case study

Participatory Design

Pattern ID: 
411
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
36
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

A large number of artifacts that people use every day are ill designed and they do not appropriately address the needs of the people for whom they are designed and produced. The problems range from the inconvenient (in setting an alarm on an unfamiliar alarm clock, for example) to the dangerous (an inadequately marked pedestrian crosswalk or scalding water from the tap when cold was expected). And in the design of groupware, software systems that facilitate group collaboration, developers can create systems that embed users in a system like cogs in a machine where a more human-centered system that was more humane — and more effective — could be developed.

Context: 

This pattern is intended to be used in any situation in which a service, policy, or other artifact is being designed. Those who will use the artifact and those who will be affected by it should be included in the design process.

Discussion: 

"The very fact of exclusion from participation is a subtle form of suppression. It gives individuals no opportunity to reflect and decide upon what's good for them. Others who are supposed to be wiser and who in any case have more power decide the question for them and also decide the methods and means by which subjects may arrive at the enjoyment of what is good for them. This form of coercion and suppression is more subtle and more effective than are overt intimidation and restraint. When it is habitual and embodied in social institutions, it seems the normal and natural state of affairs." — John Dewey (1939)

This "subtle form of suppression" that Dewey identified in the quotation above shows up in sociotechnological systems and in various arenas including the workplace. Without genuine participation in the design process, class, managerial, or other privileges become designed in. That is, sociotechnological systems often carry forward the perquisites and propensities of the designers, intentionally or unwittingly. Cases abound in both cases. Robert Moses, New York City's "construction coordinator," ensured that the bridges over the highways leading to the beaches from New York City were low enough to prevent buses from traveling under them (Caro 1975). This ensured that African Americans and other minorities who often had to rely on public transportation would, in large measure, be confined to the city while the more financially well-to-do could periodically escape to the seaside. There was no need to pass laws when a permanent physical structure could silently and invisibly enforce the color bar Moses preferred.

Frustrated by what they saw as unresponsiveness of software and the impending institutionalization of management prerogatives into software systems, Scandinavian researchers in the late 1970s conceived a new paradigm for software development called participatory design in which end-users worked as co-designers of the systems that they would ultimately use. They believed that adopting a participatory design approach would result in systems that better served users, initially workers in industrial settings. According to PD researchers Finn Kensing and Jeanette Blomberg (1998), "At the center of the critique was the neglect of workers’ interests – those most affected by the introduction of new technology. PD researchers argued that computers were becoming yet another tool of management to exercise control over the workforce and that these new technologies were not being introduced to improve working conditions (see e.g. Sandberg, 1979; Kyng and Mathiassen, 1982). The Scandinavian researchers and workers also worked on the legislative front to establish "codetermination" laws in Scandinavia that ensured that workers had the right to be involved with technological decisions in the workplace (Sandberg et al 1992). They promoted user empowerment through education and "researchers developed courses, gave lectures, and supervised project work where technology and organizational issues were explored (see e.g. Kyng and Mathiassen, 1982)" (Kensing & Blomberg 1988).

Participatory design is an integration of three interdisciplinary concerns that span research and practice: "the politics of design; the nature of participation; and method, tools and techniques for participation" (Kensing & Blomberg 1998). In their paper, "Participatory Design: Issues and Concerns," Finn Kensing and Jeanette Blomberg discuss two primary aspects to this work.

"Increasingly, ethnographically-inspired fieldwork techniques are being integrated with more traditional PD techniques (Blomberg et al., 1996; Bødker, 1996; Beyer and Holtzblatt, 1997, Kensing et al., forthcoming). The primary techniques of ethnography include open ended (contextual) interviews and (participant) observations, often supported by audio or video recordings. These techniques are employed to gain insights into unarticulated aspects of the work and to develop shared views on the work.

… Complementing these tools and techniques for work analysis are those focusing on system design such as scenarios, mock-ups, simulations of the relation between work and technology, future workshops, design games, case-based prototyping, and cooperative prototyping (Kensing, 1987; Ehn, 1989; Greenbaum and Kyng, 1991; Trigg et al., 1991; Mogensen, 1992, 1994; Blomberg et al., 1996; Grønbæk et al., 1997). These tools and techniques avoid the overly abstract representations of traditional design approaches and allow workers and designers to more easily experiment with various design possibilities in cost effective ways."

The nature of participatory design has changed over time. In the software world, for example, the focus has shifted from the development of site-specific software systems to the design of web applications and, perhaps more importantly, to the entirety of the information and communication infrastructure, including policy development. The idea shows up in many guises and even open source communities could be considered a type of participatory design.

Participatory design has been advocated in a number of areas besides software. Architects Lucien Kroll (1987), John Habraken (1972), Christopher Alexander (1984), Michael Pyatok (2000) and others developed a number of techniques for allowing people to design their own working and living spaces. Artist Suzi Gablick, writing in The Reenchantment of Art (1992_) describes a number of ways that the creation of art could be more participatory, while many others are advocating participatory approaches to media, policy development, citizen participation journalism (Gillmor 2004).

Several books, including The Design of Work Oriented Computer Artifacts (Ehn, 1988), Participatory Design: Principles and Practices (Schuler and Namioka 1993) and Design at Work (Greenbaum and Kyng) helped provide some early guides for the use of participatory design of software and the biannual Participatory Design Conference sponsored by Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility helps to foster its continued evolution.

Participatory design is not a panacea. People may not want to participate; in many cases they quite plausibly determine that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Participatory design can certainly be time-consuming and higher quality of the end product cannot be guaranteed. Participatory design projects can go awry in a number of ways (as do traditional and more orthodox software development efforts.) Software users using mental models based on the software are accustomed to using may enter a design session believing that they have already fully designed the system (down to the last key-stroke short-cut). Because of this possibility (and others reasons), many PD approaches focus on fairly general high-level exercises that are fairly far removed both conceptually and physically from computers.

In some cases, a participation trap may be said to exist. This could happen when people are being brought into an effort that will ultimately make matters worse for them. In cases like this a less cooperative, more confrontational approach may be more likely to bring satisfactory results. Participation gives rise to several issues that probably must be resolved on a case-by-case basis in practice. Potential participants understand this instinctively. If, for example, the participative arena is for show only, and no idea that originates with a participant has any chance of being adopted, people can't be faulted for being dubious of the process. Genuine participation should be voluntary and honest; the relevant information, rules, constraints, and roles of all stakeholders should be well-understood by all. (A person may still decide to participate even if any and all benefits would accrue to the organizers.) Ideally, the participants would be part of any decision-making, including when to meet, how to conduct the meetings, and other processes. Kensing (1983) and Clement and Van den Besselaar (1993) describe several requirements for effective PD.

PD principles, techniques, and methodologies will continue to improve and be better known over time. PD will likely continue to involve bricolage, the ability of the participants and the people organizing the process to improvise. Unfortunately, as Kensing and Blomberg (1998) point out, building on the work of Clement and Van den Besselaar (1993), "the experimental nature of most PD projects often leads to small-scale projects which are isolated from other parts of the organization." (See Eevi Beck's "P is for Political" for more insight on this important observation.) The best way for the process to continue to improve is to build on successes and create incrementally a culture of participation on the job and in society, that is both equitable and effective at designing systems, services, tools, and technologies whose design better meets the real demands and needs of the people.

Solution: 

There should be a strong effort to include the users of any designed system (software, information and communication systems, administrative services and processes, art, city plans, architecture, education, governance, and others) into its design process in an open, authentic, and uncoerced fashion. Participatory Design, according to Finn and Blomberg, “has made no attempt to demarcate a category of work called cooperative, but instead has focused on developing cooperative strategies for system design… PD is not defined by the type of work supported, nor by the technologies developed, but instead by a commitment to worker participation in design and an effort to rebalance the power relations between users and technical experts and between workers and managers. As such PD research has an explicit organizational and political change agenda.” (See Eevi Beck's "P is for Political" for more insight on this important observation.)

