Sunday, March 30, 2008

Envisioning the Ideal Case

So I have been given a little exercise to try out over the next few days; I need to construct an 'ideal' hypothetical case for applying patterns and systems thinking. It needs to emphasize community level problem solving and environmental sustainability.

Issues of interest are: land rights, community energy solutions (wind, bio, hydro, solar, methane farming) community forestry, marketing and protection of non-timber forest resources (such as dyes, resins, fungi and other ethnobotanicals used as medicines, nutrition and so forth). Perhaps, all in one.

Along with these issues, I'm looking for cases that exemplify community attempts at autonomous decision making, planning, implementation within the context of globalizing world and external pressures from government, business, oppositional civil society, etc.

The case also needs some transnational linkages (i.e. NGOs, MNCs, etc.), yet this can be several degrees removed. Various levels of information literacy and communicative capacity are also needed.

Once this idealized situation (or situations) is developed, a few of us are going to begin the tedious task of looking for potential candidates for empirical study.

Need to build some software...

While I prefer the use of influence and causal loop diagrams to the approaches of mind-maps and concept maps, the issue with the former is that there is little in the way of free and opensource tools available for using this approach, or learning the process.

There are tons of applications devoted to influence diagrams, system dynamics and so forth, but they cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. There is one opensource modeling program out there but it does not include influence diagrams.

This might be primary reason pattern adopters have been slow to consider such an option, because for many it isn't an option; it certainly isn't one to me. So I guess the option I do have is of course to code my own application.

I don't really have any intention of making it full-featured. I just want to be able to add system elements, embed text (to contextualize the element, with simple descriptions shown onmouseover()), use arch lines to show relationships, add (+) or (-) to differentiate the type of influence, define the system boundary (maybe define a meta-system), be able to add images as user-friendly icons for elements, and I want to be able to have versioning (that way the model can be adapted to reveal changes within the system that might warrant additional responses).

For now, I'm going to build a crude prototype, meaning no AJAX. I don't have the time to figure it out at this point. As in a past post, I still plan on using SVG because of it's dynamic options compared to the php_gd2 option. Plus, I have taken some serious time figuring out the SVG option and I like it. It gives me an option to add AJAX capabilities later on. Ultimately, I would like to code this for my own research and if someone finds use, then let them add the bells and whistles later on.

Anyway, I think I will draw up a more complete list of requirements and then fire up my agroUML app and get to mapping this project out.

Note: I really hate not having time to fully engage cool projects like this. Yet, I have no intention of being a full-time web developer again. Well, unless it is working on building apps to support my research interests. Hmmmm, potential dream job?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The process of visualizing complex environments

In order to make patterns an effective approach to any community empowerment project it is necessary that planners, community members and other stakeholders understand the social, political, economic and environmental context in which they are working within. This perhaps the case in any situation regardless of whether patterns are the model you use or not. Questions must obviously arise to help understand power relations within the system, as well as the nature of information and communicative influences among actors within the system. Likewise it is necessary to evaluate the influence of resources, such as money, access to technology, levels of social capital.

The list below shows areas where project planners, social analysts and community members might want to consider in the construction of a visual model that represents the current context and forces associated within a community system. Though it is not exhaustive it does represent some important considerations.

Natural and Human Resources
Information – Production and Consumption
Health of Environment (Ecology)
Economic Capacity

Education – Literacy
Political Influence
Social Capital – Affiliations

Along with this list it is also perhaps necessary to define the nature of these influences by structuring this model to include different levels of analysis.
  • Global-Level Forces, e.g. influence of FDI, multinational corporations (MNCs), International Norms and Treaties, influence from adversarial or cooperative nation-states, transnational advocacy networks (TANs)

  • State-Level Forces, e.g. nature of governance (political opportunity structure), presence of corruption, oppositional policies, media propaganda, elites,

  • Community Level Forces, e.g. community divisions, resources, education, cooperation vs. fragmentation, gender relations, effectiveness of leaders (see list above)

Once a list has been generated among participants, the next task is to begin understanding how each of these elements link to each other to construct the context. There are several ways in which this can be done. For instance, Joanne Tippett from the University of Manchester uses a modified version of mind-mapping to elicit insights into the contextual nature of a community system (yet with an emphasis on design). Others use concept mapping or interaction diagrams borrowed from the UML, popular among software developers.

