Monday, February 25, 2008

New Space for Patterns4Development

Here is the url:

If you weren't added but want to have access to participate then please let me know and I will add you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

DIAC-08 Abstract (Revised to fit with evolving research interests)

“Liberating Voices” in South Asia: Patterns as a Systems Approach to Analysis and Action

Since its inception in 2001 the Liberating Voices project has been built upon a global effort drawing upon a wealth of experience and research among various scholars, activists technologists and students; the purpose, to help co-construct a pattern language for civic communication. The result has been an ever-evolving repository of several hundred patterns spanning numerous disciplines from environmental sustainability and economic development, to community networks and political advocacy, and of course, the design, deployment and assessment of community centered ICTs.

In 2006 a research project was conducted at St. Mary’s University in conjunction with the Indian Social Institute (New Delhi) to analyze the relevance of these patterns as related to network-centric advocacy. The results of this study revealed three interesting insights regarding patterns and the Liberating Voices project in particular: 1.) Patterns and pattern languages represent a useful model for applying qualitative system dynamics to multi-level problem identification and solution mapping; 2.) While the Liberating Voices project is not yet complete various pattern configurations as sub-sets of the pattern language can be observed among effective instances of networked advocacy, both at the local as well as global levels. Thus, pointing to the relevance of the knowledge contained within the online system; 3.) Despite the promise and openness of the Liberating Voices project and its central software component, there are a number of shortcomings that must be addressed in order to help users engage in both evaluation and pattern configuration for their work in the field.

Pattern Languages, Advocacy Networks, Community Information Systems, Qualitative System Dynamics

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pattern Languages and System Dynamics

Yes! I have found what I was looking for. I just stumbled across a number of articles discussing the intersection between quantitative systems modeling and the use of patterns and pattern languages.

Here are two articles I came across that seem very interesting and relevant to my work.

"Design Pattern Language and System Dynamics Components"

"Towards a Network Pattern Language for Complex Systems"

Friday, February 8, 2008

A little redundant, but what the hell...

Pursuing this path to integrate systems thinking and patterns I have been thinking about combining the basic principles of both. First, I was considering the utility of system dynamics modeling as the quantitative process for investigating social and environmental processes connected with emergent energy production.

Some of these energy alternatives or supplements could be biodiesel and ethanol produced from agricultural goods or from forest products. Another thought I had was the use of waste materials such as trash compressed in land-fills to produce methane for use in natural gas based combustion engines. The idea of systems modeling could provide an easy way to numerically understand the nature of "flows" into and out of the "stocks" of an energy system, as well as the potential effects upon the environmental systems that these fuels are supposed to protect.

However, modeling these flows in and out of the system is only a part of the equation when we are dealing with energy production and consumption, especially when we consider the effects of an emergent agro-based energy economy. Once we enter into issues of social empowerment, equity and community-defined approaches to development the systems modeling approach is weakened as it fails to account for the numerous variables that are hard to quantify within a system. In these situations we must move to another approach that can help us understand the other variables within the system.

It is my feeling that patterns as an approach to analyzing the qualitative elements of a system are to be the most useful in providing managers, community development officers and socially oriented NGOs with another set of effective tools necessary in decision making, advocacy and policy development. First of all, patterns present a model for looking at the central elements effecting a system. This I have termed the “problem space” this problem space helps us to understand and visualize the various interactions between forces within a system that effect communities abilities to promote or pursue their development programs and policies. These forces can be described as myriad of elements, but some common forces that undermine development have to do with structural hindrances within the political system, problems with education and literacy levels, access to resources such as technologies, low-levels of social capital or minimal accumulation of durable assets. While some of these can be quantified the purpose of understanding the interactions between forces does not necessitate a quantifiable model, instead we want to know the factors that generate the problem space.

Secondly, as patterns (that represent “ideal practices”) grow, the number of solutions to address various forces increases giving communities the ability to more effectively respond to these complex set of interacting forces. While these patterns are often abstracted ideas they do in many cases provide practical solutions to a number of the entrenched issues that commonly effect people and the communities they live within.