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Many artifacts and systems do not appropriately address the needs of the people for whom they are designed. This can be avoided if the users of the systems (such as information and communication systems, buildings, and city plans) and those who will be affected by the systems are integrated into a Participatory Design process in an open and authentic way.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishing, Inc.

Media Literacy

Pattern ID: 
463
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
35
Mark Lipton
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Bias free media may be impossible. For that reason people need to be able to identify and assess media bias. Some have argued that media has become so vivid, so ‘real’ that people can ‘live’ in them. Media literacy is the process of decoding and making sense of all media. It allows us to critically view media and to evaluate the role that media play in our lives. When someone is media literate, he or she has the skills to identify the ideological implications and manipulative means of media systems and practices. Unfortunately, exposure to media does not necessarily suggest that people have the critical skills to understand how media systems work or how they are relating to media messages. Further, there is very little training in media education. In most places in the world, public education resists the changing media environments. Also, teachers are not given specific instruction in the workings of media, nor are they trained in the methods of media practices. Of course, it must be mentioned that in some places in the world, media has a foothold in the curriculum of public education but rarely does this curriculum come with the pedagogical training educators need to reach their audiences. The study of media has developed into complex systems of understanding, analysis, and synthesis. Yet, media study is not thought of within the context of traditional academic ‘disciplines.’ As a result, we live in a world where ubiquitous media messages, without critical appraisal impact our world.

Context: 

Masterman, in particular, stresses the student's development of "critical autonomy" as a primary objective of media education. In Teaching the Media, he argues that the key task of media teachers is to "develop in pupils enough self-confidence and critical maturity to be able to apply critical judgments to media texts which they will encounter in the future" (24). Thus, the primary objective of media education is not simply to foster critical awareness and understanding, but to develop a student's awareness of his or her role as an active agent when engaged by all media, no matter the context. The "critical autonomy" approach to media education differs from its predecessors in three ways. First, the pedagogical practices of this approach stress investigative strategies; that is, teaching and learning are emphatically student centered and inquiry oriented. Second, the process of making meaning through critical investigation is emphasized; that is, strategies of decoding are stressed within pedagogy. And third, visual literacy and media literacy, rather than an exclusively "print-oriented" literacy, function as the criteria for evaluation of student work.

Discussion: 

Until very recently if somebody complained about the media, the typical response was to "turn off the TV." Suddenly it has become commonplace to think of media not as an autonomous system but as an important element in a cultural environment that, like the physical environment, needs to be monitored for degradation and corruption. We need to be able to recognize biases and other problems that we encounter with existing media systems. All messages are made with some sense of the people receiving them. People filter these messages based on their beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviors, and past experiences. Every media message is communicated for a reason — to entertain, to inform, and usually to persuade. Behind every message is a purpose and point of view. The advertiser’s purpose is more direct than a program producer’s, though both may seek to entertain. Understanding their purposes and knowing whose point of view is being expressed and why is crucial to being media literate. Yet the basic motive behind most media programs is profit through practices like the sale of advertising space and sponsorships. These reasons are also important to consider because all media messages are owned. They are designed to yield results, provide profits, and pay for themselves. All news and entertainment programming, including film and television, try to increase their audiences to attract advertising dollars. Understanding the profit motive is key to analyzing media messages. Messages are communicated through the use of elements like sound, video, text, and photography. But most messages are enhanced by the use of visual and technical elements– through camera angles, special effects, editing, or music. Analyzing how these features are used in any given message is critical to understanding how that message attempts to persuade, entertain, or inform. Because messages are limited in both time and purpose, rarely are all the details provided. Identifying the issues, topics, and perspectives that are not included can often reveal a great deal about the purposes of media messages. Because media messages tell only part of the story and different media have unique production features, it helps to evaluate multiple messages on the same issue. This allows you to identify multiple points of view, some of which may be missing in any single message or medium.

These are but some of the issues to be discussed when considering the problems and challenges associated with the term media literacy. Other approaches include concerns about monitoring ownership and the political economy of these systems in the global economy, about interpretation, evaluation and critique of media messages, about knowledge of how media impact and influence, and about how to address the changing needs of a world where media constantly evolves.

A critical autonomy approach to media education addresses these concerns within an educational context. As part of the school reform movement of the past decade, media education scholarship assumes a student centered pedagogical practice in which the student is viewed as an active, aware participant in learning, a lifelong learner, and a self-motivated and self-directed problem solver. This image of the learner is an essential consideration not only in the design of media education, but also within the larger pedagogical frame in which the curriculum is negotiated. According to Boomer (1992), negotiating the curriculum means deliberately planning to invite students to contribute to, and to modify, the educational program, so that they will have a real investment both in the learning journey and in the outcomes. Negotiation also means making explicit, and then confronting, the constraints of the learning context and the non-negotiable requirements that apply. (14) Masterman argues further that "if students are to understand media texts . . . then it will obviously be helpful if they have first-hand experience of the construction process from the inside" (26). To this end, media education includes media production, what Masterman dubs "practical work," as a pedagogical practice which enables students to create media products. Thus, students are actively engaged both with the production of media and the workings of the classroom.

As a result of their interest in student centered learning, scholars of media education aim to develop curricula which consider the forms and practices of education and of pedagogy. Curricula which are inquiry oriented tend to offer activities which stress critical strategies, and pedagogy centers around the creation of a dialogue -- i.e., not just discussion, but the kind of talk that leads to dialectical thinking. In this context, divergent readings of texts are positively valued for their potential to stimulate further analysis and thus growth in understanding. The aim of media education is to encouraged a heightened self-consciousness about the processes of interpretation and meaning making and provide people with an opportunity to recognize that everyone uses a selective and interpretive process to examine media texts. This process and the meanings obtained depend on psychological, social, cultural, and environmental factors. In this view, then, media education strives to enable people to understand how media texts come to have a range of meanings or readings ascribed to them, and to develop even richer, more critical readings.

Contemporary media educators are also beginning to challenge traditional notions of literacy. Literacy, by definition, refers to the ability to read and write. But scholars insist that there are "languages" other than print, such as those related to the mass media, which also need to be considered within the definition of "literacy." Visual literacy, for example, has been described by Messaris (1994) as "greater experience in the workings of visual media coupled with a heightened conscious awareness of those workings" (2). And Masterman has argued that since both print and visual literacy involve "the deconstruction of texts by breaking through their surface to reveal the rhetorical techniques through which meanings are produced" (127), any education for "literacy" should focus on that process, rather than on the symbolic form of a particular set of "texts."

Solution: 

Education and educational practices need to shift to address the changing media environments. We need to perform more public media criticism. We need to engage with media more closely to keep them in check and to be informed as to how we are responding and why. We need to be more serious about our media environments and foster greater awareness of the impact and influence media systems have on daily life. We must arm all people with the knowledge, skills, and values a media education program provides – granting people access to new technology and information about its workings and ideological implication. Finally, we need more alternative communication systems to counter these problems.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Media Literacy allows us to critically view media and to evaluate the role that media play in our lives. Media Literacy helps develop awareness of our roles as active agents when engaging media. We must arm all people with the knowledge, skills, and values that Media Literacy provides. We need to grant people access to new technology and information about its workings and ideological implications and to develop alternative communication systems.

