Ljubljana Science Festival - IS'98, Ljubljana, October 6-11, 1998
SESSION: Cognitive Sciences , October 7th
Seminar and Round Tables
SHORT SUMMARY VERSION
full paper pending
Creating, Blending, Concerting, and Sharing
Global Workplaces of the Mind
Symbol Grounding in the Cognitive Panorama (3Space/Time)
The paper explores ways how to construct and share realities in view of the chasm between subjects and objects, subjectivity and objectivity. It goes for consensualy constituted models of reality - shared "res cognitans" which are needed as frames of references.
The consciousness researcher Bernard Baars speaks about "global workplaces of the mind", something others, as David Feinstein and Stanley Krippner, have called "mythologies" - both cultural and personal. So the question is: Can we have a bridge between the personal, social and cultural "mythologies"?
When we review the ontological question "what is real" we are immediately in the dilemma of everyone having his own perceptions and reasoning and all of us living in "parallel worlds" without any connection, without any exchange and reinforcement/acknowledgement between them. This has lead into the dead-end of philosophical post-structuralism, which cherishes the individual physical and mental "solitude" and loneliness which finally ended up into our present problems with the definition of cyberculture and virtual reality: open-ended universality which can not be managed or overviewed, which is a meaningless, contextless chaos, an abstract place in which individuals and societies can only get "flooded" with the noise of nonsense, and so submerge and succumb to it.
How to overcome this loss of ground and orientation?
One way is to stay just with the physical reality (res extensa), with the world of objects and physical extension we can jointly address, measure, and touch. The other, according to Karl Popper, is to form an "objective reality" by forming a framework and adding pieces, like in a puzzle. We can say in the end "objectively" that the puzzle is complete, if all parts are integrated and have their place. This approach is nicely complemented by Gregory Bateson who considers differences having an "objective" character the moment we can jointly discriminate or inspect them.
What we learn from this is the concept of joint comparison, which might not lead always to global "objective" results but at least helps to come to shared assessmentseven among our diversity. This is the basis of the idea to define common frames of references in an artificial agreed upon space. Consider it an imaginary space, a space-scape, a virtual reality, a place people can jointly immerse, encircle, focus on, pan and zoom, and outline themes and issues (topic- theme-scape) like you would consider a topos in the physical world (landscape).
This exercise has been going on for more than 8 years. Hundreds have visited this a "cognitive space" we have called a Blackbox and have become aware of novel issues - what they mean or know, or don't! What we are talking here about is a VIRTUAL SPACE, an IMAGINARY SPACE, not one to simulate a physical landscape in order to play or fight, but an artificial space where you can share information which has a location, a place.
This artificial space of meaning is good for sharing issues, talking about them and seeing them from different perspectives since you can move your standpoint and focus. The physical imagery makes it easier to grasp the relationships that your IMAGINATION is already processing and implementing in Immersive Virtual Reality Environment (nowadays called CVE's - Collaboratory Virtual Environments).
The author invites to consider that Norbert Wiener was thinking of such steering or decision spaces where a "kybernetes" can increase through "steering" orientation, understanding and achievements. The alternative is William Gibson's post structuralistic "modern" thinking of space as cyberspace, but without depth, only full of chaos, fear, and losses, feeling out of control: "lost in space". The decision is ours, we have to decide which model we want to use (we have called it the leverage point for the individual and society see:
Organizing content, thereby establishing meaning
So let us for one moment assume we can create an artificial space, not with physical dimensions, but with dimensions which the for moment we agree upon, share, find understanding, and co-ordinate action in. Poincarré has done so in mathematics, defining arbitrary axes descriptions and creating a breakthrough with a visual (Anschauungs) mathematics. ("Anschauung" like in "Weltanschauung" an inner inspection, which can be also modelled and scribbeled (drafted) in order to agree with others on a certain theoretical phenomenon).
This exactly was done by the author in 1990 for another field of application. The topic was "Global Change - Challenges to Sciences and Politics" which explored how we can understand and orchestrate action by agreeing on positions, perspectives, proportions, and consequences. Such a virtual meaning space-scape proved helpful to pin down issues and was able to designate, outline and walk around "subjects" coming to a quasi "objective" comparison - if you remember the words above. We can not go into further details but enough material is available and referenced below on how such a reference space or situation room can be used in fields ranging from education to policy making, from ecology and ethics to knowledge organization. The name doesn't matter as spaces are open space, something which can be full or empty, and you can partition it, move and edit categories and regions as you wish... Children were picking it up best, as you can manifest different perspectives in the house of eyes, but call it a house of levels, perspectives, horizons, logical places, or whatever you wish. Our language is based on metaphors and analogues and that is what you can do for better communications - share and point at what you are talking about...
