This is a journey about real and virtual spaces and virtually framed ”boxes” or (cognitive) spaces:

I had to learn that basic terms as they are used in Systems Sciences are not widely known nor used. As we used these terms in 1990 for the GLOBAL CHANGE exhibition it might be helpful to show examples of BLACK – WHITE – GREY and COLOUR “BOXES” as they have been used and await wider discussion in the field of infographics and virtual augmented, merged and morphed realities. – See Cognitive Panorama and other terms below!.


0999    ECO-CUBE/KNOW MAP 1) - 2) - 3)

and 0484    COGNITIVE SPACES 1)

BLACKBOX NATURE – Rubik’s Cube of Ecology – a first approach as a “pointer to possibilities”. Copy from: Visual Access Strategies for Multi-Dimensional Objects and Issues - A new World View, based on the Hyperlink ECO-CUBE, for better understanding and communication” (1993). (MORE BELOW) !!

Creative Catalytic Imagery and Metaphor

Not only  paintings or pictures but also cross-cultural information, jokes and meta-phors describe in a few lines an overall or governing idea. The concept  of the "Ecological View-of-Life" is to train the brain to "compute" in pictures, to compare structures more often, and to think in pictures and metaphors (as a very high form of abstraction which can be eas-ily and fault tolerantly communicated across language or cultural barriers, and which has some catalytic or creative positive side-effects.


The crystal-cube shows a picture as we see it with our "inner eye". In such a way we can relate objects and describe complex situations easily. It is important to note, that the dimensions are selected according to the subject and the question. If we study epochal change, time might cover a million years. For a butterfly, only a few days are important.

A scene has three dimensions, and we can walk around an object or make projections like an engineer. To relate all objects in the physical universe in time and space, we must also be able to address objects inside the cube, in cells which would not be visible if the cube were opaque.
We have omitted here the other colour picture as the file is getting too large.. create your own imaginative situations showing relations...


A picture may be worth more than a thousand words. If we get used to seeing things not only in "perspective" but keeping the order of size, time, and subject in mind, we can communicate more than just technological developments and trends. The cube is just another scheme to structure information in a simple, complete, and meaningful way.
This is a composition of questions of major concerns, which show the potential of inter-linking subjects into one image. It is of little relevance if the depth dimension is time or magnitude but it seems immediately obvious that there might be correlations which should be studied. The cube helps to differentiate items at different scale platforms, but the relation and linking of facts has to be done on a search, trial and error basis.






Spectrum of colours and shades !? also augented by photos and physically build models !?







  add photos !!


Visualization and Build Model:

Heiner Benking, Ulm, Chales Woodward, Helsinki 


There ar eonly photos of the build model or exhibition exponat left, the object was unfortunately destroyed in 1995 ! after The Un –Climate Summit exhibition “Global Change


Some further reading: Creative Catalytic Imagery and Metaphor” as part of the presentation, poster and workshops:  Visual Access Strategies for Multi-Dimensional Objects and Issues - A new World View, based on the Hyperlink ECO-CUBE, for better understanding and communication”.   See there: our “View of Life is too FlatWFSF, Turku, 1993 see Knowledge Spiral &  Helsingin Sannomat, presenting a thinkspace as a “blackbox” as a “pointer to possibilities” and as a “white-box” (FAW Newsletter and FAW Report TR-93019) and the “Cognitive Panorama”  (9D)  and Cognitive Spaces (extensional/immersive/augmented). See  terms and links in the Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics and these slides for example here: NewRenaissance: - NewRenaissance (PDF)  lowres

It seems to be helpful here to look-up some systemic terms in the International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics:

Check these terms: 0479      COGNITIVE PANORAMA 1) - 2) -  0484      COGNITIVE SPACES 1) -  0999      ECO-CUBE/KNOW MAP 1) - 2) - 3)  -  2001      MAP (Mental) 2) - 3) - 2002      MAP TERRITORY RELATION 2) - 3) - 2104      METAPHORIC FRAMEWORK 1) - 2) - 4) - 2105      METAPHORS (Classes of) 2) - 2228      MULTI-PERSPECTIVISM 1) - 2) - 4) - 2462      PANORAMA OF UNDERSTANDING 1) - 2) 2463      PANORAMA THINKING 1) - 2) - 2003      MAPPING 2)

check here for the detailed definition here:    and consider this main categories: 1)  general information    2)  methodology or model   3)  epistemology, ontology and semantics   4) human sciences  5) discipline oriented


In addition to these terms to concept of frames and grids in an embodied, multi-dimensional sense needs further clarification. Please consult from the encyclopedia these terms:




“A system of known components, put together in a certain fashion so as to affect a given input-output functioning” (I. BLAUBERG & al, 1977, p.163).