Pattern status: 
Released

Whole Cost

Pattern ID: 
456
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
28
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Through the clothes we buy, the food we eat, the cars we drive, the way we dispose of our trash or sewage, where and how we live, and how we make a living or recreate, people everyday and everywhere make impacts — large and small, good and bad — on the world. Many of the problems in the world are compounded by people who are unaware of the damage they are inadvertently perpetuating through their daily lives. Costs are determined in overly simplistic ways such as monetary costs or immediate convenience — throwing trash out the window or into a river, for example.

Not only are these problems debilitating to people in less developed countries (thus presenting moral and ethical challenges to their more fortunate brethren), they also have a peculiar way of ultimately affecting developed countries as well (over 20% of the air pollution in the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. has blown in from China). If people had a better idea what the entire "cost" of their actions were — not just their own personal costs at that moment — there is a higher likelihood that they'd change their behavior to encourage positive changes and discourage negative ones.

Context: 

People in developed countries are always buying — things — often from developing countries — and are generally unaware of the legacy of the product. People may be morally opposed, for example, to the child labor that went into, say, a pair of athletic shoes, yet they implicitly condone the practice with their purchase. The one economic point of view holds is that the whole cost should be reflected in the price tag, but this is rarely possible. Many of the costs are impossible to put a number on, and they may even differ from the point of view of different people. (What is the "true" cost of taking away a wetland used by geese on their migration?) So the pattern includes in some sense the common economic understanding but goes beyond it. All people need to live consciously in this world.

Discussion: 

In an increasingly globalized world people are connected to each other in ways that are often unknown to each other. One of the main ways that people in developed countries and less developed countries are linked is through products. When a person in a developed country buys clothing, consumer electronics, or other items all the buyer sees is a purchase price. Missing, of course, is the entire chain of lineage that was effectuated in order to place that product within purchasing range and its enduring effects on the environment has been dispatched of. Often the price on the product obscures a sordid legacy that could include child labor, environmental abuse such as pesticides in ground water, air pollution or soil depletion, or aspects that are harder to quantify like migration of youth to the urban areas or loss of cultural heritage.

One of the basic uses of this pattern is understanding the "whole cost" of an object or a service that one is purchasing. Ultimately the intent of this pattern is identifying the whole cost of something and using the information (that a single price obscures) to promote broader public consciousness and ultimately improved social good. There are a great number of ways that the information can be used — and a great number of ways left to be discovered. Ideally the information behind the price tag will take on greater significance while the price tag itself can also be made to reflect the previously hidden information more accurately including, for example, labeling that tag to include additional information about contents or relevant environmental effects or labor practices.

Understanding the "whole cost is primarily a process of education that can be done individually (by people of virtually any age) or in more public ways through any number of ways. This "understanding" can be via a narrative or story or it can be more quantified, including, for example, information about who got paid how much for what at every step in the chain. One approach is using the origin of the product as an indicator; not buying a product, for example, if it were made by non-union, child, or slave labor or because it was produced by a repressive regime.

A more nuanced process with a distinctively quantitative feel is illustrated by the work done by the International Center for Technology Assessment in their "The Real Price of Oil" report (1998). In that report based on gasoline prices from a U.S. perspective, the authors reveal how ultimately deceptive the idea of the "price at the pump" actually is to the actual monetary cost expressed in a specific currency, dollars, for example. And while their approach, like other economically based approaches, ignores (or, at least, re-interprets) the human story, it goes a long way towards developing (and ultimately using) a unitary "price" as a meaningful attachment to a commodity or service that’s available for purchase. In the case of gasoline, the authors show how multiple government subsidies (huge tax breaks, direct support for research development and other business costs, and "protection subsidies" often of a military nature) and a multitude of "externalities" (problems as diverse as air pollution, automobile crashes, suburban sprawl and climate change that are "costs" which the oil industry is not going to address and are not reflected in any way by the price one pays "at the pump") result in a public price-tag for gasoline that distorts the real price by 5 to 15 times. The "free" television programming that occupy so much of the time of the U.S. citizenry shows another perversion of the ideas of price and costs. The shows of course are not "free" at all — at least not to the viewers (and non-viewers) who pay for the ads every time they purchase something that’s advertised on television.

A simple use of the information (at least in the gasoline case above) would be eliminate or otherwise lower the government subsidies — especially the ones that actually hurt the environment and lead to wars and other problems and let the price creep (leap?) up to the actual price (or at least closer to it). This at the least would test the citizenry’s commitment to the automobile in a fair comparison with competing approaches to transportation. A related approach is of course un-externalizing the externalities by bringing the costs back home to the companies that are making them possible. This can be done by imposing a "green tax" on the companies, which would be used to help try to reverse the damage caused by the company’s business practices. Unfortunately, as Peter Dorman explains “There is a general distrust of the effectiveness of government, a fear that green taxes will be more regressive than some of our current ones. The alternative is the creation of environmental trusts, which would collect the money on behalf of the beneficiaries, which could include current people, future people and natural entities. The trust would pay back some of the money directly (per capita rebates) and also finance ecological conversion. Vermont and Massachusetts are in the process of setting up a trust of this sort for carbon and New York and California are possibly going this route too.

The city of San Francisco recently showed another innovative use of the Whole Cost concept. In the spring of 2005, San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to enact legislation requiring the city to consider the environmental and health implications when making purchases for the city. Since the city spends about $600 million every year on a multitude of purchases (including, for example, 87,000 fluorescent light tubes) this type of legislation could conceivably have some effect, especially since city officials are hoping that the "Environmentally Preferable Purchasing for Commodities Ordinance" will serve as model for other cities. The city is working with community groups, technical experts and other city staff to establish criteria. Debbie Raphael, the city's toxics reduction program manager, stated that "Traditionally, we have a list of specifications we use to decide which computer to buy," she said. "Those specifications do not include things like how much lead is in them? Can you recycle them? What is their energy use? What it does not mean is that cost and performance is ignored. We're expanding the universe of criteria" (Gordon, 2005).

A final use of the Whole Cost pattern is to consider the Whole Cost in more of a global "whole" way. Looking just in this the area of health reveals the importance of this approach. In a short article called "The Price of Life" by Glennerster, Kremer, and Williams (2005) point out that Africa "generates less than one half of one percent of sales by global pharmaceutical firms but accounts for nearly 25 percent of the world's disease burden." The lion's share of pharmaceutical research and development is for the health problems of rich countries. Sadly the economic equations of the world's corporations exclude the vast majority of world's population. Lacking money, the "whole costs" that are borne by them don't show up on anybody's balance sheet or business plan.

Solution: 

The first thing to realize is that the price one sees on a price tag is rarely the "Whole Cost." The second thing to realize is that the Whole Cost of a good or service is educational as well as inspirational. People have been very innovative in this area but there is room for much more. It's important to publicize the "whole cost" of a product as well as the monetary price. This could include what percentage of the monetary price goes to worker and other costs to the environment, quality of life, and other important factors.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

We leave our mark on the world through the clothes we buy, the food we eat, the cars we drive, the way we dispose of our waste, or how we work or play. The price tag on a product can hide environmental abuse, or aspects that are harder to quantify such as the loss of cultural heritage. The amount on a price tag doesn't represent all the present or future costs. Knowing the Whole Cost of a good or service can be educational and it can inspire action.

Pattern status: 
Released

Big-Picture Health Information

Pattern ID: 
742
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
27
Jenny Epstein
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Health information cannot focus solely on individual change. Many detriments to health cannot be eradicated without changes to the physical and social world that people inhabit. If environmental and social changes are necessary to get well, individual patients cannot do so solely by seeking health care and avoiding health risks. Expert medical information and advice is inadequate to create a healthy environment that in turn creates healthy people.

