Challenges to Comprehension Implied by the Logo
of Laetus in Praesens
Laetus in Praesens

February 2003 | Draft

Biography with respect to Information


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Prepared at the Union of International Associations for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
See overview of other biographical documents

Nationality: Australian. Resident: Belgium (since 1968). Born: 21 January 1940, Port Said (Egypt). Married to German national. Languages: English, French; some working knowledge of Italian, Spanish, German and Dutch

Positions (1968   present): Union of International Associations (Brussels, Belgium). Initially as a consultant on a temporary contract, subsequently as Special Assistant to the Secretary General, and from June 1969 as Assistant Secretary General. Functional role is as Director of Communications and Research.

Current functions now include: Responsibility for the continuing development of the 20 station local area network (started 1984) through which various editorial teams (mixing skills and languages, on and off-site) maintain a variety of interlinked databases (currently containing over 54,000 international nonprofit bodies, 25,000 future international meetings, 50,000 world problems, and other types of information: strategies (41,000), biographies, concepts of human development, human values, etc). Data is used to generate major reference publications (with CD-Rom and Web versions). These include: 5-volume Yearbook of International Organizations (38th ed. 1998-9); Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential (4th ed. 1994-5). Efforts currently focus on further adaptation of this data to interactive web access, participative editing, and multimedia representation building on achievements under a contract with the European Commission (DG XIII) from 1997-2000. The web databases are available via

Systems design and development: Responsibilities have included (since 1970) design and implementation of several generations of computer systems to facilitate processing of information received from international organizations into forms suitable for various media, and general responsibility for the operation of the systems and the associated publication programmes. This has involved early investigation of a variety of technologies: computer typesetting (1972), email (1979), extension of email access to developing countries (1981), LAN database operation (1985), collaborative editing (1989), automatic translation (1994), CD-ROM technology (1995), web technology (1996), hyperlink editing (1997), VRML (1998), inter-institutional data integration (1999), distant database editing (1999), online data services (2000), sonification of data (2000), XML (2001), SVG (2002).

Research: Responsibility for research on current and future uses of the information held in the computer database and on the implications of the development of the network of international organizations, especially in terms of the future challenges to knowledge dissemination, visualization of knowledge structures, and the design of organizational forms more appropriate to the complexity of the network of world problems. Some of this research has been conducted under contract as part of various programmes of the United Nations University (Tokyo). Acted as reporter for two major United Nations inter-agency symposia on the challenges facing intergovernmental information systems.

Production of research papers relevant to the strategic position of international organizations and the organized response to world problems. This currently includes work on organization and community design, transformative conferencing and dialogue, information system design, relevance of metaphor for governance and communication, transdisciplinarity, and concepts of human development. A special interest is in issues common to understanding of problem networks, human development, and the design of appropriate organizations, information systems, and conceptual frameworks.

Author of a series of papers on information and knowledge organization including challenges to comprehension, transdisciplinarity, and related software possibilities. Currently experimenting with generating user-controlled visual representations of the above knowledge networks over the web, with mnemonic use of sound. Other series of papers explore issues relating to governance through metaphor, electronic implications for organization network operation, and the future of dialogue and sustainable community.

A special concern in relation to the Encyclopedia programme is the use of metaphor in reframing policy-making dilemmas in response to world problems, notably the possibility of a "marriage" between policy-making and the arts, notably poetry-making, through which more organic, rhythm-based understanding could refresh the sterility of modern policies, especially for musically oriented developing countries. This has involved exploration of many new possibilities of visualization to catalyze new approaches to social organization. In the case of meetings, this has taken the form of an interest in transformative conferencing and new approaches to dialogue (notably as explored with colleagues in a School of Ignorance over a period of 7 years).

Papers and reports: An extensive bibliography, as well as copies of many of related papers, is available via: Selected papers relevant to information activities are listed below.

Consulting and related activities: These have included: UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR); UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); UN Environment Programme (UNEP); UN University (Tokyo); Commonwealth Science Council.

Memberships: These have included relationships with: World Academy of Art and Science, World Future Studies Federation, Foundation for the Future, International Studies Association, International Society for Knowledge Organization, Findhorn Foundation, Committee on Conceptual and Terminological Analysis (COCTA).

Meetings: Involvement in a wide variety of international meetings, whether as organizer, rapporteur, speaker, consultant, contributor or participant. This included early responsibilities in connection with the International Congress on Congress Organization and subsequently with the annual meeting of UIA Associate Members (from the meetings industry).

Educational background: Schooling in England, Australia and Zimbabwe; Imperial College of Science and Technology (University of London) 1958 1961: B.Sc Engineering (Chemical Engineering) programme, not completed; Graduate School of Business (University of Cape Town) 1967 1968: MBA programme.

Selected papers relevant to information system development:

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