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.