The posts on this blog were mostly considered emails written to people interested in a particular approach to addressing the problems facing humanity and our relationship to the planet. If you are interested in what you read - please leave a comment...

July 22, 2007

Good questions elicit useful answers...

My good friend Ross Ishikawa - I was a fellow student of Chris. Alexander's with him in '89, had some questions about the proposal (see earlier postings), which made me think more clearly - hopefully the answers will be illuminating too:

"I'm curious what you see as the end product of this idea? Is it primarily an educational tool, a proactive tool?"

It's a collaborative pattern language building tool. The idea is, that it is made available to all, so people can start their own patterning project or collaborate on existing ones.
Imagine smaller, more focussed groups building a pattern language in the way that Wikipedia grew. I've realised more and more clearly over the last years that pattern languages are useful for building structured maps/models many sorts of environment - from a business plan to a description of an ecosystem, to a model of the human/environment interface that might help us do sensible things more often than we do at the moment, faced with big, complex issues.
The key will be to get some smart people/groups together to do some interesting work that can serve as examples.

"What does the person do who comes upon this thing?"

When you come across it, you can either explore it - as you would 'A Pattern Language', or get involved as a contributor - as you would with wikipedia, or start your own/adopt it as a tool for your own organisation, as you might , perhaps, use a 'wiki farm'.
It is NOT a 'save the world' tool. Just a tool of the new information age that hopefully is effective in making Chris' innovation accessible and current to more people, so that it becomes more effective.

"I often think that any real solution to climate change will need to be viral in nature, ...
The brick wall that always seems to be standing there is the massive political and corporate players who benefit much more from the status quo..."
I agree, there is a BIG problem with our whole political/economic system, that seems destined to take us via the 'tragedy of the commons' route .
Change will have to come from real action by real people - part of that action will of course be political pressure - there's loads of people doing that. But pressure for what? I don't believe that there is a 'sustainable' version of what we have at present.
Maybe this thing can be part of a new part of our culture's metaphysical toolbox - just like cartesian rationalism is, or relativity, or economic rationalism, or love, or existentialism. We have all these things, but we don't have one for;
"whooa! This thing is just WAAY complex - maybe I should try an XXXX on it!" (you get my drift...)

"Is the idea of the wiki tool that it will connect some of the cause and effect dots of this whole mess? I.e., "you're watching this awful sitcom sponsored by this awful car company that has bought these otherwise right thinking politicians so that they vote against useful legislation that would result in cleaner air and less oil dependency, and that's why your children have asthma and their friends' fathers are being killed in a silly war with no end"
I suppose it could do that, if that's what you want it to do, but I would rather see that thought stood on its head.
The software patterns people have spent some time picking apart the structure of patterns - working from Chris' model almost as if it came on a stone tablet. One of their key observations is that a pattern is always founded on a 'problem'.
Nevertheless, the feeling that one gets from reading 'A Pattern Language' is NOT one of a network of problems, but of a suite of connected good ideas, that give a context for purposeful and optimistic action, with a reduced chance of doing active harm. So the cause and effect dots are captured, but the whole thrust of the thing is to create connected solutions, not beat people over the head with networked misery!

No comments: