To see with other eyes - a World House links realities [pdf]
Special Section Cultural Creatives
This is a translation of the (German) Original TEXT , which is being enhanced and expanded online with comments, explanations, updates and references. Last input June 2011.
To see with other eyes
The “World House” links realities
by Heiner Benking
Our three-dimensional imagination capacity cannot only recognise living spaces in full. Heiner Benking also sees thinking as part of living space, which needs healing and to be down-to-earth. With the help of three-dimensional models he shows ways to understandable pragmatism and ethics and makes the links in our “World House” recognisable.
Our recognition, understanding and being together is challenged on all levels by the new media, technologies, mobility and a global economy in a way we have never seen before. We are in this not only challenged, to broaden our view, but to penetrate the many levels with our conscience and to establish interlinks - lengthwise and crosswise to many scales and dimensions. One cannot just look at a nation, a town or a village; problems become bigger when we miniaturize them or solutions are simply transferred to other worlds. Human attention is usually only focussed on short time horizons and limited surroundings. One just has to think of proverbs like “Out of sight, out of mind” or the term “parish pump politics”. We easily forget what “is not obvious” or if something is “itching”. Only linked with consternation and emotions situations and patterns are recognised, are “burnt” into the memory and we can thus become aware of them in order to be of help in similar situations or be a warning.
Golden rules, morals and commandments give people sense and decision aids and also the necessary humility and reservation to behave consciously and responsible in the world. Such models of behaviour have their limits if we turn towards new three-dimensional worlds and to another physical and mental mobility with new, modern and frequently very technical conditions of existence.
We do not have any senses outside the individual human measure and thus no communicable imagination for such changes and effects, proportions and consequences. According to Gregory Bateson “aerials” for ecological and historic dimensions have to be developed, for an “outside” or “in between”, out of what was directly personally experienced. In this article I introduce an order room and an orientation framework, which helps to trace the many interrelations of the world with such installed “aerials” and to keep them.
Three-dimensional, vivid models can help us to concretely include other “dimensions” without gliding off into an occult world, but instead to cultivate the border between the material and the immaterial worlds, to recognise border areas, possibly even to dissolve them or to shift them. Such a real construction and three-dimensional or extended model of thinking is to help us to become aware of other recognitions and knowledge, which lie outside the material and directly touchable and vividness.
In the face of the world and value disorderliness ecological education, the development of something like environmental awareness is seen as a great task and challenge. But according to which joint model? We were just able to show with the body metaphors and proverbs that we have difficulties with the extension of our imaginations to the complexity of today’s world. The problem and solution rooms are not the same. We have not yet arrived in the “we” in our thinking and our views in a global, intercultural and multi-media world. Everybody, as Arno Schmidt writes, is in his “mental solitary confinement”. Large pictures and visions like Gaia as a living planet-organism or the first satellite photographs of the earth showed that there are other points of view and also global vulnerabilities and beauties. But all this remains words and beautiful pictures. The satellite pictures fade away; the make us less astonished, touch us only occasionally.
A joint “house management”
If we make ourselves the origin of terms like economy, ecology and ekistics understood, we come to an interesting joint metaphor: the house and/or the household. The idea and suggestion now is not to refer any longer in our thinking figures and metaphors only on the smallest common denominator, the body, but to include other levels like the living space, the house, the village, the town, the cultural room and also space.
We all know an empty, structured room that can be furnished, and we also know how it feels when the room is being arranged and begins to become a living space. Let us take as a basis for our reflections such a filled or empty room of a house or a natural space. In a similar manner we can later look at knowledge or non-knowledge rooms. With this room or house as a thinking frame we get closer to our topic “nature” and “culture” and can ask ourselves questions like: What belongs to the topic civilisation or world? This is not trivial, for the term civilisation is understood in the English language as culture, and the other way round. What is the meaning and application frame? What can we know about it and express and what not? What processes are effective at which places? With which disciplines are we working on which aspects of nature? How are these fields interrelated, do they supplement each other, or do they compete with each other?
There are so many question marks, but in a post-modern world of anything and indifference attempts, things and topics should be seen together and to look for a sense should not only be allowed, but specially encouraged. And if it is only to confront youngsters and school students with old and new open questions, thinking and communication, and to make them move “unspeakable” things.
A right to information and context
Surely, not only something in our relation with nature is not in order, also the questions about the sense and the values, about orientation and future prospects are frequently answered only by shrugging the shoulders or dualistic thinking patterns. In order to be able to come close to such questions at all, we have to refer our metaphors and models to broader interrelations, to looking at survey and orientation knowledge. In addition we must work on a concrete, vivid language, whereby language is of course only one of many other physical media of expression. It is always worth it to closely link our “thinking figures” with practical situations and references like for example in mnemonics, in which one links a term or context with a certain real place or fantasy place.