For instance, if one takes a look at the list of patterns cited below, you can see the basic problems, context or forces and the description of the solution to address the problem.

Citizen Science

Community Currencies

Grassroots Public Policy Development

Conversational Support Across Boundaries

Public Agenda

Appropriating Technology

Appreciative Collaboration

Labor Visions

This can provide a model for envisioning not only the use of an abstracted pattern, but communities can also co-construct the actual implementation of a pattern to address the specific environmental and social context that they face.

Together, systems modeling helps us understand the possible effects of certain policies upon the economic and environmental systems (again these are the elements we can easily quantify), whereas the pattern modeling approach helps us fill in the gaps that must address the social dimensions of pursuing and implementing such policies.

It is also possible that patterns could be devised regarding environmental mechanisms, as well, and these could be further analyzed through the systems modeling process.

A good reference for systems modeling is provided here (Check this book out!): Modeling the Environment: An Introduction to System Dynamics Modeling of Environmental Systems.

Note: I will be posting the basic method of defining a problem space and the development of a corresponding solution or pattern map as a response to the problem space. I hope that this rather simple process can help readers cut through some of the language that can be difficult to muddle through as people try to understand the elements of systems thinking and how it can be applied to problem solving at the community level. This will also help people see the basic model developed in my thesis, without having to read the thesis…

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Patterns (Ideal Types), Systems Archetypes (The Anti-Patterns) and Causal Loop Diagrams

In looking at operationalizing my thesis work, and in order to further develop pattern thinking as an evaluative framework for community empowerment, I have been doing some reading on System Dynamics again. In my readings I came across the notion of System Archetypes. These archetypes are interesting as they correlate in a way to the idea of forces or context that are reoccurring or that effect a broad range of systems. This is useful as I find that many patterns that describe potential forces or context are often dense and problematically vague (or at least they can be). System Archetypes attempt to describe these forces in a more pattern like way, by labeling them with simple names and providing a description. In some ways I guess we could equate these to anti-patterns.

Yet despite the perceptiveness of the use of archetypes to help describe a specific “problem space” it seems to me that there are important pieces missing within some of the more mainstream systems literature I have come across (BTW, I have by no means exhausted the scope of systems lit) when compared to the level of explicitness presented within the pattern language paradigm. For example, in systems literature I find little that deals with both forces as influencing factors that can undermine a systems, as well as those elements such as patterns that are meant to breathe life into a system. Most of the work seems directed towards being able to effectively identify problematic forces and fail to fully address the possibility archetypal solutions. Instead, systems thinking looks at the problem and describes solutions as an outgrowth of dynamic modeling processes.

Not to discount the modeling process, but this is where pattern thinking seems important as the paradigm seeks to incorporate a range of elements and perspectives in order to support proper configuration and problem solving within complex environments. Yet again, that is not to say that systems dynamics as a field doesn’t posses some very useful insights for supporting the development of the pattern model. For instance, the work done with Causal Loop Diagrams represent a very useful method for describing the types of relationships between patterns. This means we can use these diagrams to help represent the directional interaction between patterns, as well as show the nature of that flow, ie; do these patterns reinforce one another or do they support a dynamic equilibrium within the system.

Overall, I think there are great potential for an integration between these fields and both are essentially seeking to produce the same results, which is effective problem, solving in response to overwhelming levels of complexity. For my work though, I will stick with patterns as there is a solid body of literature emerging that is focused upon community development, communication and civic empowerment that is seriously needed. I think by incorporating some fundamental components from the systems dynamics field we can only make the pattern model more effective in producing what it is intended to produce.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Model for Evaluation/Analysis/Diagnostic for Community Problem Solving (Excerpt from Thesis)

Chapter 5

Research Analysis

Identifying the Problem Space

With a description of events, a general problem space can be mapped out that depicts the case study elements as interconnected properties. This problem space can be developed by constructing a visual representation that presents a holistic picture of what was and is taking place within Jharkhand. Linking these pieces together can provide a window into shortcomings and highlight areas where the network could strengthen its capacity to engage. However, just as important, processes of highlighting relationships enables a clearer understanding of how the issues and problems of the case support each other to create a complex and difficult environment for political representation, responsive governance and empowering vs. debilitating social policies in the region.