Context: 

Poor people bear a disproportionate burden of global ill-health, such as diabetes, malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB. Health discrepancies between rich and poor will not be solved through better access to information alone. Good food, less stress, clean air and water, and a life with a purpose will increase health and healthy behaviors. Real change to improve health comes from a shift away from acknowledging only expert clinical opinion and toward a real-world awareness of the effect of environment on health: a shift from passive diagnosis and treatment to active engagement with the causes of and solutions to health problems.

Discussion: 

We are not, for the most part, born unhealthy. We become unhealthy. And even for those born unhealthy, a great deal of ill health may have been preventable. The campaign to find the cure for breast cancer is a good example of health information that neglects any causal connection between ill-health and the environment (in this instance, an environment which includes the use of estrogen in prescription medication), and ignores political or social change that might address environmental causes of the disease. This pattern of information, in which action comes only after the individual becomes ill but nothing has been done to prevent illness in first place, focuses on individual responsibility with no questioning of the established social order. The unspoken message is that breast cancer just happens. It is up to the individual to get involved with a screening program for early detection and treatment. Information on research that investigates environmental effects to the development of breast cancer is not part of mainstream health information.

Public health information about diabetes further illustrates the lack of emphasis on the connection between environment and health. Among Native Americans, diabetes (like most other non-infectious chronic diseases) was virtually unknown before World War II. Now, in some tribes, over 60% of adults have diabetes and the age of onset is decreasing with each generation. Much of the research on diabetes among Native Americans focuses on genetic causes or on molecular level differentiations of diabetic types. It gives short shrift to how the disruption in traditional diet and life style and the devaluation of traditional medicine correspond with the dramatic increase in the disease. The connection of indigenous people to the environment that they come from, the types of foods they eat, and activities they perform to prepare those foods are not considered an active component in their health. Diabetic health information focuses on what the individual can do to access mainstream diets and medicine. It does not validate traditional knowledge that prevented diabetes in the past, and ignores how the community as a whole can work together to recreate that knowledge. This does not mean trying to reestablish life as it was 60 years ago, but it does mean putting the current problem in a holistic context that includes history, indigenous knowledge, the interaction between diet and environment, and reasons for lack of access even to non-traditional healthy food.

In 1854, John Snow removed the handle from a London neighborhood water pump that was located a few feet from a sewer ("John Snow Pub," 2006). He believed that this sewage was causing the epidemic of cholera deaths in the neighborhood. Epidemiology textbooks emphasize Snow's connection of cause and effect as the first public health intervention of the modern era. They ignore an analysis of cause: industrialization and dislocation, poverty, over-crowding etc. What options for water did people in the neighborhood have without the pump? Seldom mentioned is that, due to the demand of a thirsty public, the handle was replaced six weeks after its removal.

Public health programs must include methods to share power with communities they hope to help. What are the contributors to ill health in their communities? What are the barriers to good health that the communities identify? Information needs to realistically address what is within the control of the individual and what will take groups of people working together to solve. Methods to improve health in disadvantaged communities must reflect the larger social change and shift in power needed.

Health information such as Fast Food Nation (Schlosser, 2002) needs to be the norm, not the exception. This book chronicles the entire environment that produces fast food, including social norms and values. Similarly, the documentary film “Life and Debt” (www.lifeanddebt.org) shows the destruction of healthy, local food production in Jamaica by the combination of multinational food businesses and international government policy.

Health information needs to do more than simply inform. What does not question the present state of affairs will not, for example, bring affordable nutritious food to poor neighborhoods. Nor will it create safe neighborhoods in areas where children cannot exercise. Better access to information may improve health care decisions to some extent; unless it also generates momentum and optimism for social change then it simply perpetuates a focus on individual behavior and treatment of symptoms that have already occurred. Health information needs to look honestly at the conditions that cause ill health, and engage not only those who suffer illness but the entire social and regulatory apparatus that can play a role in improving the conditions that people live in.

Solution: 

Demand and produce health information that identifies environmental and social causes of ill-health. Analyze the interconnection between these causes and their solutions, and bring individuals, communities and governments together in putting the solutions into effect. If the struggle with disease becomes a struggle with established power, you may be on the right track.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Real change in improving health means shifting away from expert clinical opinion only and towards awareness of the effect of environment. Demand and produce health information that identifies environmental and social causes of ill-health. Analyze the links between causes and solutions, and bring individuals, communities and governments together in putting the solutions into effect.

Pattern status: 
Released

Earth's Vital Signs

Pattern ID: 
620
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
26
Jenny Frankel-Reed
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Society’'s great scientific capacity to measure and interpret the world and the role of humans in nature has failed to translate into improved environmental stewardship. Modern environmental challenges are often difficult to see, distant in time and space from their sources, and threaten global consequences. The increasing complexity and chronic rather than acute nature of today's environmental problems requires a revolution of decision making — the systematic integration of earth’s vital signs.

Context: 

Signals detected by scientists about earth's natural patterns and processes and the impacts of humans on these processes are earth's signs - indicators of what can be seen as either ecological health or the capacity of the earth to accommodate human demands. The conditions of earth's systems tend to be worsening on a global scale, but vary dramatically from place to place. Human decisions about how to live on earth drive these trends and can potentially reverse their negative directions.

Policymakers, public interest organizations, universities, and governments can utilize earth's signs to better manage human and environmental well-being. Policymakers' decisions about sustainable practices in land- and resource-dependent sectors can be backed by scientific understanding about the effects of policies on resources. Citizens can demand better environmental stewardship from their leaders at local to global scales with improved access to and translation of relevant earth information at the proper scale. Governments and enforcement bodies can strengthen their monitoring capabilities and base development decisions on the latest information about trends in human impacts on earth.

Discussion: 

Three distinct approaches to integrating earth's vital signs come from the scientific community, public interest organizations, and enforcement bodies.

Scientific institutions can collaborate to reach audiences in need of earth-related information to solve problems. The work of earth observation agencies to collect and disseminate data and images to important users like humanitarian aid agencies provides one example. Disaster prevention, response, and rebuilding are information-intensive. This fact is illustrated time and time again in the wake of natural disasters. For example, in Asia in 2005, an immediate need emerged in tsunami-affected areas for earth observation and environmental data to help in assessing damage, reaching victims and rebuilding resilient communities. In response to this need, an alliance of European and International organizations is working with the humanitarian community to improve access to maps, satellite imagery and geographic information (The CGIAR-CSI Data Sharing Platform). This kind of effort by the scientific community to ensure that information actually comes back 'down to earth' opens a host of possibilities for more sustainable decisionmaking if scientists in other fields can repeat it. Scientists from communities researching water, pollution and future risks from global warming could create similar initiatives to ensure the information that they gather becomes integrated in decisionmaking in water-scarce areas, in clean water and air policies, and for promoting climate change adaptation in development strategies, to name a few.

Another way earth’s signs are integrated into decisionmaking is by concerned public interest groups and universities gathering, translating and communicating trends that reflect environmental sustainability to motivate improved environmental governance. The outcomes of resource and land management policies such as energy, fisheries, forests, water, urban planning and rural development can be extrapolated from existing environmental data. A key challenge however, is translating scientific information to connect to the public and policymakers. In examples from around the world, organizations locate data reflecting the condition of impacted resources, create indicators of stewardship or sustainability from these data, and translate their findings into insightful measurements, models and maps that are publicly available and understandable to broader audiences. Clarifying the connections between political and business decisions and environmental outcomes can promote environmentally sustainable decisions and reverse negative trends if decisionmakers are held accountable to these indicators. Scorecards of environmental performance (Environmental Performance Index), policy-wise ecological assessments (Hudson River Foundation), and regional indicators and indices of sustainability (Cascadia Scorecard) have the potential to become a systematic part of policymaking if leaders are held accountable for their performance on these measures of earth's vital signs. Currently, information is not available at the right scales and frequently enough for such assessments to be carried in every context, but an increase in reporting has been proven to stimulate better information gathering.

