Monday, June 23, 2008

Patterns - a Structured Link to the Conept of "Policy"

Reference Previous Post for Context: Patterns as Policies, and Pattern Languages as Policy Frameworks?

So I am seriously beside myself. Yes, I should be preparing for DIAC right now, but I was taking a break and reading over this book again, The Policy Process. The more I delve into it, the more I feel like I'm reading a book about a pattern language dedicated to the policy development process. It is actually frightening. Again, this is only furthering my own assumptions that patterns themselves can be conceptualized as policies themselves.

In fact if one were to "patternize" Clark's framework it is very possible one could decode a pattern language devoted to the process of community problem solving, perhaps even similar to the process designed by the London Knowledge Lab to uncover patterns in practice related to Learning and Teaching.

If this is true then the question then becomes, "what do patterns and pattern languages provide that might be missing from Clark's thesis?" Also, "what might Clark's insights tell us about ways to advance the concepts and theories associated with patterns and pattern languages?"

Now, just from this initial reading I can identify a few possible areas where patterns and pattern thinking might be able to accentuate Clark's description of the Policy Process Framework:

  • 1.) Patterns possess a structure that explicitly requires one to codify a general context in which it is applied.

  • 2.) Patterns are meant to be linked as a system, so they are holistic by design. In this way it’s not only the process that represents a dynamic system as stated by Clark, the system of policies or patterns themselves are dynamic and morphological.

  • 3.) Patterns and Pattern Languages can be transferred across multiple domains, which might also be the case with Clark’s process.

  • 4.) The structure of patterns lend themselves codification in a variety of environments, particularly within online environments where users can search/traverse lists of solutions associated with specific problems within specific contexts.
Now, there may be more ways in which patterns might accentuate Clark's vision, but these are the most obvious. So what things might Clark's discussion provide to the community of pattern adopters? Well, the most obvious is the need to understand the political and social dimensions of the process itself. So if one were to use patterns to construct a set of policies then Clark's assertion to recognize these troubling dimensions becomes critical to the development of any sort of holistic design solution.

Yet, even here patterns seem to address this. Civic Intelligence in particular comes to mind when looking at Clark's socio-political dimensions of complex problem solving. However, Clark's nuanced discussion about context, systemization, guides for conceptualizing issues, and so on speaks volumes to the possibility to merge patterns with current work related to policy development, codification and possible reuse.

In reiterating #2, Clark also emphasizes the dynamic nature of the policy development process. Now as I would assert even the policies themselves are dynamic and subject to feedback as insights emerge. While he hasn't explicitly stated this I would suggest that his overarching principles would be very much in line with such thinking and thereby intrinsically linked.

To give a better representation of Clark’s work I have added some rather long, but revealing excerpt from his book.
The policy process is abstracted in a framework consisting of a logically complete set of mapping categories that can help us understand and resolve any policy problem. It is a practical means of organizing our thinking, our knowledge, and our problem-solving efforts, thus allowing us to define a problem and understand its context.
Hmmm, sounds very familiar… Again, he says,
The framework is primarily an effort to systemize the major variables with which social scientists grapple in all political and policy inquiry. The founders of the policy sciences wanted to devise a theory whose interrelated concepts and categories would be “dependable, appropriately selective, creative and economic,” (Lasswell and McDougal 1992, 4; Brunner 1996a).

The framework does just that, serving as both a theory and a procedure for decision-making, for inquiry into the policy process, for orientating ourselves to problems in context, and for understanding our own roles and standpoints in all of these situations (Moore 1968).
This little block of text again reveals direct similarities in thinking with Alexander’s pattern language and perhaps more directly with Liberating Voices and the Conservation Economy pattern languages. Yet, one thing that is revealed that is somewhat lacking in these pattern languages is the necessity to understand our own roles and standpoints. Yet, this is not completely true, again, the Civic Intelligence model being developed by Doug Schuler attempts to address this shortcoming in the pattern language as it represents the central pattern in the pattern language itself. However, I would suggest that Clark’s synthesis of past work could prove both beneficial to socially oriented pattern languages and vice versa, particularly Schuler’s

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