The whole architecture of living and thinking spaces goes much further, blending with real and semantic spaces, created augmented realities (see proponents of the different realities with Kim Veltman in
andhttp://sumscorp.com/articles/art52.htm figure 3?? as presented at the "Digital Euphoria" September 1998 in Paderborn.
To sum up: The design and construction is called a Cognitive Panorama and the whole idea is of being able to discuss ways of thinking and reasoning in a framework of being and sharing (meta paradigm COUNCIL OF EUROPEhttp://www.ceptualinstitute.com/genre/benking/m-p/meta-paradigm.htm. If we define paradigma as a certain path you follow with thinking and reasoning, then the cognitive landscape or panorama is the terrain in which you can plot and edit the different paradigms as ways, their basis, origine, areas they tough and directions they follow).
The main theme which you are asked to hold as an ambiance is that "prioritizing" is not an issue, only "coordination" is. The typical tendency in picturing organizational relationships overlays a hierarchy of some sort, but that is not the case here. There is no "seniority" or "subordination" involved. There is only co-existence. Every sphere and topic has an inherent dignity and value, with something to contribute. It is only by exploring the extended relationships that are present, that conclusions can be reached and decisions made as to whether the contributions are appropriate or not, whether constructive or destructive, for the long term welfare of all concerned and future generations. The task first is to both extend and expect in return the dignity of "consideration". The task first is to use other persons minds as the mirrors through which to reflect on ourselves, and be that useful in return. The Cognitive Panorama is neutral ground, the place to position and explore the coexistence and interdependence of positions and perspectives (see Helmuth Plessnerís "positionalism"). It is the thought-fields we all conceptually walk among, soar among, explore among, together.
Many workplaces for the minds
Coming back to the "global workspace of the mind", how we can create more workspaces or "worlds" and link them? This question of identification and orientation is not just for oneself, but for a smaller or larger community is the real challenge. If we make use of the concept and experience we all have with space, as a place to enter and jointly explore, and if we avoid the use of abstract terms, like using the word space but not thinking about something having extensions and something we can inhabit, like some social sciences, humanities and many theoreticians got used to, then we have achieved something. If we can say space and spacial that we can ground and locate our symbols and life in the same connected or blended realms or rooms. You see, words do not matter the moment you have something you can touch inhabit and share. ( see also the work on extension and senso-motorical mobility at http://www.ceptualinstitute.com/genre/benking/extensions.htm.
Space is not only something everybody has experience with, it is like a body a prerequisite for existence. Children pick up these concepts and plotting concepts in given contexts, putting words or meaning into space, given them a location. But the concept of space has also other far reaching implications. It is as 3-dimensional conventional space orthogonal, so you have 3 independent hierarchies and in this way you can go beyond the oversimplistic hierarchies and omnipresent overclaims. You can go beyond dualism as you can put in a distance, gain perspective by seeing the dual ends and odds and see how they change with your focus and position. Dualities become relative and "flat" as you always wonder how it looks like if you are not caught in the yes-no, right-left, good-bad trap.
The paper was about how we can expand our realms of thinking and bridge different forms by jointly assessing and comparing issues and phenomena - like semantic and syntactic, hard and soft, subjective and objective.
Much has been written about the Cognitive Panorama already and how we can see similarities to other thinkers and others worlds or thinking and expression. We invite to study (ISSS Primer Group: Panoramahttp://www.newciv.org/ISSS_Primer/seminrva.html and the work in the field of multi-linguality and terminology http://www.ceptualinstitute.com/genre/benking/term/terminology.htm) and to look into the need to bridge, blend, translate, merge and morph representations. Foremost we propose to study the different forms of grids or scalar, circular or vortex and that one grid or presentation is not enough. Mandatory is to translate between the models, and not getting lost in one schema however appealing it looks like.
The author was very much attracted by the book the holographic paradigm (Wilber and Pribram, and others) but even in this book he finds the benefits of 3-dimensional space as an ideal continuum to communicate. Multi-dimensional mathematics and dreams are fantastic and sometimes very yielding, but to communicate complexity in a simple coherent, and complete way, you have to find the smallest and at the same time potentially richest denominator. The space we live in matches well our being and thinking - let us translate it to holographic representation wherever we can. (see Spacial Metaphor for Hypermedia athttp://www.lcc.gatech.edu/~dieberger/ECHT94.WS.Benking.html and http://www.ceptualinstitute.com/genre/benking/landscape.htm for "Sharing and Changing Realities".