Earth monitoring information has also been used by enforcement agencies, environmental organizations, and governments to improve accountability for the environmental impacts of business practices. Satellite imagery and other sources of management practices can be used to monitor natural resources on public lands, in protected areas, human settlements, etc. One example comes from an initiative in Central Africa’s Congo Basin, an important wood products exporting region to Europe (Global Forest Watch). European procurement standards are the highest in the world, and buyers often demand legally and sustainably harvested wood from their suppliers. A system to monitor the legality and sustainability of forestry operations has emerged that utilizes satellite imagery, tracking whether harvested areas conform to legally-agreed boundaries and harvest rates. By making the findings publicly accessible, consumers use the information in procurement decisions and market pressure can promote better management by companies. Similar innovative applications of earth information can capitalize on market forces and encourage sustainable resource management if public concern is tangible.

Solution: 

Integrating earth's signs throughout decisionmaking requires that environmental information is widely available, connections between management practices and environmental outcomes are understood, environmental implications of policies are translated to the public and policymakers, and that the environmental performance of governments and companies is publicly disseminated. Replication of existing initiatives and further innovations can help to ensure that decisionmaking balances human impacts with the health of the planet.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

We need a revolution of decision making and awareness in order to tackle the complexity and urgent nature of our environmental problems. Earth's Vital Signs are indicators of ecological health or the earth's capacity to accommodate human demands. Human decisions about how to live on earth currently drive unsustainable trends. They can also help us change course.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Panamanian golden frog (Atelopus zeteki) exhibited at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD, USA; Photo: Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz) ; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.

Cyberpower

Pattern ID: 
829
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
25
Kate Williams
Dominican University
Abdul Alkalimat
University of Toledo
Version: 
2
Problem: 

In the age of the Internet, if someone can’t send an email or browse the web, they are much like the person in the age of print who had to sign their name with an X. Many people and communities are still catching up to the information age and what digital tools offer. One word for what they offer is Cyberpower—power in cyberspace.

The usefulness of this word can be understood in comparison to another useful word: e-commerce. E-commerce is a word that summed up what businesses, coders and consumers were doing. On the basis of that summation, many more people were guided in that direction, and e-commerce became more advanced as a result. Millions are now buying and selling online, with the goods delivered in the real world. Our experience with the word cyberpower is the much same: the word came into use based on practice; then it mobilized more people to exercise their cyberpower. As with e-commerce, when you wield cyberpower, the “goods”—power—are delivered in the real world, in a cycle from actual to virtual to actual.

Context: 

Digital inequality often impacts the same people as older inequalities such as poverty, oppression, discrimination, exclusion. But the new tools are so powerful that not using them sets individuals, groups and communities even further back. The hardware and software are still changing, and only the users are able to shape them and shape the future. And a global conversation is taking place every day online. They

Discussion: 

Even as technology changes, diffuses, and becomes cheaper, digital inequalities persist. For certain populations, access is impossible or is controlled, skills are lower, support isn’t there, or the tools and resources themselves are relatively irelevant. If the core conversations and the rich information sources are all online, yet not everyone is participating or even able to observe, how do we maintain democracy? Recent calls for a dialogue of civilizations, starting with the United Nations (1998), rather than a clash of civilizations (Huntington 1998) could be taking part online, but only if everyone can see, hear, and speak in cyberspace.

It is not yet well understood, but communities in crisis—be it from poverty, disaster, war or some other adversity—are known to turn to technology for response and recovery. Cellphones, impromptu cybercafés, the Internet, all helped in the Gulf hurricane recovery. Farmers on quarantined farms quickly mastered home Internet use during England’s foot-and-mouth-disease outbreak. The US armed forces now strategize in terms of land, sea, air, and cyberspace. Immigrants all over the world have created digital diasporas. (Miller and Slater 2000) Whatever language people use to describe it, cyberpower is the driver in all these cases.

Hiphop can be seen as a technology-based response to crisis and a cyberpower project. In a community-based seminar, we proposed to create a CD of original raps about IT. Students and community members were skeptical—one said, “We don’t know anything about computers”—but all the music making was digital, the tools were put together in bedrooms and basements, and the result was a compilation of 15 tracks. Sample these lyrics by S. Supreme:

Information technology
Skipping the Black community with no apology
Flipping the power off
On an already alarming deficit,
So please, please, PLEASE, PASS THE MESSAGE KID!
Ohh Umm Diddy Dum Dum
If he don’t turn his Ice off
And turn his head past the gas of Microsoft
He’ll really be lost like the tribe, ‘cause the time is now and that’s a bet
How you throwing up a set and you ain’t on the Net,
Yet you say you’re a G?
I said I’m not Chuck D, but welcome to the terror
If you ain’t ready to build in this information era
Survival of the fittest, our rights get diminished, cats be on their Crickets
But don’t know about Linux

In this track cyberpower is talking about cyberpower.

Another example of cyberpower is our experience with an auction of Malcolm X’s papers. The sale, planned for March 2002, was discovered online, then thousands protested online and the sale was stopped. The process began when monitoring eBay for items related to Malcolm X, we discovered that eBay’s auction house, Butterfields, was about to sell thousands of pages of Malcolm’s diaries and notes, recovered from a storage locker, for an expected price of $500,000. Using the listserv H-Afro-Am, this news was spread across multiple communities of scholars, librarians, activists, and others. The American Library Association then created a story on their online news site which is fed to more sites and individuals. The next day The New York Times did a story. On the third day The Guardian newspaper ran a story about the impending sale and the online groundswell against it. The listservs and the news articles alerted the family and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library, who wre able to negotiate the postponing of the sale, then its cancellation. An agreement was negotiated with the seller whereby the materials are now in the possession of the family, housed at the Schomburg’s archives. In sum, the important historical papers (actual) were being auctioned (virtual); thousands of people were mobilized (virtual); traditional media carried the story (virtual and actual); and ultimately the materials were withdrawn from sale and placed intact in a public library archive for scholars and the public (actual).

Another example of cyberpower is told by Mele (1999). Faced with a teardown of their housing project, tenants in Wilmington, Nouth Carolina wrangled the key to a long-locked community room, internet access for the lone computer (actual), and via email and listservs (virtual) recruited architects and planners to help them obtain, digest and answer developer and city plans. They won an actual seat at the negotiating table and, more important, key changes to the teardown plan that included interim and long-term housing for residents.

All sorts of new tools for exercising cyberpower are in wide usage at this writing, for example, MySpace, blogs, wikis, and the online video festival known as YouTube. Use of any of these tools locates you in a lively community. The idea from Putnam (2000) that we’re “bowling alone,” not connecting with other people in an atomized world, is, as Lin (2001) asserted, trumped by the fact that we are not computing alone.

Solution: 

Cyberpower means two related activities related to empowerment: 1) individuals, groups and organizations using digital tools for their own goals, or 2) using digital tools as part of community organizing. The general idea is that people can use cyberpower in virtual space to get power in the actual space. Cyberorganizers help get people cyberpower just as community organizers help get communities empowered.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Digital inequality often affects the same people as traditional inequalities such as poverty, oppression, discrimination, and exclusion. With Cyberpower individuals, groups and organizations use digital tools for their own goals. Cyberpower also means using digital tools as part of community organizing and development, when Cyberorganizers help people gain Cyberpower.