For instance, it is obvious from the case report that the fear of displacement was a primary concern or problem. Following from this element an array of problems emerge that feed into, as well as flow from this specific issue. The concern over displacement was the consequence of a policy proposal initiated by the government and the Indian Military. This proposal is likewise linked to another problem, a lack of political influence. Figure-6 points to this, showing the link between the ability to influence political leaders and the level of informational access, which includes the ability to communicate and redistribute that information. As a point of reference, it was nearly two years before villagers acquired concrete evidence of the government’s initial proposal. As long as this information remained out of reach no catalyst existed to compel local groups to contest or attempt to influence political policies. And, without the community’s ability to communicate opposition it is nearly impossible to push for political redirection.

Figure Caption

Figure 6: Problem Map, depiction of problems as a system of issues.

This broadly relates to the structural blockages which correlate back to opportunity structures. Without a system, whether institutional or technological in nature that enables an effective two-way flow of information between political representatives and the region’s constituents, there would be no space through which to contest these policies. Thus, the ability to access channels for information consumption and production is fundamentally necessary for providing the communicative space to negotiate political alternatives. While this does not address the content of discourse, the level of informational access represents a precursor that links to a capacity for people to enjoy a supportive and representative form of governance (Day & Schuler, 2004; Dreze & Sen, 1999; Schuler, 1994).

Further analysis highlights other important connections, such as the relationship between poor compensation and the deterioration of economic livelihoods. While compensation links to institutional mechanisms that enable or hinder appropriate implementation of social policies, livelihoods relates back to concerns over forcible displacement. In this way, livelihoods also connect to problems of information awareness, with the government’s ‘notification of intent’ as being just one example. With these notifications often non-existent, the ability of villagers to protect resources was limited, resulting in the loss of livestock and other durable assets. Though the notification was issued, its affect did not reach the intended audience. Again, this issue connects back to the institutional problems associated with the ways the government chooses to implement its laws and policies.

Though these shortcomings could be associated with a number of reasons, systemic corruption and cultural exclusion are often cited as the culprits (Corbridge & Harris, 2000; Dreze & Sen, 1999). These are perceived as influences leading to greater failures of institutional mechanisms that stifle accountability in government. As a result, the scope of the problem space is further extended by tracing access of direct political representation to these more abstract or high-level problems such as cultural exclusion. This has fed into the poor implementation of policies resulting in low-literacy, making access to and use of information more problematic (Dreze & Sen, 1999; Sen, 1999). Of course issues of literacy can be linked to more general concerns over income insecurity that often forces children to forego education in order to assist their families in earning a living (Dreze & Sen, 1999). Though these outlying elements may not be directly linked to the campaign, following this line of reasoning enables a view of a dynamic system with a range of conspiring forces that influence day-to-day realities as well as the capacity for advocacy.

By understanding how these pieces are fitting together it becomes clearer that one is working with a complex system represented by a web of interconnected components that are to some degree all influencing one another. Along with describing the complexity of the problem space, the case study also illustrates a parallel set of properties that converged to contest the immediate, as well as some of the structural or outlying problems here. With these observations in place the next step of the analysis revolves around identifying elements that emerged as solutions to the problem space.

Properties of Success

By developing a parallel diagram similar to defining the problem space, connections between the responses of the local community and the network in the case can be represented. These connections enable an analysis of how properties within the network influenced, and were also influenced by other supportive properties. Similar to comprehending the problem space, it is likewise possible to understand these properties as a system, constituting a whole, rather than just a conglomeration of pieces.

By tracing connections between various properties it can be recalled that one of the primary functions of the network was its usage of frames. This was enabled and supported through its link to the role of media production in communicating these frames to different groups. The network was able to use language in context specific ways depending upon who they were attempting to communicate with. For example, press releases geared towards the larger public sought to draw mental and emotional connections between the results of “British colonial rule” and the growing public angst over so-called “internal colonialism” (Roy, 2003). Framing was also used in the development of visual media products; while other media was produced in the form of research reports and op-ed pieces that drew connections between political corruption and the failure of democracy in India.