However, it is felt that simple influence diagrams can be much more revealing in showing multiple interactions across multiple dimensions. One can define the elements in the system, how they influence one another, as well as define the boundaries of the system. Users can also identify elements from outside the defined system, which can be useful in understanding the potential effects of second or third-order influences on a system. An example of one these influences might be the role of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, for framing grievances against state abuses of a particular population.

(Source: UK Open Systems Society)
Yet, despite the potentials, influence diagrams lack the visual appeal of mind-maps. Though it is unclear whether this is a problem, it is possible that developers could extend the influence diagram model to include pictures or other images in order to pull these diagrams out of the antiseptic feel they currently possess. Nevertheless, these models do provide a tidy methodology and visualization approach that can be useful in understanding complex social environments and thereby perhaps useful in the construction of pattern languages as responses to these environments.

While this has yet to be tested with patterns as central to the overall process, the use of influence diagrams have been relied upon heavily in the application of qualitative system dynamics and therefore have a history of success. The question then becomes, can we use influence diagrams in configuring pattern languages and can these models be useful in non-expert contexts where multiple stakeholders with varying levels of literacy can in fact make sense and use of these tools.

This of course requires further investigation

Friday, March 28, 2008

Exploratory Paper - Patterns, Process and Systems-Thinking: Putting Social Pattern Languages to Work

Following a 2006 study aimed at evaluating the validity of pattern languages within the context of civic communication and social change, a number of insights emerged connected to the field of system dynamics and the practice of process monitoring. The study revealed that both system dynamics and process monitoring provide a number of opportunities for further grounding pattern thinking, as well as in supporting adaptive approaches to pattern based capacity building among community networks. Based upon these initial findings it would appear that further investigation is necessary to better understand how patterns, systems and process can be integrated for ever more effective planning and capacity building among civil society, community networks and social change advocates.

KEYWORDS: Pattern Languages, System Dynamics, Process Monitoring, Community Networks

Patterns and Systems
In 2006 a study of the Liberating Voices project was carried out, which aimed at evaluating the validity of pattern languages within the context of civic communication and social change. Following from Christopher Alexander’s conception of design patterns (1977; 1979), the L.V. project has been an attempt to utilize Alexander’s model for constructing effective civic communicative systems (Schuler, 2002). And just as Alexander envisioned multiple applications for designing buildings and towns, the Liberating Voices project perceives patterns as useful constructs for community empowerment, as well as supportive for an overall re-conceptualization of the ways in which communities and a networked civil society think and engage in social change (Schuler, 2001; Smith, 2007). The study, reiterated past research on advocacy networks, showing that these networks possess a very real potential for influencing social policies within local, as well as in global contexts. Similarly, the study also showed that these successes are often mitigated by any number of internal and external forces that can be difficult to perceive and address (Keck and Sikkink, 1998; Rodrigues, 2004; Smith, 2007). This of course has led to some serious problems in the capacity of networks to achieve intended outcomes, and points to the need to perceive the shifting socio-political landscape these networks function within (Keck & Sikkink, 1998; Rodrigues, 2003).

With the dynamic nature of social landscapes in mind, the L.V. patterns represent yet another approach to the ways networks can construct dynamic solutions to the internal and external forces that act as blockages to success. However, before such pattern configurations can occur, it is often appropriate to understand the interaction among forces within a system a group is working within. Based upon this need for effective models to perceive complex environments it is suggested that the use of system dynamics represents a useful addition to the process of perceiving dynamic environments common among shifting social landscapes. In fact, there are numerous parallels between the literature of system dynamics and pattern languages. For instance, though Alexander emphasized the use of patterns as elements of design (1979), the structure of patterns and its parallels to system archetypes found within the literature of system dynamics (Senge, 1990) suggests the opportunity to use patterns as a structured model connected to the methodologies within systems thinking in order to better understand a social environment along with the various forces influencing a system.

Similarly, critical systems theory proposes an alternative to traditional social planning. Rather than reducing problems into manageable pieces seeking solutions to each, and thereby solving the problem piece-by-piece to address larger issues, systems designers argue that getting rid of the pieces does not necessarily produce what is desired (Banathy, 2000). In sharp contrast with this traditional model, systems thinking proposes that people seek to understand the problem situation as a system of interconnected, interdependent and interacting problems, and therefore construct a response as a system of interconnected, interdependent, and interacting solutions (ibid, 2000). This is not unlike the conceptions of use for patterns put forth by Alexander in describing the process of constructing ‘living buildings and towns’ (1977).

