Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pattern Re-Visited

While I know I said I was going to show case a pattern a day and a different pattern at that I have felt the need to re-visit a pattern as I have come to see it's deeper and more fundamental relationship to my research objective.

The pattern is Alan Borning's "Citizen Access to Simulation" and when I wrote my first response to this pattern I was thinking of community simulation where actors are involved in a sort of mock experiment similar to the one we are conducting in my environmental conflict course. However, in reading some of the material behind this pattern I have come to see this as dynamic simulations as a way to support decision making in community context.

Now, this is exactly what I'm doing in my other class "Systems Dynamic Modeling," and the more I get into this course the more I recognize how this can play a central element in collaborative planning. For instance, in following along with my interest in a planning approach that promotes pattern mapping to develop a cognitive map of sustainable development design, the use of systems modeling could play a central role in helping groups become more informed about their proposed policies or designs for development.

And as a result of this centrality, it represents what I think to be a first order pattern in any planning process that deals with the interaction between natural and built systems. Now, being a pattern person I see that sustainable development is more more complex than what can be modeled, however, there are certain elements that modeling can tell us about our environment that might not be obvious. Things that if overlooked could spell disaster for our proposals. To me this makes sense as we can bring in a quantitative model and apply it in a qualitative way to help people learn about their environment.

The problem is that many seem to confuse these models as predictors or forecasters of dynamic change, but when really they are educational tools that are meant to do just that, educate us. So great care must be taken to ensure that people recognize modeling for what it is. Alexander, talks about this in the 'Nature of Order.'

With that in mind, I wonder how a simulation of this sort might influence a pattern based approach to planning a development program. In fact, this might make a very useful pattern as part of a pattern based planning methodology that seeks to inform the ways patterns are contextualized by communities.

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