Figure Caption

Figure 7: Solution Map, represents elements developed by the network.

Extending this analysis it is apparent that media production is supported by the presence of multiple partnerships and extended associations which act as channels for the exchange of resources and expertise needed to carry out media development projects, as well as an outlet for distribution. In this case, Usages of ICT also act as both an inlet, as well as an outlet for the distribution of media, and can include the material resources needed to create the media, such as a digital video camera, computer or an audio recorder.

Referring back to the problem space defined earlier, it becomes clearer that without the ability to communicate, or the ability to utilize effective framing to engender responses from one’s audience, the capacity of the network is minimized. Likewise, without the material support, expertise or the systems of human and technological distribution available, the ability to produce and disseminate the media is also compromised.

Elements were also influenced by the opportunity structures and consequently those elements influenced the structures through the process of creative problem solving and adaptation that emerged out of the cooperative efforts of the network. This relates to how the broader network with its multiple partnerships provided access to government officials, opening up a space for the capacity of the network as a single agent to propose an alternative public policy, as well as influence thinking on current policy decisions. The relationships already in place through the presence of the Church and a culture that was initially community-centric provided a ready made structure suitable for perceiving and working with the blockages presented by the government.

Similarly, through the presence of perceptive leaders and community actors that possessed a multitude of social connections across different groups and geographic boundaries, the ability of the community to develop a broader network was made possible. Thus, opening the door for greater partnerships with NGOs and activist groups, extending to international organizations associated with indigenous rights issues. This was not only encouraged through the prior presence of cross-community relationships, but also through repetitive interactions among like-minded actors that supported a process of conscientization and the strengthening of a shared vision which helped promote a unified voice among constituents.

However, these processes did not take place in a vacuum and the prevalence of political space that allowed for ‘witnessing’ among affected peoples, or for discussions regarding the campaign was also a necessary element. Taken together these elements served as a powerful force for developing a sustained process of resistance which aided in the mobilization of peoples to partake in a variety of ongoing public demonstrations and mass protest.

This iterative process presents some interesting parallels with feedback loops, in the sense that collective meaning and vision was strengthened enabling the development of a structure that encouraged a deepening of relationships which served to support protests and rallies that eventually became a commonplace occurrence among villagers contesting the firing range. This depiction represents an emergent structure that was influenced by a series of inputs, resulting in a series of outputs that continually reinforced one another. Though most of these properties are arguably products of unintended consequence, rather than strategic decision making, they nonetheless point to a way of thinking about the construction of organizations and networks that supports holistic conceptions of how relationships among the parts can enable success.

However, it is difficult to assert that these elements will constitute the perfect conception of a network in all situations since the case is representative of a context specific situation, in a specific time and place. Yet, these elements are not far from what appears to constitute many of the primary problems cited throughout the literature on advocacy networks, whether they are local or transnational in nature. What often ends up making a difference revolves around the implementation of these patterns, or in perceiving structural opportunities for influencing powerful people, and thus the institutions the people control.

While the intent is not to merely reiterate already well documented research within the field, but rather the intention is to highlight that by identifying a problem space it is possible to begin thinking of how responses can become more consciously designed and tweaked to address specific institutional and structural blockages. Thus, the major thrust here is more towards a way of thinking about relationships for action, rather than in the pieces of action. It is however, still necessary to understand the elements of action in order to apply this alternative view, which brings up the last phase of analysis that attempts to match the case properties to the patterns of the pattern language.

Making the Connections

With a generic understanding of the major elements in the case study and how the pieces interacted within one another, it is now possible to begin the next stage of analysis. For instance: 1.) what additional opportunities (patterns) could further empower the network; 2.) do the properties of the case match the patterns in the pattern repository; and 3.) are there properties from the case that should be patterns, but are not?