Further more, both Jay W. Forrester (noted as the father of system dynamics) and Christopher Alexander (the father of pattern languages) place a great deal of emphasis upon the ideal of structure. For Alexander, the pattern language possesses a structure that enables good design across multiple dimensions of abstraction, from high-level patterns to more specific patterns. The idea behind this structure is the ability to more readily share knowledge within the domain of architecture and environmental planning. Tignor (2001) also recognizes the linkage between system dynamics and pattern languages through the common emphasis on structure. For example, he highlights several points made by Forrester, where Forrester argues that, “without an organizing structure, knowledge is a mere collection of observations, practices and conflicting incidents” (Forrester, 1990). At the core of the pattern language Alexander and his colleagues attempt to produce a structured collection of knowledge pieces moving along a hierarchical path. For instance, the beginning patterns in A Pattern Language (1977) start out as large elements such as The Distribution of Towns (2). Now as one moves down through the hierarchy, patterns such as Pedestrian Street (100) and Columns at the Corners (212) appear. By integrating both fields it is thought that each paradigm can be enhanced, and together provide an effective extension into the domain of analysis and action for enabling civic communication, networked advocacy and ameliorative social change in general.

This idea of an inherent linkage between both fields was advanced within the study of an advocacy network in South Asia, where the information obtained was visually configured in order to represent the interactions and influences between forces effecting a community and subsequent network. These visual representations closely followed the model and method for qualitative systems modeling presented by influence diagrams, which are popular among scholars working in qualitative system dynamics (Coyle, 1999; See Appendix). Through this modeling process and the linking of central elements present within a particular socio-political context, a conceptual window emerged into the shortcomings, highlighting areas where the network could strengthen its capacity to engage, as well as where specific patterns might be effectively applied (Kummer & Schlange, 1997; Smith, 2000; Smith, 2007). Overall, this processes of highlighting relationships enabled a clearer understanding of how the issues within the case were interdependent, thus creating a complex and difficult environment for political representation, responsive governance and empowering vs. debilitating social policies.

However, this study was not specifically focused on the integration of system dynamics and pattern languages, and therefore necessitates further more focused engagement in order to further understand the potential implications and opportunities afforded by such a marriage. For instance, linked to the process of modeling community context, there is a need to focus on similar approaches to visually representing patterns and the ways in which they are configured to solve specific community problems. In keeping with the spirit of L.V. it would be interesting to see collaborative modeling applications connected to pattern language configuration become a part of the project’s application suite. Together with conducting a more extensive literature review to better perceive where both strains of thought might intersect, providing a collaborative application to model influences of forces and patterns could support further empirical examples of the potential possibilities associated with linking system dynamics and pattern languages.

Patterns, Systems and Process
Along with the ability of system dynamics to support processes of modeling complex social environments, the practice of process monitoring provides yet another layer to pattern application that enables feedback from peoples experiences to be used to adapt these models over time as networked interventions affect these systems. Recalling the adaptive nature of social systems that can produce any number of outcomes based upon these internal and external problems requires a way in which groups can respond rapidly to feedback that is distributed through information channels maintained by members of these networks. Similarly, the L.V. pattern language is attempting to serve as a transformative construct within a dynamic and inherently transformative and responsive social system that necessitates an ongoing process of evaluation and adaptation to meet the changing context as the social dynamics of power, resources and thinking shift (Smith, 2007).

As a result, pattern development and approaches to systems-thinking in general could be strengthened through an adoption of process monitoring as an iterative, structured and multi-source exercise for gauging and increasing the effectiveness of a pattern language. This might be an important piece in furthering the power of qualitative system dynamics, as well as in pattern language usage. This process could also provide a useful mechanism for enabling the development of adaptive pattern constructs designed to fit these transformative social realities. The features of the process monitoring methodology include an open communicative processes aimed at supporting participatory evaluations and enable collaborative responses based upon the related characteristics between the patterns and the actual problems or responses identified by the group. Together with providing methods for evaluation and consistent interaction for further refinement these constructs could be made more applicable in the context of structured organizational ventures that seek to address a range of socio-political and economic issues.

