Sunday, May 31, 2009

One More Post Related to Pattern Mapping

While I have launched into this project, it is important to note the rationale... The reason for this pursuit rests in the research result from my masters work. I have attached a link to the concluding remarks from the research report that addresses some of the issues, and potential areas for new research in the direction of patterns, their use in community empowerment, and civic intelligence in general.

Some of the issues that the conclusion touches upon include: problems with pattern complexity, adaptability of the pattern language, lack of tools for retrieval and visualization, need for additional processes for collaboration, the potential for process monitoring methods for supporting adaptability of programs/projects using patterns and pattern languages.

Here is the doc: Final Conclusions from Research on LV - Research Completed May of 2007

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Quick Note Regarding Previous Post...

In the last post, "Restarting my pattern mapping project..." I reiterated my focus on further developing the methods and software tools for using patterns in planning and decision-making among community and civil society groups.

I would however, like to add that this method and the corresponding software is not directly dependent upon the use of patterns. In fact, I think it is possible that collaborative conceptualization of a problem space and set of proposed responses as semantically linked concepts could be similarly powerful for supporting deliberation, visualization and adaptive planning.

It would be interesting to see if patterns provide some greater degree of use in cultivating a group's civic intelligence, or if patterns actually hinder the process... Or it may make no difference, and the patterns may simply be a useful way of structuring group knowledge for future reuse, but without supporting the actual collaborative act of planning.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Restarting my pattern mapping project...

So at the end of last summer I postponed my pattern mapping project. However, now that the summer is back I'm trying to jump start this project again. One of the big problems I got from my PhD committee was the lack of theory contained with my original proposal.

Well, as I have moved along in my program I have identified some theory. The two primary theories I'm drawing from is Douglas Schuler's civic intelligence and Habermas's Theory of Communicative Action. The other theory (perhaps hypothesis) is that development and planning is a complex on-going adaptive process, there is no end to the process, but a continuous becoming, representing the shared understandings, value, and interests of the community.

With these ideas in mind, the software and methods project is aimed at increasing a group or community's civic intelligence through collaborative visualization of patterns for conceptualizing community problems and potential initiatives for addressing those problems. This system will follow in line with concept maps with the addition of semantic linkages that help to clarify the relationship between community issues, and/or patterns.

In addition to the visualization aspect of the software, there is an added dimension that emphasizes process-monitoring and the evolution of problem/solution conceptualization over the life-span of a community directed initiative. This requires an ongoing process of informational feedback for adaptive planning and action. This will require a versioning system for pattern maps, annotation of maps and patterns, as well as system for attaching case examples, problems with implementation, and scoring pattern relevance. Along with these pieces, there is probable need for integration with a mapping system that will allow for placing patterns (or any proposed solution) within a geographic or spatial context.

Unfortunately, there are very few tools out there that support community use of patterns for planning and collective problem-solving. Furthermore, the number of patterns for community development and planning are large enough to make use of patterns cumbersome... This is especially apparent when considering the shortcomings with pattern retrieval, and understanding how patterns are linked to support one another. Additionally, it is probable that not all relevant patterns have been articulated across the various pattern langauges that exist, this means that users may need to amend the pattern language and add their own pieces in order to fit with their specific context. In other situations, a community may need to articulate an alternate pattern language and this system should support this development. This will hopefully support the evolution and refinement of our current pattern languages, as well as spawn new ones.

As a recap of the project, here are some old posts.Now, these posts don't represent everything I have written on this subject, but these I think are some of the most important elements, and reiterate the focus on: visualization, semantic links, deliberation around pattern maps, annotation and case-reports, geographic information, versioning, and the ability to search patterns, update or add patterns, and rate patterns... Now, a lot of this has been carried out by the work of those on the, but not all. One of the things that I'm doing slightly different is the addition of geographic information, semantic cognitive mapping, versus mind-mapping, and the ability to describe a problem space as a network of reinforcing problems that generate a "wicked-problem" space, through the process of problematization we can then begin searching patterns that correspond to the various issues defined by the group, as well creating new ones. For a more detailed description of the problem space concept check out the Methodology/Analysis section of my thesis research.

Friday, May 22, 2009

New Site for the Whitman County Democrats

Just finished an initial re-design for the Whitman County Democrats website. Looks pretty good....

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Public Sphere Project

I just wanted to let everyone know that the Public Sphere Project is now officially a federally recognized non-profit in the US! After 5-plus years of work we finally got this thing official.