Pattern status: 
Released

Transforming Institutions

Pattern ID: 
442
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
19
Brian Beaton
Keewaytinook Okimakanak
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Traditional management models used to develop and sustain institutions and their services are often based on the corporate concept of centralized and very controlled operations. They are lead by people who are often chosen for their position only because they fit easily within the institution. Institutions become focused on their own survival rather than their original and evolving missions and visions. Institutions and organizations replicate themselves through their hiring practices and competitive practices, preventing diversity and hence, innovation. Institutions become resistant to change, maintaining the belief (at least implicitly) that "who they are now is who they should remain".

Context: 

A distributed management and operational model for institutions is required to support and sustain remote and rural communities. Establishing innovation as a way of doing business to engage remote and rural communities in all regions requires an appreciation where people are employed, where they are producing valued products as well as delivering services that are an important part of the social and economic fabric of the region. In many cases, success in fulfilling the mission of an institution can actually mean the "death" or transformation of their organization. Institutions that have some specified lifespan to fulfill their mandate can either disappear or change to accommodate the next challenge that is identified from its work and services.

Discussion: 

Most institutions are positioned to deliver services from their operation center out to the region and the masses. Often, these institutions, their leaders and their corporate management models protect and maintain their existence without any regard for those they were intended to serve. Their development and sustainability strategies are built and maintained on the basic values of greed and exploitation of the people and regions they claim to serve. The exploitation and destruction of the environment, the people and rural communities is the long term result of these types of efforts by institutions.

Regional hospitals, colleges and universities are three examples of institutions that sustain their operation centers in larger urban environments. They sustain their operation by drawing people to their facilities under the myth that they will be better served if they move to these centers. The professionals who work with clients in these institutions create a level of dependency that people have grown to accept. These efforts protect their positions and create wealth for the institution while draining local and regional resources. The reality that these institutions and corporations depend on communities to supply the resources required for their existence challenges their traditional model.

The real costs of developing and sustaining centralized, concrete environments have never been incorporated into the balance sheets of the institutions. These real costs the costs to the environment, the costs of destroying forests and the earth to extract natural resources for creating man-made environments where people are "taken care of" so a few individuals can become rich and powerful. The artificial comforts that some experience as a result of these environments should reflect these real costs of producing the food and water that sustain the lives of the people who work within these institutions; the energy they consume to have these comforts; as well as the poverty that others must experience so they can be comfortable within these artificial environments. The list of “real” costs is long and requires significant research to reflect the real exchanges that occur between the different sectors of society.

Once these real costs variables are included in any true management system, institutions and governments will need to look outside their "glass bubbles" work with others to find truly sustainable and equitable solutions. Management and program developers will need to find creative strategies to accommodate, work with and sustain communities, cultures and environments that have always existed and have been struggling to survive.

Being able to look outside of their comfortable worlds to support innovation and development with their neighbors requires a new set of values and priorities. These institutional values and priorities will be different from those that are presently in place to protect and sustain artificial and temporary facilities and environments. Partnering with others, trusting other people, understanding others, respecting other environments, cultures and people are values that should become part of any modern institutional culture and environment.

This transformation will benefit the institution by creating new opportunities and relationships. But it will also probably require some short-term pain to establish long-term gains. Finding creative ways to purchase and support services and products from other groups outside of the institution also requires finding creative ways to pay the real price for these products and services. Learning how to value and respect people and environments in remote and rural communities helps create these new opportunities and relationships.

Working with existing institutions and supporting their required change is a challenge. Starting over to create new institutions is only an option when there are opportunities and support for innovative groups and organizations that are able to overcome or counter the traditional institutional management model. But for most existing institutions, the entrenched infrastructure and investments created over the years require that they remain in place.

Institutions located in most small urban centers are an integral and historical part of their environment. Over the years they have contributed jobs and significant investment in the communities where they are located. By their very nature, they will continue to exist; the question becomes, however, will they be able to make the necessary adjustments for successfully accommodating these real operational costs within their own environments?

This type of change, with its associated challenges and opportunities, requires a transformation at all levels within existing institutions. This transformative work needs to be lead by innovative thinkers and new leaders who understand and respect the impact of their institution at the local, regional, national and international levels. The global village demands this type of relationship within institutions. As these new institutions evolve from within existing institutions or as new institutions are started, the required transformations are facilitated and supported by factors and forces both within and outside the organization.

“Leaders of older organizations often selected in the past are constrained by institutional routines, and may have resources that allow them to operate in counterproductive insulation from the environment. As leaders persist, they form bonds among themselves, develop common understandings of ‘how things work,’ and select others like themselves to lead. Access to internal organizational resources can insulate them, in the short run, from environmental change. For a time, these resources may even give them the power to shape that environment – but only for a time. Changes in organizational structure that reduce leaders’ accountability to or need to mobilize resources from constituents – or changes in deliberative processes that suppress dissent – can diminish strategic capacity, even as resources grow. The strategic capacity of an organization can thus grow over time if it adjusts its leadership team to reflect environmental change, multiplies deliberative venues, remains accountable to salient constituencies, and derives resources from them.” (Ganz, 2003)

As Ganz and others note, there is a need for permeable organizations that are flexible, contain built in ‘reality checks’ and are able to accommodate and reward innovative thinking (Thomas, 2002, Tresser, 2002, Wortley, 2002, Michaelson, 2002, Brown, 2006 and Dutfield, 2006). Working with groups and constituents outside of the institution provide leadership with unique opportunities to adjust their goals and priorities. Providing appropriate reward structures for those within and outside of the institution provides the opportunity for building new relationships and collaborative development. Being able to respond to these changes and opportunities in a timely and appropriate manner requires a special team comprised of partners in development.

Solution: 

Institutions should begin to:
* develop innovative and sustainable relationships with remote and rural communities that are built upon the principles of trust, sharing, respect and strength to ensure an equitable and fair existence for all to support a sustainable, transformative institutional model.
* establish a transformative change within their environments to engage as well as effectively communicate and share with the region their products and resources. The resulting exchange becomes a model for cooperative and collaborative development across regions and elsewhere, as innovative strategies and creativity benefiting all become entrenched and commonplace in all relationships.
* Create flexible institutional management models that can adjust to the changing and evolving needs of people so everyone has the opportunity to become engaged in these transformative efforts.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Social institutions often deliver services from their operational center out to people in distant regions. In some cases these institutions protect and maintain their existence without regard for those they were intended to serve. This results in exploitation and destruction of the environment and communities. Institutions should develop new sustainable relationships; establish transformative change; and create flexible management models.

Pattern status: 
Released

Linguistic Diversity

Pattern ID: 
407
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
16
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Over the last century, many of the world's languages have disappeared. When a language is lost, part of the world's knowledge and culture is also irrevocably lost. Beyond the losses incurred thus far, there is evidence that the trend is increasing as languages such as English, Spanish, and Swahili are displacing languages that are less prominent in the world media and language sphere. Losing humankind's linguistic diversity diminishes our collective ability to perceive and think about the world in a holistic, multi-faceted and rich way.

Context: 

Everybody who communicates with other people employs language. To a large extent, the language that we use places constraints on what — and how — we think. Everybody has a stake in promoting linguistic diversity although some people are better positioned to help.

Discussion: 

In 1992, Michael Krauss, a language professor at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, predicted that half of the world's languages would become extinct within the next century. Although languages periodically have become extinct throughout history, the frequency of language death today is unprecedented. Krauss reported that of the 20 tongues still known to the state's indigenous people, only two of were being taught to children. A 1990 survey in Australia, cited in a article by W. Wayt Gibbs, "found that 70 of the 90 surviving Aboriginal languages were no longer used regularly by all age groups. The same was true for all but 20 of the 175 Native American languages spoken or remembered in the U.S." The "ethnologue", an Internet resource that lists over 7,000 languages currently in use worldwide, contains over 400 languages which are thought to be in imminent danger of extinction.