Though process monitoring has been primarily applied within businesses and more recently within the development field, the idea of providing timely feedback to enable group adaptation fits appropriately with the continued constructing and refinement of relevant patterns and pattern languages. Fortunately, there are a range of methods associated with process monitoring that emphasizes participatory and collaborative methods (similar to what is found within the pattern language) such as field reports, diaries, online reflection among participants, blogs, open-flows for research development and feedback, as well as continuous practices of information development and distribution among community members, stakeholders and facilitators (Mosse, 2001; Schuler, 2007). All of these methods could prove critical to maintaining open and responsive channels of communication.

The orientation towards ongoing exchanges of information feedback refer back to some of the initial assertions of the Liberating Voices project that already recognizes the relevance in developing newer, yet more appropriate and inclusive information systems. In this case these technologies could be designed specifically for channeling feedback, and for coordinating rapid responses by groups working on the ground, or those working directly with the policy makers. In this sense, we might not only use patterns for systems based design and analysis, but the L.V. application itself could be infused with a fundamental orientation towards an open dynamic system itself. This could include a versioning system connected to real world case studies presented on the application of particular patterns or sets of patterns.

While these sorts of systems exist within the business world, their adoption and development within the context of civil society and for communities in general are still needed. Certainly, community portals such as IndyMedia and provide an outlet for some of these needs; however, problems of access, knowledge of technology and the inability of tightly linked organizations to monitor their internal communications within these online systems means that there is still room for more specific or so-called appropriate technologies and programs aimed at individual groups and their associated networks.

Likewise, in acknowledging issues surrounding lack of access to these communicative systems as well as the technological capacity to harness peoples potential, parallel programs must be pursued to successfully develop and enable the types of rapid feedback proposed by a process monitoring exercise. Through coordinated efforts to build relationships with appropriate local facilitators, as well as through links to larger networks and structures, issues of access could be mitigated. Similarly, by addressing technological and organizational know-how these networks can encourage the building of mutual capabilities. The point is inclusion and responsiveness among the groups and individuals seeking to transform non-responsive systems of political and economic power, and a hope that as many people as possible could be active participants in defining the social change they seek, whether that be political, economic, cultural or all of the above.

L.V. participants, potential pattern users and current civic networks have an opportunity to further their efforts through the application of systems approaches to planning, implementation and monitoring of the work they do. As a result, the merging of these fields to support better responses to complex systems possess a potential value yet to be realized, except through further research and real-world application.

Alexander, C. (1979). A Timeless Way of Building. New York: Oxford University Press.

Alexander, C., Ishikawa, S., Silverstein, M., Jacobson, M., Fiksdahl-King, I., & Angel, S. A. (1977). A Pattern Language. New York: Oxford University Press. (also see:

Banathy, B. (2001). “The Evolution of Systems Inquiry.” In The Primer Project. International Society for the Systems Science. Retrieved March 20, 2007, from

Coyle, G. (1999). Qualitative Modeling in System Dynamics or What are the wise limits of quantification? Keynote Address to the Conference of the System Dynamics Society. Wellington, New Zealand.

Forrester, J.W. (1990). Principles of Systems. Productivity Press; Portland, OR.

Keck, M. & Sikkink, K. (1998). Activists Beyond Borders. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, NY. Pp. 1-37.

Kummer, S. & Schlange, L. (1997). Strengthening the Bridge between Qualitative and Quantitative Modeling: Contributions to the toolbox for analyzing qualitative models. Presented at the System Dynamics Conference. Accessed at:

Mosse, D., Farrington, J. & Rew, A. (2001). Development as Process: Concepts and methods for working with complexity. Indian Research Press. New Delhi, India. P. 3-27.

Schuler, D. (2001). “Cultivating Society’s Civic Intelligence: Patterns for a New ‘World Brain’”. In Information, Communication and Society. Routledge Press. London, UK. 4:2, p. 157-181.

_____. (2002). A Pattern Language for Living Communication: Global Participatory Project. Presented at the Participatory Design Conference; Malmo Sweden. CPSR. Retrieved August 3, 2006, from

Senge, P. (1994). The Fifth Discipline: the Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. Doubleday; New York, NY.