Check out the site, a couple of great people at the Evergreen State College are working to develop the site and a set of web applications to help build civic intelligence and promote the use of the Liberating Voices pattern language.

To check out the patterns please go to: Liberating Voices Online.


Thinking out loud - notes on Civic Intelligence

Well the semester is over and I'm moving forward with putting together my qualifying exams, and finalizing my research proposal. I'm moving forward with the civic intelligence model, but in the context of development practice. I spoke with my chair today and gave him my little rap, and for the first time since I have been working with him I got a thumbs up.

Using Schuler's civic intelligence model, my work is going to look at how civic intelligence functions along with the factors that limit its successful utilization in development practice. I'm going to be doing four case studies focused on urban and peri-urban agriculture as a politically and environmentally sensitive food security strategy and the ways in which community groups and civil society perceive, interpret, deliberate and act to develop and protect these efforts.

The case studies will be using Johnathan Barker's political settings method, with a slight modification that emphasizes the networked nature of these settings as spaces in which participants actively perceive, deliberate and act. It is my thinking that through a focus on these settings and the activities that occur in specific spaces and time, it will give us an insight into the ways in which civic intelligence emerges, is used and how it is ultimately successful or not in the context of urban development activities.

In many ways this work represents a full-circle from where I started my program with patterns. To me civic intelligence and patterns are in many ways related and the Liberating Voices patterns themselves are an example of civic intelligence.

The overarching argument here is that development, if it is to be sustainable must consider the political dimensions of decision making. All too often development schemes are left up to the experts whos knowledge excludes those people in which development is focused on helping. Although great work has been done in the area of participation, practices that promote participation do so only in the context of specific programs and the capacity for self-defined development is often not included, and the ability of peoples to adapt and protect their interests in the face of more powerful actors is left lacking. This is believed to be a central problem in the durability of development interventions where marginalized peoples are supported as long as funds are available, but once an NGO actor withdraws, people become vulnerable once again.

It is my assumption that at its core development theory and praxis at the community level is fundamentally about self-reliance and building autonomy that promotes social equity, environmental sustainability, and economic freedom. Yet, as Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze note, the capability for adversarial politics is often central to all of these. I would go further and suggest that merely possessing the capability is not enough (India - Economic Development and Social Opportunity, 1999). This is where civic intelligence comes into play... Civic intelligence is about both the capability to act, as well as the action itself that seeks to promote emancipatory transformation.

Civic intelligence is iterative and additive in that as it is employed, people become more effective at its utilization for solving problems of common concern. Yet, the outcomes of civic intelligence that promotes autonomy as well as interdependence among actors seeking a just and sustainable society, suggests that it should represent a central focus in all development schemes.

The problem here is, "how does it emerge?" How does it function and what limits its utilization? By understanding these dimensions we become better able at pursuing civic intelligence as both a means to development, and as an outcome itself.

It is also my feeling that as the work is pursued, the Liberating Voices pattern language will be further validated. Patterns such as Social Dominance Attenuation, Citizen Science, Grassroots Public Policy Development, Shared Vision and Opportunity Spaces will come to represent both the pathways and outcomes of effective development practice and ultimately an increased civic intelligence among a community and its supporters.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thinking Out Loud...

It has been way too long since I last posted and one of the reasons behind this blog was to map my own learning and thinking in relation to my dissertation research. But in a funny way I was discouraged because there have been so many changes that I didn't want to look like some wacko... but the truth is, when everyone gets wind of my work as it stands today, I don't think I will be able to get around that.

So anyway, I was told by my PhD committee that I need to get theoretical and stop focusing on just solving problems. So I got! I'm currently taking a class in Sociology of Agriculture and Food Systems and one of the final projects for the course is to write a full research proposal. Well, tomorrow we are supposed to turn in a short synopsis of the topic we are pursuing and so here is my tentative synopsis... Some of the language might need to change but here it is in its current form.

The Collective Brain of the Global Local Food Movement: Descriptions and Prescriptions for Recursive Intelligent Action

For the final semester project assigned for the Sociology of Agriculture and Food Systems, I propose to develop a thorough research proposal that will form the foundation for my formal dissertation proposal. The topic of focus will be interdisciplinary to the extreme in that I propose to integrate concepts and theories from sociology, cybernetics, cognitive neuroscience, information theory and ecology. The proposal will set forth a theoretical interpretation of social movements as an emergent “collective brain” which exhibits recursive thought and intelligence across a network where information, knowledge and action exist both in physical as well as virtual space.