A knowledge place is being created. Thinking figures locate themselves in experienced memory landscapes, architectures or cathedrals. Wandering through these and to enliven them is an individual art or ability, the Ars memoriae as actors have always been doing it when they use artificial buildings and landscapes in order to line up scenes and contents. Let us also try an think of the popular mind mapping and let us not draw it as a network, but deeper as a multi-layered fabric similar to a social or cultural system.
The Magic Cube of Ecology
In 1989 I attended drawing up a concept for an exhibition with the title “World in change - challenges of science and politics”. After endless discussions on which basic dimension the change of the “system earth” has, I constructed an order and show room, the “magic cube of ecology”. Each room can be described by rectangular axes, i.e. three basic dimensions. Here are the three coordinates of
* the specialised disciplines of natural sciences, life sciences or the humanities,
* scales like micro-, meso- and macro-cosmos as well as
* time horizons or epochs.
Since each of the three basic dimensions depicts in itself again a room, the result is a nine-dimensional rough diagram.
In organising knowledge we speak of switching systems and of survey, route and detailed knowledge. The panorama depicted above is thus a rough diagram, which can present and offer only rough connections in a certain way of approach or construction as an “orientation generalisation” and is thus to be applied for the survey knowledge in addition to conventional knowledge and media worlds. The purpose of a model is a simple and practical approach without any universal claim and only for certain use. It is not only impossible to reconstruct the reality of the natural space, but it would also counter the purpose of models.
We called the “main building” in the above-shown graphic also the index room, since it links not only the natural space (objects) and “cultural room” (subjects), but can in addition also be the link for the three types of signs according to Charles Sander Peirce. His drawing theory says that in addition to icons and symbols there is also a third sign, the index. We can imagine the index also as pointer. It needs in my view a frame just like a painting, and such a frame would be the nine-dimensional imaginary room of the cognitive panorama, in which we move to any place in the room with the pointer and can thus get orientation.
A central objective of the model is also a renewed viewing and analysis of terms like “orientation” or “architecture” to establish shape and sense in an extended frame. If we dare to bridge the ravines between the various unlinked media, the abyss between the coded and non-coded worlds, there are suddenly completely new answers to the questions of tele-worlds and the dangers of cyber-culture.
A concrete example of how media and presentation varieties can be linked, we see in the conventional almanac and atlas with maps and index section. The “Synchronoptische Atlas der Weltgeschichte” by Arno Peters is one step on the way indicated here for creative learning media. It was a concern for Peters to make the synchrony and the succession of history events visible in one work. The atlas shows the various cultural spheres during 5,000 years as parallel (like geological) strata on more than 50 cards. On these “cultural ribbons” one can follow the developments with the finger, one can get background information in the text part and discuss it. It seems important that such media can be discovered individually and jointly. Certainly, the atlas is still flat, two-dimensional. Even most modern Internet realisations (e.g. www.hyperhistory.com) have not yet “dived” into the third dimension. In the face of three-dimensional “anatomy or body journeys”, also a 3D culture navigation could be realised.
But what is the advantage and benefit of such imagination houses? Firstly, they are constructed rectangular, i.e. the dimensions are independent from each other, they cannot be depicted by other dimensions. Secondly, spheres reinforced by a grid or virtual scaffolding, can be found again and overlaid, can be searched without knowing what is written there, which term in which language and in which spelling. This aims at the disadvantages of modern full text search vehicles and the necessity to arrange our collection of categories in an understandable and coordinated manner.
If within environment topics questions of consciousness are addressed, one mostly quotes the guideline “Think globally, act locally”. In the course of such an event I noted that young people asked the lecturer how “globally thinking” works, they would like to learn it. The answer? Silence or the helpless attempt to explain that one should imagine an atlas or a globe or “all knowledge is in Internet”.
Why not imagine with young people a “house without walls” and to shift borders between sections or levels just like walls, dissolve them or make them transparent? Since it cannot be an alternative to just close one’s eyes or to have all changes passively accepted, it needs due to the lacking order, flexibility and framework conditions in our knowledge and teaching building, robust steps to get out of the described dilemma of post-modern indifference and boundless non-orientation and uselessness. The introduced construction will help to find new ways.
Final remarks and recommendations
It seems to be high time to cultivate and develop concrete thinking with the help of joint models. Although UNESCO had written in its reports about men as model-making animal, and back in the 1970s Herbert Stachowiak branded the model thinking in his book “Scientific Thought”, but all this has been forgotten in an abstract, theoretical and fragmented world of science and non-communicative world of living.