Smith, J. (2007). Patterns, Systems and Advocacy Networks: Heuristics for Civic Empowerment in Jharkhand. Masters Thesis, St. Mary’s Press; San Antonio, TX

Smith, N. (2000). Introducing Formal Qualitative Reasoning Techniques to System Dynamics Modeling and Analysis. Proceedings of the Fourth Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems (PACIS), pp. 839-848.

Tignor, W.W. (2001). Design Pattern Languages and System Dynamics Components. Accessed at:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Globalization(s): as Evolution and the Contradictions of Socially Constructed Desire

Over the years scholars have sought to construct a common definition for the perceived phenomena termed globalization. However, instead of developing a unified definition, the heterogeneity among various conceptions of this phenomenon has generated circles of intense debate. Each camp staking out a theoretical claim on what globalization is, and whether it is happening at all. Some argue that globalization is defined by the emergence of a world-system of economic exchange (Wallerstein, 1979), or the growing presence of global governance above the nation state (Scholte, 2002), whereas others define globalization in terms of phenomena such as global communicative integration (Castells, 1989) and the construction of a global culture. Each definition and the phenomena scholars choose as a criteria for empirically testing their definitions lead each to varying conclusions regarding the existence of the globalization process, and the degree at which the world’s societies are becoming ‘globalized’. And while all of these definitions describe current phenomena, none of these definitions appear to fully grasp the nature of historical processes of global relationship building, or the ebb and flow of global integration and disintegration.

However, it is this ebb and flow of integration and disintegration that appears most relevant for defining and understanding the globalization phenomena. From the beginning of time as we know it, there appears to have been a natural human tendency for social integration. As examples, we can cite the processes of migration throughout pre-civilized societies, on through present day times. We can also observe the advent and growth of interconnections through trade, the rise of empires and the capacity for ‘round-the-world’ communications (Roberts, 2002). And then, there is the globalization project itself (as a consciously constructed normative for peace and prosperity) that points to this historical tendency for integration.

On the other side of the coin is the parallel tendency for disintegration, the fall of empires, economic protectionism or isolationism, terrorism and the great wars that have taken place throughout history, all of which contradicts and moderates this tendency for expansion and integration. However, despite these events in our shared history there is some sense of progression, just as if we take two steps forward, we then take one step back. Something of this type of conflict can be observed through the globalization of U.S. consumer culture, while at the same time there is a globalization of resistance to this very same culture. Similarly, as communication goes global and the level of interactions across time and space intensify, there is a simultaneous tendency towards parochialism. The same goes for the increased globalization of financial and commodity transactions. For instance, in this globalizing world manufacturing is a mobile industry, setting up shop among regions with the lowest bidder is common practice and even encouraged, yet the response is one of vehement opposition among labor within developed countries (Williamson, Imbroscio & Alperovitz, 2002). For these groups globalization is equal to the loss of economic opportunity, and contrary to those who defend the process of global economic interdependence.

At its most fundamental level, globalization is perhaps, simply a macrocosm of the microcosmic dimension of human experience itself, expressed as an on-going dialectic between what we as society want, and fear. In this sense, globalization could be seen as the natural and evolutionary process towards continued human social integration in the form of our economics, politics, culture and information; a somewhat self-organizing phenomena connected to the growing complexity and interaction of social desires, and of course the growing complexity of interdependent systems that we construct to fulfill these desires. It is a tenuous process mitigated by push and pull of contradictions inherent among competing human social desire, and therefore prone to reversal and periodic instability. For instance, these various desires can put people in direct opposition with one another, whereas others can be encouraged to cooperate. This of course enables a convergence of interests among like-minded groups and individuals in order to advance parallel desires, creating networks of people, organizations and states.

In considering this aspect of globalization we might then begin to extend our definition to consider ‘globalization(s)’ instead of a singular globalization. In this case, entire social groups disaffected by the globalization project might become globally connected in their resistance to the phenomenon taking place. Likewise, those who perceive globalization, as being connected to the fulfillment of their basic desires could become linked in their support of this process. Perhaps, no better example of these ‘globalizations’ is the existence of various world religions, along with their specific practices and ideologies. Other examples might include the globalization of various extremist ideologies, terrorism as a justified response to violent political marginalization or the advancement of one’s ideals, as well as localism, fair trade and neo-nationalism.