To identify missing elements that could be useful for future action it is important to compare how the responses of the network link to the problems confronting the network. It can be argued that the network has room for an expanded role that addresses more of the institutional mechanisms at work. Certainly, the network provided a structure in which the local communities could overcome various obstacles, but the underlying reasons for these obstacles still exist, such as rampant corruption and low-literacy rates. Without understanding and addressing these additional forces locals could be left dependent upon outside support for their political legitimacy and civic capacity.

Based upon the relationships highlighted in Figure-8, it is apparent that a number of elements were not addressed, or dealt with in a direct way. There was little done regarding issues of corruption, or on problems of political exclusion, except through the usage of media production that sought to illuminate these problems. However, merely highlighting corruption does not necessarily change the institutional nature that supports such behavior. Though it can promote a political will to construct stricter legal rules and incentivise whistle-blowers, media production is only one step towards developing an atmosphere needed to address the institutional mechanisms at work.

Figure Caption

Figure 8: Problem/Response Diagram, depicting direct connections between issues and responses.

While the campaign was successful, the network served primarily as a channel for people to respond to the government by opening access to political discourse, and did not radically transform the environment that has perpetuated political exclusion in Jharkhand. In fact, it is now 2007 and the state government has failed to hold panchayats election for almost 30 years. Similarly, other than the recent discussions over reforms on rehabilitation and compensation polices, there remains little change in the mechanisms for voicing grievances or in the cultural practices and bureaucracies of the Indian civil services in the Jharkhand state.

The continued institutional problems can be related back to Jonathan Barker (a pattern contributor) who cites social advocacy as a predominately responsive or reactive phenomenon (Barker, 1999). While groups can be effective they rarely define new pathways for policy development, instead they tend to get caught in a continual defensive cycle. Looking at a list of past advocacy campaigns in Jharkhand it is possible to recognize that some have been successful and others not, but the primary problem is that there has been little move towards defining a new way forward. Apprehending such problems can open up opportunities for perceiving additional supportive patterns such as: Social Dominance Attenuation (Schuler, 2007), Grassroots Public Policy Development (Maranda & Schuler, 2007), or Free and Fair Elections (Schuler, 2006). There could be a number of patterns that could also support the development of literacy, such as Self-help Groups (Smith, 2007) or Informal Learning Groups (Smith, 2007), and perhaps Durable Assets (Smith, 2007) to promote economic security (some of which is already taking place).

Though like all patterns, the level of success would be dependent upon the capacity to implement such an approach, as well as additional patterns chosen to act as support elements. Nonetheless, Barker’s findings open a door for perceiving new options while calling for more proactive campaigns. While this list of possibilities is by no means an exhaustive list of either the opportunities or patterns available to leverage these opportunities, they do however point to the initial relevance of the patterns within the context of this research. To strengthen the relevance of these patterns it is necessary to provide a comparison between the identified responses of the network and the available list of patterns. By going through these patterns one can recognize a number of obvious correlations. In some instances there are direct connections while in other cases there are more general or abstract correlations.

In providing a comparison of these elements it is possible to recognize that the responses and patterns fit together nicely.

Table 1: Response-Pattern Matching, identifying correlations between responses and pre-defined patterns.

  • Community Network

  • Mass Protest

  • Repetitive use of political space

  • Use of Frames

  • Multiple Partnerships*

  • Perceptive Leaders

  • Unified Voice*

  • Media Production

  • Use of ICT

  • Use of Shared Vision

  • Understanding Opportunities

  • Identifiable Policy Alternatives

  • Witnessing

  • Community Networks

  • Mass Protest

  • Political Settings

  • Strategic Frame 344

  • Civic Intelligence*

  • Strategic Capacity

  • Big Tent for Social Change*

  • Indigenous Media/Tactical Media

  • Tactical Media/AOI**/INAM**

  • Shared Vision

  • Opportunity Spaces

  • Grassroots Public Policy

  • Power of Story

(*) Patterns and Properties do not match, yet they may still be relevant. (**) International Networks of Alternative Media (148), Accessibility of Online Information (295). Patterns worth noting: Community Building Journalism (521), Civic Capabilities (721), Control of Self-Representation (315), Community Inquiry (636), Power Research (293), Multi-Party Negotiations for Conflict Resolution (710), Transparency (523) Open Action and Research Network (633). Patterns not found within the repository: Repetitive Interaction, Information Politics, Symbolic Politics, or Leverage Politics.