It may be that our everyday familiarity with language prevents us from respecting the fact that "...any language is a supreme achievement of a uniquely human collective genius, as divine and endless a mystery as a living organism," as Krauss reminds us. Linguistic diversity can be thought as analogous to biological diversity. In that vein, Krauss asks his readers, "Should we mourn the loss of Eyak or Ubykh any less than the loss of the panda or California condor?"

Many of the imperiled languages are those of indigenous people. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the world-views of indigenous people, especially in relationship to the environment, is one of the vantage points we can't afford to lose. David Crystal, writing in Language Death, states that, "Most westerners are infants in their knowledge of the environment, and how to behave towards it, compared with the indigenous peoples, for whom the environment is part of the business of survival." It's a sobering thought to ponder how much mass media may be determining what's in our "environment" and, hence, in our "knowledge of the environment." Is it true that American teenagers have 63 words for shopping?

Linguists are now employing a variety of techniques to document the world's endangered languages before they are lost forever. This usually involves field work in which a dictionary and grammar guide are produced. Often recordings are made of native speakers. But looking beyond the last-ditch "capture" of a language before it dies forever. a variety of techniques are being used to try to build back a viable language community. A program devised by Leanne Hinton acquired funding to pay both fluent indigenous speakers and younger learners.

What else can be done? David Crystal lists six factors that he believes can help resusitate an endangered language. An endangered language will progress if its speakers:

  1. increase their prestige within the dominant community
  2. increase their wealth relative to the dominant community
  3. increase their legitimate power in the eyes of the dominant community
  4. have a strong presence in the educational system
  5. can write their language down
  6. can make use of electronic technology

Hans-Jurgen Sasse believes that "collective doubts about the usefullness of language loyalty" among the speakers of a language can presage its demise. The speakers themselves can of course strive to maintain their language. The world outside of that language community can play a role by respecting linguistic diversity, often by dropping prejudices and a bias for monolingualism. David Crystal believes that this bias is, at least to some degree, a product of colonialism, that is now being promoted by economics. When bilingualism flourishes, speakers can participate in the world beyond their language community intellectually and commercially while maintaining their own community, identity and heritage.

As with other thorny problems, no single answer exists. Solutions that work in some places have no effects in others. Education of one sort or another will play a large role in language maintenance; the language must be passed on from older to younger generations. Artistic and other forms of cultural expression can serve as an outlet for creative impulses that can also be enjoyed by the world beyond their community.

Introductory graphic, "Endangered Languages of North America," is from the web site, http://www.si.edu/i+d/lang.big.html

Solution: 

Due to their particular knowledge and expertise, linguists are often at the forefront of the struggle for linguistic diversity. It was linguists who first alerted us to these issues and have helped develop methods to archive linguistic resources. Non-linguists have important roles to play as well. We need to become aware of humankind's diminishing linguistic diversity and work to preserve and enhance it.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Over the last century, many of the world's languages have disappeared. When a language is lost, part of the world's knowledge and culture is lost. Losing our Linguistic Diversity diminishes our ability to perceive and think about the world in a multi-faceted and rich way. Due to their knowledge and expertise, linguists are at the forefront of the struggle for Linguistic Diversity. All of us, however, have important roles in preserving and enhancing Linguistic Diversity.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Early_Localization_Native_Americans_USA.jpg

Matrifocal Orientation

Pattern ID: 
617
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
9
Lori Blewett
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Because almost all contemporary societies are androcentric (male-centered), women's needs, interests, ideas, and perspectives on the world are often ignored or trivialized. Androcentrism perpetuates a patriarchal system that oppresses women and severely constrains (and damages) men's lives as well. An orientation toward social change that gives voice to women's perspectives and strives to replace patriarchy with an egalitarian, matrifocal society would go a long way toward creating a just and peaceful world for all.

Context: 

Although societies differ in the degree and form which male dominance takes, male privilege is generally maintained through systems of beliefs, laws, discriminatory practices, and cultural norms (including direct or indirect perpetuation of male violence). Patriarchy concentrates social, political, and economic power in the hands of men at the expense of women. Because gender oppression is ancient and insidious, a conscious effort is needed to recognize the gendered dimensions of social problems. Looking at the world with a matrifocal orientation can help create contexts in which women-centered analyses of social problems are fully incorporated into problem-solving processes.

Discussion: 

A matrifocal orientation to social change draws directly on women’s experience and knowledge and puts the needs of oppressed women at the center of social transformation. Matrifocal societies, real and imagined, do not challenge patriarchy by offering its mirror image--with women in positions of dominance over men. Rather, they embrace values traditionally seen as feminine: peace, nurturance, cooperation, and care for those most in need. A matrifocal society is one in which dominance over others is not supported (neither as an individual or collective goal). The needs and contributions of women are valued equally with those of men. Women’s interests are not special interests but human interests. Social distinctions between males and females may be minimized [depending on the culture], and those biological/social differences that remain do not inhibit women’s full participation in the society. A matrifocal orientation to social change recognizes that “the rising of the women means the rising of the [human] race” (1).

The need for women’s voices to be heard in order for society to become more just, has been recognized by progressive social reformers for centuries (and probably longer). This awareness led to the development of women-centered movements throughout the world. As a social/political orientation, the Matrifocus pattern is reflected in both feminist organizing in first world nations and community-centered women’s organizing in Third world nations. Historically, many Third World women’s organizations have been concerned with conditions of economic hardship, displacement, and state-sponsored violence affecting their communities as a whole, while first world feminist groups have focused more exclusively on women’s social and political rights. In recent decades the issue of violence against women has been a common theme of transnational women organizing (2). Regardless of the issue, whenever women organize with the goal of creating a more just and sustainable society, they are endeavoring to insert their voices and their perspectives into the public debate. By doing so, they are subverting the androcentric norm of male power and female silence.

Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, for example, were able to subvert androcentric norms after initially making use of them. The simultaneous cultural respect for motherhood and perceived political irrelevance of women, allowed Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo to protest relatively unhindered at a time when public demonstrations were officially illegal in Argentina. By also making themselves visible beyond national borders, Las Madres fostered a successful international advocacy network to pressured government investigation into state sponsored murders during the Pinochet regime. The powerful example of Argentinean mothers refusing to be silent has inspired other women’s groups, such as Women in Black in Israel and elsewhere, to stand out publicly against state sponsored violence.

Not surprisingly, many organizations that can be described as having a matrifocal orientation have been “women’s” organizations. But this is not required by the pattern. Labor groups reflect a matrifocal orientation when they strive for gender equity policies, family leave policies, the right to organize in traditionally female occupations, and increased female union leadership. Anti-globalization groups demonstrate a matrifocal orientation when they recognize the significant impact of trade policies on women, and when they give voice to women’s knowledge as farmers, workers, parents, and preservers of culture. Environmental groups like the Chipko movement in India or EcoFeminists in the U.S. reflect a matrifocal orientation when they draw upon and amplify the voices of women, highlight reproductive issues as environmental issues, and speak with reference to the future of all children on the planet.

Regardless of whether a group consists of men or women or both, having a matrifocal orientation means that people ask, “How is the problem we perceive exacerbated by patriarchy, and how has our way of responding to it been limited by patriarchal thinking?" Resisting androcentric norms by putting women’s perspectives in the center, rather than the periphery, of social debates is a first step toward undermining patriarchy and the social ills it perpetuates.