The present phenomena and tendency of people to aggregate around shared interests and fears points towards the idea that the fundamental characteristics of human experience (i.e. desire and aversion) are what are driving the emergence of global integration (or disintegration), and in turn, the products or outcomes of this process then influences each subsequent step forward, much like a feedback loop. For example, most humans possess a desire to connect to each other, we also have a desire to protect what is ours, many have aspirations of power and wealth, a desire for expression, peace and security, and so forth. To achieve these ends we have constructed global communication systems, international bodies to encourage peace and security, human rights and the rise of multinational corporations to consolidate people’s capacity to accumulate wealth. And while we have these outcomes to point to the existence of a globalization process, these social desires and aversions have been shaping the nature of social organization and its growing complexity since before history, there is simply more of us now and the outcome of this evolutionary process has made each of us more aware of our similar and conflicting interests.

Yet, simply perceiving globalization as a process constructed out of human desire is perhaps incomplete, and though the individual plays a part, this desire or aversion is really an aggregation of experiences translated into global relations. So, it is less about the individual as it is about the culmination of individuals responding in particular ways to particular experiences. However, it is this aggregation of interests and conflicts that come to surface when disturbances to the system are most apparent. In a world where minimal levels of integration are present it would be much less likely for droughts in China to produce steep increases in the cost of rice throughout the world. But in a globalized world where localized events have far reaching consequences, the effects can have serious implications that can force people and nation-states to question the nature of their global relationships and participation within the process of globalization. It is like dropping a stone in a pond sending waves throughout, and each collective response is determined much by how certain interests and past experiences of the globalization project have been distributed among a particular collection of peoples.

For instance, no one would have predicted the impact of 9/11 on global integration, but just as the world rallied behind the U.S. to contest transnational terrorism, we witnessed the renegotiation of alliances and the emergence of conflictive interests as the U.S. planned for its invasion of Iraq. In this sense, both 9/11 and the U.S. response could be considered unpredicted chaos, putting the stability of the current system in a state of flux where people, organizations, and nation-states are likely to be engaged in a process of seeking a new set of responses to emergent threats and shifting interests. As an example, the lead up the U.S. invasion witnessed the largest first ever globally coordinated mass protest in history, as well as a strain on the relations among nearly every member of the UN Security Council. All it might take is one relatively small event to radically transform the way we pursue our interests, one minute it is globalization, the next it could be communalism, nationalism or something else.

Now, the definition of globalization or globalizations presented might appear to be an argument against this phenomenon, after all, the author has described a series of contradictions in the ways this process has unfolded, on the one hand we have people coming together and on the other hand there is a simultaneous tendency towards fragmentation. But that is it; globalization is the worldwide diffusion of this push-pull phenomenon towards integration and fragmentation, with the tendency for integration possessing an edge, mostly as a function of the human species natural attraction to one another.

Take as an example Samuel Huntington’s thesis in Clash of Civilizations? (1993). In his piece people are coalescing around regional cultural blocs, centered upon identity, race, religion and so forth, but in contrast to Huntington, the ideas presented here cites the emergence of interest based coalitions between states, civil society networks and multinational corporations as being of parallel importance and power for structuring global social organization. For example, neo-Marxists in Spain are working with Maoists in India through media and shared tools for propaganda development and distribution, whereas the Chinese and Sudanese are engaged in negotiations for greater economic interdependence with energy at the center. Others can look to the work of George Ritzer and his thesis on The McDondaldization of Society (1993) as another example of interest based integration, not necessarily leading to separate cultural blocs of power. Interests and desires for particular consumer products, political power, economic superiority, and so on are arguably just as powerful in organizing relationships in as are the elements discussed by Huntington. Perhaps this is just another contradiction, or a confluence of contradictions, just like eating a curry-veg sandwich in a McDonalds in New Delhi, versus a Big Mac in New York. The interesting thing is that all of these connections are occurring simultaneously, again redirecting our focus on globalizations rather than a singularity of global phenomena. The only real thing global about globalization is the apparent paradox engendered by the process.