Let us hope that with our children, who see 3D as the “ultimate” - not only in the cinema, but also in own designs and own video films - the dimensional, touchable, lively thinking in the spirit of Goethe’s colour theory will find its way into our imagination and fantasy so that we develop back into a “communicative society”.
Young scouts have developed the term and the necessity of the vision of a “world house” independent from the house of the magic cube introduced here. I want to show with this that simple, understandable word pictures and thinking figures can help to understand the actual. The village as metaphor and world model is of interest, but does not suffice, especially since it is not “deeply” understood. Traditional cultures offer orientation help and models for their cosmos. We in the modern world of crossing the horizon and the cultures can make use of these and extend them. Should we succeed to become aware of the “plastic words” in this society and in contrast to these “empty words” to make terms like space, order and model concrete and negotiable, touchable and understandable, it could be that we learn to link differences and seemingly strange things, to give them space and places and not to have to ignore, negate, or fight them any more. We can fill education and culture with new contents through communication as an art of the arts, of the exact and fine arts.
Baldus, Frank, et al: Denkmodelle, Auf der Suche nach der Welt von morgen, Nunatak 2001. • Bress, Hartmut: Erlebnispädagogik und ökologische Bildung, Band 3, Schriftenreihe „erleben & lernen“, Luchterhand, 1994. • Benking, Heiner, und Judge, Anthony, J.N.: Design Considerations for Spatial Metaphors – Reflections on the Evolution of Viewpoint Transportation Systems, acm-ECHT, 1994. • Benking, Heiner: A Metapradigm, New Ideas for Science and Art, New Spaces for Culture and Society, Council of Europe 1996; Kommunikative Gesellschaft, Humboldt Univesität 2000; Global Embodied Covenant, Open Space, Earth Charta Urbino 2004; Einträge in der International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics 2004 ( zum Thema des Beitrags) • Kline, S.J.: The Powers and Limitations of Reductionism and Synoptism: Science, Technology and Society Report CF1, Stanford University, 1996. • Stachowiak, Herbert: Gedanken zu einer allgemeinen Theorie der Modelle; Studium Generale; Springer, 1965 • Stachowiak, Herbert: Scientific Thought. Some Underlying Concepts, Methods, and Procedures. Unesco, Paris 1972; Modell und Kunst, 1981; Pragmatik 1986–1996.
Authors that are important to me:
MAGIC SQUARE - ORDO ET MENSUTRA V, Deutsches Museum, 1997
June 2011 Heiner Benking
A lot has happened the last 6 years – on the one hand
* no time to polish the translation of the Indian Embassy Translation Unit, on the other hand
* ready to get some terms and concept into a “better” more meaningful and appealing English. I hope this new version makes sense – even when it is about a vague subject areas …
Maybe this link helps to dig deeper as some good English speaking Editors have helped ! Thanks to Heather, Sigurd and Luis ! pls. check Ignorance or Compassion? from May 2011.
Old entry – text:
To see with other eyes
The “World House” links realities
Sorry, please note re: TRANSLATION !!
I had the pleasure to have a top translation service to help me in June 2005. But I was too busy and so trusting that it would be possible for a professional translator deliver something meaningful. That he/she did not/could not is only my fault, specially I should have given more attention to the problems of translating German philosophical and pragmatic/embodied thinking and terms can not jut like that translated. Too many terms like: Gedankenexperiment, Denkmodell, Anschauung are not translated inot English and so the translation has to add and explain when an article targeted to a larger audience is making much use of such embodied and vizulised shared and deep thinking. German terms like flach and deep when written with the conotation of extension can not just be translated as spatial. Old spelling in English allow to write "spacial" - so recomemdnations have been done by the author not only regarding this matter.
I will give below LINK Footnote (LATER) as an example how the translators of JAMUS HEAD - Göttlicher Funke by Arthur Koestler, translating English-German had problems with some tricky terms like MATRIX or TRANSCENDENCE, or just how different we understand and use Transparency, or as an example of translation from even more "different" cultural world models, see Japanese to German will not only demand lots of study, but also opens doors for new insights and ways of seeing and doing
The issues raised in the article are very old but also very much "en-vogue" today, just think about "turfs", labelling, out-of-the-box thinking, so please accepts that I include further references, links, and notes to help clarify not only what is meant, but how it is done! Please contact the author for further details, examples or clarification.
please wait until mid JULY to look for a final "authorized" translation - the translations needs to be checked and will be improved in the next days and weeks !!