For instance, the usage of Peaceful Public Demonstrations, Shared Vision, Strategic Frame, and Community Networks all relate in a direct way with the case-study examples. There are other examples within the repository that match up as well: Tactical Media, Political Settings and Big Tent for Social Change. Indigenous Media is another type of media development that took place within the case study. In clarifying the problem and context of the pattern its relevance is apparent:

Problem –
Lack of representation in media production results in reduced diversity of ideas and perspectives in the media. This often results in manipulation, lack of political participation and knowledge about rights. It lessens opportunities to engage in politics or to assume responsibilities in government. Indigenous people who are denied their voice will find it difficult to fight oppression, work with allies, or maintain their culture. Without the means to make their voices heard, communities become atomized within themselves and invisible to the outside world.

Context –
Indigenous people in rural and urban areas in developing and developed countries around the world need to create —as well as use —information and communication systems to promote education, health, governance, cultural life and many other important values (Schuler and Alvarez, 2004).

Political Settings also relates and was discussed at some length already. Here Political Settings refers to: the basic physical units of collective political action, such as meetings and demonstrations. Essentially, each instance of a political setting has its own unique location in space and time, yet often regularly reoccurring (Barker, 1999 and 2007). Again, it is possible to see how these descriptions generally match-up with the case elements. For instance, the numerous public meetings, protests and coordinating events headed-up by the various organizations involved, all point to the usage of Political Settings.

Just as defining a problem space or providing a representation of responses, these related patterns can be presented as a visual, interconnected web. The Figure-10 provides one view of how these patterns can link while also representing their directional influence to one another. As in previous diagrams this model represents how these patterns relate and support one another. For instance, one can follow along from each pattern to understand their relationships: Strategic Frame is produced and disseminated through the use of Tactical Media, this media thus serves to help further develop a Shared Vision, whereas Shared Vision helps to enable the emergence of Mass Protest, which serves as a Political Setting that thereby reinforces the Shared Vision and thus provides feeds back into the use of Strategic Frame. Though there were other patterns at work within the case example, this snap-shot points to how these patterns work and correlate to the previous diagrams developed for analysis.

While the connections cited in Table-1 and Figure-9 appear to provide greater validity to the framework, some difficulties arise when trying to ascertain the relationships between those more generalized or amorphous patterns. For instance, opportunity spaces and civic intelligence do not appear to actually address a specific problem per se; instead, they represent emergent responses of the network or ways of perceiving environment. In this way these patterns appear to act as high level elements that lack a definite function in regards to a specific action. Yet, in reviewing these two patterns the role each play is tremendous.

Figure Caption

Figure 9: Sample Pattern Lattice, showing how pre-defined patterns link into a feedback loop.

The ability to understand one’s opportunity space represents an important component that is echoed throughout the literature on advocacy networks, and though it is unclear whether the network conceived of the structural blockages it faced (except through research provided by external partners) it would seem that its ability to adapt and act accordingly through a reliance upon other elements provided a greater level of strategic capacity for action. In this sense it seems likely that the usage of opportunity spaces drawn from both the literature and the case study reveals a point of relevance for both the pattern and perhaps as a suggestion to methodically perceive these spaces in the future.

In the case of civic intelligence one can think of the actual network as whole and its ability to collectively identify and resolve issues both internally and externally. As previously referenced, networks often emerge to address a host of problems that local constituents could not otherwise address on their own, due to problems of resources or institutional blockages that minimize their political capacity to influence policy or to contest dominate forces. In this way the emergence and subsequent growth of the network serves to increase a group’s civic intelligence which relates to the adaptive capacity of the network to find and implement creative solutions to problems. For instance, Keck and Sikkink’s Boomerang Pattern could be argued as a product of adaptive capacity for working around institutional oppositions.

