Monday, November 12, 2007

Building an Integrated Approach to NRM with Patterns as Heuristics

Revisiting the post: Constructing a Pattern Language for Community Centered Information Systems

I decided that despite my focus upon NRM, presenting a holistic vision for community empowerment as defined within the New Community Networks would be an appropriate point of departure. For instance, without an effective infrastructure for community education, community based NRM can be severely hindered. Therefore, understanding some of the opportunities provided by the L.V. patterns could help point to useful elements to ensuring an integrated solution.

After traversing the pattern list at the new Public Sphere Project website, I was able to identify a set of potentially relevant patterns to the work of encouraging community building education.

Education Patterns–

So we have this list of patterns identified as being associated with education. However, it becomes obvious that without a clear problem description or relevant context for application, many of these components might not make sense or have direct application to the types of issues communities are being faced with.

Similarly, beyond the issue of understanding context is the need to be able to refine the types of patterns that we draw upon. In collecting the patterns for this particular post I had to traverse through 160 patterns just to develop this list. It is clear that this list might be too large for specific community development projects.

Again, the question arises, “How do we make sense of such a dense collection of interrelated knowledge?” Of course this question also generates alternative questions, such as “What ways might we mitigate the complexity of a pattern language,” or “How might we customize the scope of a pattern search in order to ensure that only the patterns relevant to a community problem show up?”

To me this is the core of my research, though NRM is the identified field of study, I have already entered this field with a set of assumptions about the usage of patterns and pattern languages. Fortunately, these assumptions are not all that unverified as others such as Tippet (2004), Cowanand in many ways the work of Alexander himself provides a blueprint for community development and effective interaction with the constructed and natural environment.

However, methodologies for engaging in the construction of pattern languages are mixed, complex and in many ways problematic. Likewise, in using patterns, it seems that practitioners must develop a sort of cognitive linguistic extension of their normal lexicon to include that of patterns. However, this too can be difficult since the domains of patterns span various disciplines from Architecture, to NRM and Landscape Ecology, to Software Engineering and Cybernetic Systems to Social-centric Information and Communication. Often each of these domains contain hundreds of patterns that can make it extremely difficult to find the directly relevant ones.

While I will continue to post the patterns I think are relevant to my work under the framework proposed in Schuler’s New Community Networks, I think it must be understood that this list is in a sense general, and abbreviated in a very unscientific, and most likely biased way.

To get around this issue, I am continuing my work with building a search component around the L.V. system along with a visualization piece that can hopefully be applied to any of these pattern languages. Overall, I think the paradigm is an extremely useful construct that can be applied in a host of soft-system environments. That is of course, if and when we as scholars, practitioners and researches begin to take these shortcomings more seriously and make tools available for groups to more freely utilize these patterns and thereby construct their own context specific languages for solving community problems.

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