The conception of social movement as collective brain is embedded in a larger theoretical discussion on society as supraorganism, collective intelligence and global consciousness. We can trace the roots of such conceptions from Herbert Spencer (1969, original publication 1876-96), in his "Principles of Sociology" in which he first proposed the thesis that "society is an organism." In addition to Spencer, James Miller’s Living Systems Theory (1978), Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis, and now most recently Francis Heylighen’s work on the 'Global Brain' have all made critical contributions to this growing, yet still contested field of inquiry.

Although there exists a modest number of works on social networks, autopsies and collective intelligence, none of the past, nor present discussions have yet to consider the role of social movements within this supraorganism, nor has their been a thorough discussion on the potential for numerous ‘collective brains’ functioning as constituents within this larger “world-brain.” As a result, this research will attempt to address the absence of an articulate conception on the role of social movements by focusing on the global local food movement as a type of collective or distributive brain, which exhibits intelligence and a form of active-reflective consciousness within the larger world-brain.

In addition to engaging in the debates on social cyborgs, collective intelligence and world-brain, this work will put forth a modified methodology drawn from the foundations of actor-network theory. This will not only serve to help map the networked organization of people-machine-information interactions across geographic physical space and placeless cyberspace, but will also serve to identify the quality of actions, as the distributed collective attempts to remake our world for the better.

Overall, the goals of this research are multifaceted in that it attempts to build both on the theoretical and empirical investigations for the potential of a collective brain(s), distributed intelligence and the larger world-brain as suggested by H.G. Wells (1981), Douglas Schuler (2001) and Francis Heylighen (1997). However, in addition to addressing ‘grand theory’ the research seeks to identify specific ways in which to support ameliorative social and environmental change efforts based upon the conceptions of nerves, neurons, synaptic learning, neural networks, neural memory and higher order consciousness that lead to a recursive process of collective knowledge creation, meaning creation, and intelligent action.

Anyway, I have already had been some pretty heated discussion on this topic and I find them way more receptive than I anticipated... In fact they considered it one of the most coherent ideas I have put forth yet! Scary!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Interesting Discussion on The Low-Carbon Economy

National Clean Energy Summit
The Center for American Progress Action Fund held a forum on “National Clean Energy Project: Building the New Economy.” Fmr. Pres. Clinton, Fmr. V.P. Gore and Congressional leaders Sen. Reid (D-NV) & Speaker of the House Pelosi (D-CA) participated in discussions on integrating new resources for an energy-efficient society.

National Clean Energy Summit

Sunday, January 18, 2009

DC or Bust...

So we made into Seattle on Friday evening, and now we are preparing for our flight tonight. We have a red-eye flight to DC and it is looking like it is going to be an all-nighter without a chance for any real sleep. But it is worth it to get a chance to be a part of history.

Crystal (my wife) and I are going to be doing some blogging and video recording on our trip so we'll be sure to give everyone updates over the next two days.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Oh yeah...

I almost forgot.... I got two tickets to the Inauguration in DC.

So I will be heading out this weekend to see my new president get sworn into office and watch W. fly off in his helicopter to signify the end of this ridiculous hell!


Posting Break...

Wow, this is the longest I have gone without posting anything since I started this blog. This creates a bit of a dilemma as I have been so busy doing so many cool things it is hard to go back and recap all the things.

So let's see... Since the last time I made a post I have:
  • Finished one of my ag models (although there is always room for improvement)

  • Kicked ass in my second course on System Dynamics

  • Started as a TA for GenEd 111 - World Civilizations 1500 to the Present

  • Completed a new draft of the dissertation/research funding proposal

  • Got a new office in the Department of Community and Rural Sociology

  • Won a Scholarship for Rural Community Development

And while I have been all over the place mentally about my research and professional
goals the last two months I feel as if things are all coming into place.

Anyway, there are a few things I will be posting soon, the first of which will probably be the ag model I developed over the winter break. The problem here is that it is so big I need to find a way to post it in a readable format. Maybe, I'll post an unintelligible picture and then just let people download the model and play with it, improve or whatever. Next, I will probably get my draft proposal up on here or at least a part of it. It is pretty big and not great for a blog but some of you might find it interesting to see how all my mental masturbation has paid off.