Along with the ability to communicate, perceive problems and design solutions the research illuminates perceptible connections among these critical elements, and the potential for adaptation within a network. It is this adaptive capacity that is considered a central component of civic intelligence. Thus, the emergence of the network and all of its responses is a product of a certain level of civic intelligence and the more it was employed the more effective they got; simultaneously growing the collective intelligence as the network grew in number of associations and in power.

Overall, these correlations show that there is strong evidence that these patterns represent a number of important elements within the case. Similarly, the extended number of patterns defined within the pattern repository represents a range of additional opportunities available to increase capacity and extend thinking for considering a larger range of influential things that could derail activities.

However, even with these patterns available the literature and case present a number of elements that should probably be explicitly defined within the repository.
The most obvious examples would most likely be Keck and Sikkink’s ‘typology of tactics’ sited in the literature review which include: Information Politics, Leverage Politics, Accountability Politics and Symbolic Politics. The boomerang pattern could also be operationalized as a tactical approach to organizing and contrasting strategic partnerships among communities with little in the way of resources. Della Porta’s observation on the affect of having multiple partnerships and multiple affiliations also raises the need for patterns that address these elements. Another pattern is the usage of Iterative Interactions; though Political Settings does address this to some degree the pattern misses the importance of process orientated settings, meaning it is not an explicit function of the pattern. In this case, formalizing this focus upon the reoccurrence of using political setting can act in support of the Political Setting’s general function.


With this analysis a number of critical observations can be made regarding the relevance of the patterns and pattern language. The first of these observations relate to the set of specific questions posed above, and again follows here: 1.) what additional opportunities (patterns) could further empower the network, 2.) do the properties of the case match the patterns in the pattern repository, 3.) are there properties from the case that should be patterns, but are not?

Based upon the list of responses and communicative structures identified within the case and the patterns defined within the repository, it is clear that a number of correlations exist. The ability to see these relationships represents a very useful step in providing a comprehensive list of solutions to a number of difficult problems for enabling the workings of civil society and networked advocacy. However, it is also apparent that the pattern language remains incomplete as both the analysis and literature review have revealed patterns that have yet to be defined. This points to the evolving nature of the model and in fact it represents an adaptive and developing project that may never be complete or will always be in flux as people identify newer more effective patterns for working within complex social environments.

However, despite the incompleteness of the patterns, the conceptual process of analyzing the connections among problems faced by the communities of the case study also revealed opportunities where some of these patterns could be used in more systematic ways to address shortcomings. This conceptual shift represents a critical piece of the research and speaks to both an opportunity for comprehending new pathways for action, and a shortcoming that insist upon yet another paradigm for how groups think about projects and the critical importance of understanding the relationships between the scope of elements involved in these complex social environments. And though the theory appears at first glance overly complex the idea of generalization can provide a more usable model worth consideration as it develops further.

Beyond providing an introductory evaluation of the theory of patterns, the analysis helped reiterate, as well as add validity and coherence to previous research on civil society and advocacy networks. For instance, though these patterns are generalized they still seem to shed light on the network itself as a strategic entity maneuvering and adapting to contest both immediate as well as institutional problems. Information and communication, the ability to form structures of opportunity to help mobilize and leverage resources among network actors, all played critical roles in the effectiveness of the tribal people’s campaign to oppose the Netrahat Firing Range.

These actions also showed that through connections to larger institutions and organizations, communities can facilitate deeper discussions on issues (connected to, but) outside the scope of their original and immediate concern. For example, though it was not explicitly clear in the case-study, the Netrahat campaign along with a number of other local movements in the region, such as the Koel-Karo Dam project provided a deeper more compelling context and impetus for renewed demands for a tribal state. This connection is evident when reviewing past discussions and literature on the modern tribal autonomy movement, as well as when one recognizes that many of the local organizations involved in these campaigns also played important roles in promoting the political cohesion necessary for encouraging positive responses from the Center government in Delhi. Likewise, through the network’s extended circle of partnerships it was able to link Netrahat to practices of displacement, adding to a national debate that has heated up over state and local-level policies surrounding development induced displacement. This highlights how geographically located issues can act as a set of interfaces to support some of these larger issues that exist outside the original area of focus. It is interesting to note how this process of extending the scope of debate relates back to a central idea of the pattern language which is to perceive and address those problems that can be addressed internally by small groups and communities themselves, as well as those problems that necessitate larger spheres of coordination.