In other words, it is any constructed algorithmic device.

Consequently, the internal mechanism of a white box is apparent and understandable. Of course, this can be so for some observers and not for others, as distinct observers may produce different descriptions of the box, all of these mere results of their peculiar position as observers (R. GLANVILLE, 1979, p.35-7)

A simplistic observer may also see a black box as white, due to some superficial or reductionist way of observing. This can be very dangerous.

A possible example of this kind of simplifications is the dubious assimilation by some behavioral psychologists of man’s behavior to a set of simple input-output effects. This can moreover easily lead to psychological manipulation, of the brain washing type.

Most man-made machines are, or at least, are intended to be white boxes. However, it frequently happens that the components and the way they are put together have unknown properties, which are not perceived at the time of assembly... and turn the white box into a black box.





“A box to which inputs are observed to lead and from which outputs are observed to emerge” (St. BEER, 1968, p.293).

The “black box” model has been – according to ASHBY - introduced by J.C. MAXWELL to “justify the building of functioning descriptions (in his case equations) that accounted for the observed behavior of some phenomenon when the workings of the phenomenon were not clearly visible” (R. GLANVILLE, 1982, p.1) And “Briefly, a black box can be characterized as:

a) being believed to be distinct

b) having observable (and relatable) inputs and outputs

c) being black (that is, opaque to the observer“) (Ibid., p.1)

Of course, any black box is black for some specific observer, i.e. becomes a construct of the observer through his peculiar way of observation.

GLANVILLE, who discusses widely the black box model, adds that, after experimenting with the box, “what the observer has is a functional description that has worked in the past. That it will continue to do so is a pure article of faith: The black box regularity is an assumption” (Ibid, p.2).

However, when repeated observations produce similar results, this assumption is reinforced and “it is said that the black box has become white. The whiteness (as WIENER, 1948, asserts) is not a property of the box, but of the observer's interaction with it” (Ibid, p.4).

Viewed possibly from outside (by another observer), the interaction between the black box and the observer is, in fact, between two black boxes, and the whole system is thus a higher level black box.

In order to reach some consensus about a (tentative) conclusion we should thus clearly state our own observation level.

The black box can be either a concrete experimental artifact, or a conceptual model.

R. ESPEJO writes: “The black-box construct is a shorthand for the real world, that is, for the transformations actually taking place in it” (1988, p.140).

It however should never be forgotten that different observers may interpret the same black-box behavior in different ways (W. KARGL, 1991, p.577). The internal organization of this box is at the start of the experiment totally unknown. It must be conjectured by making hypotheses about the links between inputs and outputs and modifying these hypotheses as the experience is furthered.

St. BEER comments: “The reason why we contemplate a box having such odd properties, is that the more familiar box in which something is known about the internal connectivity, has its variety (already) constrained... Even if an arrangement having fairly high variety were chosen, the potential variety of all the other arrangements which could have been built in is suppressed. But a black box is assumed to be able to take on any internal arrangement of input-output connectivity at all; it can therefore proliferate maximal variety” (Ibid.). ?Grey box.




“A strategy for investigating a complex object without knowledge or assumptions about its internal make-up, structure or parts” (K. KRIPPENDORFF, 1986, p.7)

The general idea of this method is to send inputs into the system and to monitor the resulting outputs, making conjectures about the internal processes within the system that can explain how a specified input produces a specific output. In general, systems are “grey” boxes, i.e. entities about which at least something is known.

The black box method is widely applied in engineering, biology and other sciences, because of its heuristic value.

However, as stated by KRIPPENDORFF: “The isomorphism between the black box and its model, which the method aims to establish, does not imply structural correspondences between the two” (Ibid). One should thus be careful and not extract unwarranted conclusions from experiments that could be incomplete or ill interpreted.




J.L. LEMOIGNE proposed to dynamize the black box model (1977, p.99).

From the systemic viewpoint the black box does not merely possess one determinated state. On the contrary it develops a series of successive states, as it possess a diachronic structure. Only by registering large series of behaviors, resulting from a great variety of stimuli, corresponding to very varied global situations, could we discover part or the whole of its internal organization.

