Thursday, January 10, 2008

Blurb for - Expressing Knowledge across Multiple Dimensions

This is a blurb for an upcoming talk slated for January 25, 2008 at Washington State University.

What is knowledge? How do we reuse it and transfer it? How do we represent this knowledge in ways that are simple to comprehend for the uninitiated? These are all serious and inherently difficult questions that are being asked among people working in nearly every field, whether in business or politics, in education or engineering. These questions also represent topics of this upcoming talk, “Expressing Knowledge Across Multiple Dimensions.”

In A Timeless Way of Building (1979) and A Pattern Language (1977), philosopher and architect Christopher Alexander put forth a theory on architectural practice that emphasized the use of patterns as reusable elements of good design. When configured together these patterns formed a network, a cohesive whole, a Pattern Language.

While Alexander’s work failed to bring about a revolution of modern architecture, the simplicity of his multi-dimensional approach to “Whole-Systems Design” prompted the adoption, and arguably a revolution among a number of fields completely unrelated to architecture. From object-oriented programming and software design, to community information systems, environmental planning and permaculture, patterns have become central principles for working with complex systems.

However, as the number of patterns has grown within each of these fields a concern over complexity and usability has surfaced. In an attempt to address these concerns a number of scholars have begun to focus upon the visual representation and ontological configuration of pattern languages. Yet, despite the strides made with knowledge mapping and information visualization, pattern users have been slow to incorporate these approaches into their knowledge base.

To prompt further thinking on the topic of patterns and pattern language representation, this talk hopes to address possible opportunities for representing patterns that enable users to traverse the multiple dimensions of a pattern language, as well as discuss some of the problems associated with current approaches to the visualization of a complex system of knowledge.

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