With groups perceiving the relevance of tackling issues of immediate importance while facilitating in contesting the institutional and/or cultural practices that feed into entrenched practices of social inequalities, it becomes more than apparent that the range of actors, structures and mechanisms for expression, as well as the competing interests of various groups will add heavy layers of complexity to achieving social change. With the world becoming increasingly integrated and conflicts apparently more common it is necessary for traditionally weak organizations and communities to identify ways to systematically consider the scope of conspiring social problems needed to empower those who live at the bottom of the global social and economic ladder.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Wow, Microsoft is Seeking to buy Yahoo...

Recently, Microsoft put in a bid to buy Yahoo for 44.6 billion dollars.

Here: Merged Yahoo-Microsoft would have much overlap

Friday, February 1, 2008

Ideas for yet another direction with my research

Today I was sitting in my little office and thinking about the whole biofuels phenomena and the potential impacts upon local communities. I began thinking about how communities could and are currently defining the trajectory of energy independence and the potential problems that might be coming as global power and corporate interests begin to extend their reach in an attempt to control the flows of exchange and production of biofuels.

Again, I was brought back to my thinking on patterns and the role patterns can play in supporting community planning, but I also began thinking about how pattern thinking can help us evaluate and analyze current practices and potentially support alternative configurations of socio-environmental, socio-political and socio-economic interactions among communities and how they might help communities effectively respond to global and state level corporate pressures.

Strangely, I was reminded of my masters thesis which used pattern thinking as an analytical framework for evaluating effective public participation and networked advocacy. In many ways the issue of community defined development within the context of an emergent biofuel based global economy is not that much different than what I presented in my thesis. In fact in many ways this question is a very interesting opportunity to extend the idea of patterns and pattern languages as not just a design paradigm, but as analytical and evaluative framework that can help us understand effective and ineffective sustainable development projects at the community level.

For instance, in understanding the problems and issues that communities face as interacting patterns that help reinforce entrenched problems, we can also begin to rethink of ways in which alternative patterns and their corresponding configurations could potentially support alternative models of community defined development.

I know I have focused very heavily on the technological apparatus that could support community planning as that was one of the primary issues I asserted in my thesis, yet in the midst of identifying problems with the usage of patterns and pattern thinking I completely missed the genius of my original thesis which was the use of patterns as a systems-thinking approach to problem definition and solution description within a complex social environment of competing interests and thick informational interactions among disparate actors.

Funny thing, my thesis committee had immediately recognized this when reading my work, and yet I was off and running to solve the problems I had ran into when working with patterns. I completely abandoned the fact that I had successfully developed, presented and defended an entirely new paradigm for analyzing social and political phenomena that had originate from Alexander’s work.

I hate to say this, but I feel that if I ignore this I’m missing something very interesting and perhaps useful. I know there is a lot of work to be done in the usability of patterns for design and planning, but in many ways there are a whole lot of people working on this problem. This is not to say I have nothing to offer here, but I think there is a lot of work to do in this other area and work that has potential for high value.

I guess this goes back to my the whole reason I’m so infatuated with the notion of patterns and that is pattern thinking presents a fairly comprehendible model for working with complex systems. Yet, understanding these systems along with the problems and various interactions is just as important as learning how to work with the various elements we use to define and design these systems.

Recognizing this puts me in a strange position that has me thinking about abandoning a large component of my research that has been central to my thinking for the past year and a half or so and that is the technological component of my work. Yet, I think this shift backwards is perhaps necessary otherwise some of these insights will be lost and left in the dark.