This is why LEMOIGNE puts forth the concept of “black engine”, which is of course implied in the understanding of the black box model by most cyberneticians and systemists.




The non-perception of some aspects of problem situations.

H.von FOERSTER uses the example of the ocular blindspot as a metaphor for psychological and mental selective blindness. P. LEDINGTON has given a remarquable example of this antisystemic disease (1992, p.57), but many others are well-known. The basic causes are the difficulties for specialists to see aspects of a situation outside their own field, their feeling of righteousness about their own way to tackle a problem and their tendency to mere technical patching up.

LEDINGTON observes that there is also a kind of communities blindness – through subsumption of individual and groups blindness – which does not allow them to face their problems in a coherent way. ZEEUW's “invisibility” and R.S. ACKOFF's fables and parables are closely related to the blindspots problem.

The elimination – or at least, reduction- of blindspots can be obtained through conversation among various observers who observe the same situation. In effect, each one observes or can observe the blindspots of the other observers and thus contribute to their detection.




WHOLE 1) – 2) – 3)

A complete entity or system whose components or elements remain connected in a specific and globally functional way.

Wholes are no mere unstructurated aggregates, devoid of any functionality. The basic regulating principle of coherent wholes is that every behavior of a part may influence (directly or indirectly) any other part. However, after a time, that can be very long, the global process may reproduce the initial conditions, or at least conditions very similar or equivalent.

In a whole, the components or parts become immerged, which means that some of their specific properties remain hidden, or become altered due to interactions with other components or parts. Good examples are the properties of hydrogen and oxygen atoms in water... or of a husband or father acting as an engineer in an enterprise, or vice-versa.

In G.S.T. the word “holon” (whose Greek origin is the same), proposed by J. SMUTS (1925, reprinted 1973), has been recovered by A. KOESTLER (1969) and is now quite incorporated within the systemic vocabulary, not however being uncontrovertibly admitted by all systemists.

As the term “Holon” has been sometimes used in a careless way, “whole” is possibly a convenient substitute.

The concept of “whole” is also connected with the “Gestalt” one, basically in relation to our way of observing and perceiving.



WHOLE and PARTS 1) – 2) – 3)

These antithetic concepts are very basic for the understanding of the systemic view of the world. I. BLAUBERG, V. SADOVSKY and E. YUDIN, who consider both concepts as categories, write: “The cleavage and opposition of the part and the whole produced the antinomies of wholeness.

The principal ones were:

- 1. Thesis: the whole is the sum of parts Antithesis: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (note: or less or other!)

- 2. The parts precede the whole. The whole precedes the parts

- 3. The whole is casually determined by its parts. The wholeness approach is opposed to the causal one and rules it out

- 4. The whole is cognized through the knowledge of its parts Parts as a product of division of the whole may be cognized only on the basis of the knowledge of the whole“ (1977, p.99-100).


This traditional viewpoint has now been reformulated in a non contradictory way as stated by the same authors: “The solution of the problem lies in that wholeness is characterized by new qualities and properties not inherent in the parts but appearing from their interaction in a certain system of connections...

“ ... in the relation between the parts and the whole neither side can be considered without the other: a part outside the whole is not a part but quite a different object, since in an integral system the parts express the nature of the whole and adquire properties specific to it; on the other hand, the whole without (or before) the parts is unthinkable, since an absolutely simple, structureless and even mentally indivisible body cannot have any properties or interact with other bodies” (1977, p.100).

Synthetically, a part (or element) within a whole (or system) is itself plus its connections with other parts and less the constraints which result from these connections.

As in many other cases, the old, absolute dichotomies appear now as unduly simplified abstractions.





A kind of black box which is known to contain some internal intervening variables acting as links between inputs and outputs.

In a grey box, at least something is known about the inner tranformation mechanisms of the box.

According to M. BUNGE, automata are grey boxes, which may be deterministic if the same types of inputs produce the same outputs, or probabilistic if they produce only probable outputs. (1979, p.263).

Such models “are of greater interest than black box models because, unlike the latter, they take into account not only the behavior but also the internal states of a system” (Ibid).

Complex systems are similar to grey boxes, in that we know something of their internal mechanisms, but not enough to make them perfectly, or even reasonably predictable.



See also see the discussions here: