secondary importance. It may be a logarithmic scale which covers larger quantities or periods, or other flexible categories which can provide a reference into another system.



The Dimensions - A Grid projected in time

Each Category has many sub-categories; they are structured in a hierarchical way, called a thesaurus in technical or linguistic applications. In each science we have general thesauri to differentiate fields or topics down to the finest detail. Precision in each discipline must be considered as an advantage of specialisation. But there is a disadvantage, the lack of overview and exchange with neighbouring fields. Therefore, a growing demand is building up to develop "wild" cross-disciplinary relationships and look at them in a holistic way. Bridging disciplines and hierarchical levels or horizons and interacting along and across scales is required for people studying the multi-disciplinary field of Ecology. This does not only apply to Ecology, but to the exchange between experts of different disciplines in general.

If each body of knowledge is represented in the crystal cell framework, it is easy to highlight trans-disciplinary subjects in one reference frame. Visual inspection, alongside a computer-based visualisation, can help to illuminate issues and their scope. Proposing a three-dimensional badge, like an ISBN numbers, was the next logical step for portraying bodies of knowledge in their context. Instead of sketching with a few lines and symbols a complex situation and having others guess what it means, we can describe subjects by just locating "crystal" cells in the Cube. Consequently, effects of neighbourhood or directions then come "automatically" or more associatively into view . With the focus on time and change in many sciences and applications, not only in Economy and Ecology, we have a much more complex multi-dimensional "scene". But how do we see, understand, and "envision" it? - Why not create a scene, as a composer creates a mental picture of his piece of music before he goes to the piano, or the architect sees his design and understands the spaces and rooms and functions, even before the building is erected? A design of Nature includes more dimensions than just the physical dimensions x, y, and z.

Due to the fact that we can only visualise three dimensions in a single picture, it was necessary to select three arbitrary axis descriptions. The definition of Ecology, which requires interaction along and across disciplines, magnitudes and time scales, was selected as being the most comprehensive and meaningful.



How did the "Blackbox Nature" evolve?

The ECOCUBE to present and communiate complex subjects and issues







TKE '96 Terminology and Knowledge Engineering, Section 1: Terminology and Philosophy of Science, 1996


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.



More at http://benking.de/Global-Change/  or around the International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics, see also this series., or outlooks into past and future encyclopedias and atlases....