One problem with the Matrifocal pattern is its potential to reinforce male-female dichotomies. Whenever people speak up for traditionally “feminine” goals and values—particularly when they use the role of motherhood for political leverage--they run the risk of reifying patriarchal beliefs about the essential nature of women. Many reactionary movements have argued that their goals and strategies are in the best interests of women, and female voices are often used to promote these messages. Many western feminists, for example, have been hesitant to organize under the banner of motherhood not only because many women chose not to be mothers, but also because such representations may inadvertently bolster the idea that motherhood is women’s single most important function in society. Activist who use a matrifocal orientation must be careful to distinguish between biological femaleness and matrifocal goals. There are many males that value peace, nurturance, care for those in needs, collaborative problem solving, and an end to reward-oriented hierarchies. There are also many females that are not interested in creating a just society and prefer to amass what benefits they can within the current social order; some fully support patriarchy. Matrifocal is not synonymous with female or maternal.

A second problem with a matrifocal orientation is the misperception that everyone who adopts it will, or should, agree on particular social goals and political strategies. They wont. What is shared by people who adopt a matrifocal orientation is a consciousness that overcoming problems of violence, economic oppression, and gender oppression, requires replacing patriarchy with an alternative social order, and that increasing women’s participation in the public sphere is one step in such a transformation.

Solution: 

A matrifocal orientation keeps the system of patriarchy visible so that alternatives can be imagined and created.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Because almost all societies are male centered, women’s needs, interests, ideas, and perspectives are often ignored or trivialized. Matrifocal communities are organized around values traditionally seen as “feminine” such as peace, nurturance, cooperation, and care for others. A Matrifocal Orientation that gives voice to women’s perspectives would help promote a just and peaceful world for all. Women’s interests are not special interests, but human interests.

Pattern status: 
Released

Political Settings

Pattern ID: 
760
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
7
Jonathan Barker
University of Toronto
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The venues of political action are changing dramatically with the proliferation of new kinds of non-governmental organizations, the broadening coverage of the Internet, and the actions of governments to redefine and often reduce the scope of their direct interventions. We need concepts to describe these changes and assess their implications, both negative and positive, for democratic participation.

Context: 

Innovative political or social action fits into the existing field of popular and governmental activity. What political settings—as gatherings to inform, discuss, assert, dispute, debate, and decide important public matters—are available? What are their biases about who can participate, how matters are discussed, and what issues can be raised? Where do particular settings fit in the hierarchy of power? How do economic and cultural forces and physical threats influence the process? Will a new action create a new setting or alter an existing one? By asking questions like these, activists will better grasp the changes they are asking people to make, and researchers can analyze the changing shape and structure of political space over long or short spans of time. 

Discussion: 

Political settings are the basic physical units of collective political action. Each instance of a political setting has its own unique location in space and time. Many recur on a regular basis. Meetings and demonstrations are common types of political setting. Here are two recent examples from reports about political change in Venezuela. One is a small-scale political setting, a barrio meeting; the other describes two large-scale, competing political marches:

The Meeting
Nidia Lopez stood on one side of the brick built shack. It was like one of the thousands that made up the barrio of Andres Bello. The barrios, or slums, are where the majority of the Venezuelan population lives. Thirty people looked at Nidia. Some of them stood outside in the mud. The building was too small to fit them all.
Nidia spoke and her voice was clear and loud. She said, "There are 23 families living on the street in this barrio. In eight years what has this government done for them? In three years what has this Committee done for them? They need help now! What are we going to do for them now?"
The "we" that Nidia was talking about was the Urban Land Committee for the Andres Bello barrio. The Urban Land Committees...exist everywhere there are barrios in Venezuela and barrios are everywhere in Venezuela.
When barrio problems are discussed...the most common suggestion is to get organized. At the Andres Bello meeting, barrio resident Hector Madera said, “When the people of our barrio have a problem they mustn’t rely on the media, or go and whisper in the ear of a friend in a Chavista party, we need to organize ourselves.”
Nidia Lopez felt the best way the Andres Bello CTU could help the 23 homeless families was to take the appeal to the President. Everybody else in the meeting argued it was more important that organization happen first.
The families should...discuss with each other about what they wanted. They should also talk with the owner of the mansion. Only then should they approach the government for assistance if they still needed it.
Madera said the barrios needed to organize together, "When organized we can involve the people from nearby barrios, like Chapellin, and get their support. We will help them and them us. Together we solve our problems ourselves. We can march together."
( Source: Entitled to Democracy:Venezuela’s Urban Land Committees and Participatory Democracy. Saturday, Feb 11, 2006. By Alex Holland – Venezuelanalysis.com)

The Marches
Venezuelans celebrated International Worker’s Day yesterday with two large marches that wound through the streets of Caracas. One in support of the Chavez-led "Bolivarian Revolution," and the other with the opposition. This marks the sixth year in a row that Venezuelan workers have held separate marches on May 1st.
The opposition march was led by the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV) which, according to the Venezuelan daily El Universal, called for the participants to march for increased salaries, back-pay, a dignified social security system, and freedom for CTV President Carlos Ortega, who was sentenced last year to 16 years in prison for his role in the two-month 2002-3 oil industry shut down.
"Things are turbulent. With this government everything is turbulent," yelled 15 year- CTV veteran, Israel Masa, from the opposition march. "That’s why we are marching -- to demand transparency in the next elections, because we in the opposition know that we are the majority and that we are the true democrats."
The pro-government march was led by the National Workers Union (UNT) and officially entitled, the "Bolivarian March Against Imperialism and Free Trade Agreements," highlighting the international importance of today’s celebrations, and calling attention to the recent motives for Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Community of Andean Nations.
"This demonstration is a struggle against imperialism and the conspiratorial plans of US imperialism against Venezuela," announced Venezuelan National Assembly Representative Dario Vivas ...at the start of the march. "The people of Venezuela are ready to do whatever necessary to guarantee our liberty."
(Source: Opposition and Chavez Supporters March Separately for Mayday in Venezuela, Tuesday, May 02, 2006. By Michael Fox - Venezuelanalysis.com)

As these two examples show, the respective contexts -- social structure, rules of entry and action, physical layout, and cultural expectations -- heavily influence the quality of participation and the content of decisions and messages. “Political setting” is a particularly useful concept for describing political action in context, the venues of face-to-face political communication that are the building-blocks of public political life. They encompass all occasions in which issues and needs of general importance to a community or a society are discussed, contested, and decided. They may be open and democratic, but very often they explicitly or implicitly bar certain groups, certain perspectives, and certain issues. It is important to investigate how they filter participants and ideas.

Although many of meetings and debates that seek to influence community-wide matters take place in government institutions, an increasing proportion occur in voluntary associations, social movement groupings, and invitation-only meetings. Internet discussions demonstrate the growing importance of virtual political settings and raise questions about how they differ from face-to-face meetings and how uneven access to computers affects political outcomes. The rules and culture of each setting influence the quality of communication, deliberation, and decision-making it embodies. Are they open or secret? Which voices do they amplify or exclude? What about women, poor people, people of low status, different cultures and religions? What is their impact?

The idea of political setting draws upon ecological psychology’s concept of "behavior settings," but it puts the focus on activity that aims to influence public policy. It opens the door into exploration of the evolving pattern language exemplified in the face-to-face political actions from below that are emerging in meetings and demonstrations around the world with all their limitations as well as their strengths.

Solution: 

Seeing and analyzing popular politics through the lens of political settings promises to generate a useful and realistic view of the political resources available for popular action and of the obstacles that such action faces.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Political action venues are changing with the proliferation of new kinds of nongovernmental organizations, the broadening reach of the Internet, and the actions of governments. Political Settings are the basic units of collective political action.The idea of political settings opens the door to exploration of evolving civic intelligence exemplified by political actions from below.

Pattern status: 
Released
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