The Pattern Language Network

Taming web2.0 in Higher Education

Posts Tagged ‘Liberating Voices!’

Validity, Resonance and Aggregation

Posted by yishaym on August 21, 2008

I’ve been chatting with Christian Kohls of Knowledge Media Research Center about pattern languages, workshops, community engagement, and the big picture. The discussion brought up some issues which where floating around EuroPLoP, and resonated with recent discussions on the Liberating Voices mailing list (pss – the book is out).

I see three major challenges pattern language communities to address:

Validity

What’s the scientific process of showing that a pattern does what it claims? Is it science, or is it art? What kind of evidence does a pattern need? How can we get the scientific community to accept patterns as a valid tool of knowledge production?

Even looking at Christopher Alexander’s patterns, the question arises. Alexander has a “confidence” measure, but what is it based on?

Resonance

In the Learning Patterns project, we noted:

Paradoxically, often as more expert knowledge is embedded in a pattern language it becomes less accessible to novices. The Learning Patterns project has tried to address this issue by a small set of Trails which accompany our pattern language.

But perhaps the problem goes deeper. Again and again, at every workshop we run, we see how hard it is for people to “get into the pattern groove”. Primarily, patterns are about abstraction without loosing context – and I think that is precisely what most people find hard. No wonder patterns have caught on so well in software engineering communities. After all, abstraction in context is what software engineers are trained to do.

So how do we break out of the cosy cult of patternisers, and make the knowledge we accumulated accessible to the wider public?

Aggregation

Once there was one pattern language for architecture (Alexander’s). Then there was one for software (GoF). Now there’s hundreds. Spread all over the place. Patterns are supposed to capture the essence of a recuring problem and its tried and tested method of solution. But they are supposed to capture it ONCE. In a way that can be referenced, linked, composed into larger structures or decomposed into sub-elements. What we’re seeing now is a fragmentation which defies the core purpose of the project.

How do we avoid reinventing wheels? How do we make sure that we build on each others’ work as much as possible, and aggregate design knowledge systematically?

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Guest post: Justin Smith on “Collaborative Thinking for a Pattern-Based Knowledge System”

Posted by yishaym on April 21, 2008

Justin runs a blog called Designing a Sustainable World. He’s also involved in the Liberating Voices! project, which has been a great inspiration for me. Over the last few weeks, we’ve come to realize that there’s a lot in common between what we’re planning for our system, and what he’s hoping to develop for his projects. I thought the best way to share our thoughts and broaden the circle of discussion is to invite him to do a guest post on our blog. So without further ado, I give you Justin Smith:


So for the last year or so following the conclusion of a research project focused on a socio-technical pattern language (Liberating Voices!) I have been left thinking of ways in which patterns could be made more accessible to a broader audience. One of the many ideas that came to the fore of my attention was that pattern language users need more appropriate technical systems, specifically designed to support pattern development, and perhaps more importantly, pattern use for real-world problem solving. This perceived need was a central outcome of the research, and has prompted further investigation leading me into a PhD program where I could focus my attention specifically on addressing this issue.

About a year ago I had the honor of running into Yishay Mor (virtually) on a mailing list dedicated to pattern languages. Based off of our subsequent conversations it quickly became apparent that many of our ideas and interests were parallel, even though his work is centered on education, whereas mine is focused on natural resource management. Nevertheless, over the past several months we have continued to uncover increasing similarities in our ideas for promoting and developing pattern based systems.

Now, in the past few days an interesting conversation has developed. He and a group of colleagues have been actively mapping out the specs for creating just such a system, following their own research outcomes. Recognizing that we are essentially working on the same project we have begun to share some ideas. With that in mind I have put together a synthesis of some of these conversations.

In addition to the things that have already been defined as necessary components for the system, we have come up with some other things to consider.

1.) Patterns as Hubs, where case studies are linked as evidence for a particular pattern, as well as case studies linked to provide insight into how pattern users applied specific patterns and the outcomes associated with the work.

2.) Pattern Visualization (with several different approaches to include: mind-maps, concept maps and influence diagrams)

3.) Versioning to track the evolution of visualized pattern maps (addition to current versioning of text-based patterns)

4.) Ability to provide geographic boundaries to place based patterns (GIS/Google Maps?)

5.) Ranking of pattern relevance to specific forces/context to aide in pattern searching (similar to an Expert System)

6.) Parallel Development of Django/Google Appengine based version of the proposed system

7.) Interchangeable API between Appengine pattern system and Java based pattern system (enable easy communication between pattern systems built on different platforms)

By adding these pieces to the specs or at least in reiterating the importance of the pieces already described in the system, we can hopefully construct an application that can be usable across multiple domains. In this sense, by providing a range of capabilities this system could be just as useful for people working in the education field as for those working in natural resource management. Following an implementation of these components or at least some derivation of them, it will then be useful to see how such a system supports the work of educators and resource managers.


Justin G. Smith
Research Assistant,
Washington State University
Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology
http://www.ctlt.wsu.edu

Blog: http://heuristicthinking.blogspot.com/
Website: http://publicsphereproject.org

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