Overall, such conceptions of globalization could help in understanding the role each of us plays in the construction, legitimization and stability of such processes. For instance, just as we construct new ways to facilitate in the process of globalization, we can likewise use these same mechanisms to contest the process, and likewise contest the process in drastically different ways. As people perceive the withering of the state apparatus through the strengthening of global governance, some might be called to a sense of nationalism in order to protect the legitimacy of their government, heritage and culture. These groups might link up with other nationalistic groups focused upon sharing resources to achieve a retreat of the globalization project and herald a return to a Westphalia style of international social organization. On the other hand others might seek to contest a loss of political power through the creation of international networks of resistance aimed at influencing global power in order to preserve a sense of local autonomy. This is an often cited as a reason for the rise of transnational advocacy networks (TANs) (Keck and Sikkink, 1998; Rodrigues, 2004). As groups and individuals perceive a lack of responsiveness to shared interests, TANs become an outlet for alternative social relationships based upon shared values aimed at developing an empowering political voice.

However, just as these networks attempt to influence the face of these various political, economic and cultural systems, oppositional groups will in turn seek out their own interests; at times these interests will converge to support collective integration and at other times, disintegration will occur. The same thing can be said for nation-states as well. Currently, global integration is perceived to be good for ensuring peace and security, as well as for the accumulation of wealth, the spread of international norms on human rights and environmental sustainability. However, this doesn’t mean interests will always align, nor does it mean continued globalizations are assured, rather hyper-fragmentation could over take the desire for human social interconnection due to fears of what the overall globalization project means for peoples’ interests. But as long as we still perceive the value of cooperation to achieve our aims, it would seem that this tendency for global integration and cooperation will continue as an evolutionary process marked by bumps in the road, both small and large.

Castells, M. (1989). “The Informational Mode of Development.” Ch. 11 in Timmons, R. J. & Hite, A. B. (eds.). The Globalization and Development Reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Huntington, S.P. (1993). The Clash of Civilizations? From Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993
Keck, M. & Sikkink, K. (1998). Activists Beyond Borders. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, NY. Pp. 1-37.

Ritzer, G. (1993). The McDonaldization of Society, Pine Forge Press.

Roberts, J.M. (2002). The New Penguin History of the World. Penguin Books; London, UK.

Rodrigues, M. (2004). Global Environmentalism and Local Politics: Transnational Advocacy Networks in Brazil, Ecuador and India. SUNY Press. Albany, NY. pp. 3-15, 115-134.

Scholte, J. (2002). “What is ‘Global’ about Globalization?” Ch. 5 in Held, D. & McGrew, A. (eds.). The Global Transformations Reader. Malden, MA: Polity Press.

Wallerstein, E. (1979). “The Rise and Future Demise of the World Capitalist System: Concepts for Comparative Analysis.” In The Globalization and Development Reader: Perspectives on Development and Global Change. Ed. Roberts, J. and Hite, A.B. Blackwell Publishing; Oxford, UK.

Williamson, T., Imbroscio, D., & Alperovitz, G. (2002). Making a Place for Community: Local Democracy in a Global Era. Taylor and Francis Group; New York, NY.

Updated DIAC-08 Abstract

Through the ongoing process of globalization the world appears to be changing, and in this process there are obvious winners and losers. Often communities at the bottom of the economic and social ladder are those being the hardest hit. In response to the challenges of globalization communities and activists spread out across the globe are seeking strategic advantages through the uses of ICTs to enable effective advocacy. While the positive results sought through these networked associations are not always realized, there are numerous projects taking place around the world aimed at enhancing civil society’s capacity to mitigate the effects of globalization and empower local communities to define the trajectories of development.

In 2006, a study was conducted to analyze the relevance of one of these capacity-building efforts, “Liberating Voices” a program emphasizing the use of pattern languages as a method of supporting ‘civic communication.’ The study sought to evaluate whether effective networks exhibit the elements defined within the Liberating Voices database as archetypical patterns for effective communication and political transformation. The results of this study revealed that while the Liberating Voices project is not yet complete, various pattern configurations can be observed among effective instances of networked advocacy. This points to the opportunity to further study these patterns as approaches to capacity building for ineffective networks struggling to influence political discourse at local and global spheres of policy making.

KEYWORDS: Pattern Languages, Advocacy Networks, Community Information Systems

Blog Update...

For those of you who check this blog often, I apologize for not updating more often. In the next two weeks I should have plenty to post, as I have been working on several research papers.

Once everything is complete I will begin posting them.