Embedded, Boxed In Systems Are Ineffective

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
Burl Humana

The Pattern Language for Living Communication project report was written by Doug Schuler for the Participatory Design Conference in Sweden in June 2002. He states in his report that the project has certain research goals. One of those goals is to advance the pattern language enterprise by "providing an accessible public input and presentation system". At the same time he notes Christopher Alexander's expressed dissappointment that wide spread use of the architectural "pattern language" did not change society or even make buildings more beautiful. Alexander says "the entire building enterprise is embedded in a larger system that dictates how building projects are designed, aproved, financed, and constructed. When this larger system is left unaffected the pattern language has less chance of succeeding, according to Alexander; it's boxed in and prevented from realizing the inherent potential of the language." It is important that we create systems embedded in the Pattern language for Living Communication that are not embedded in larger systems that are part of an old paradigm structure that is ineffective in creating the type of change we intend. Making sure our new creative systems are effective is a committment to the founding concepts that give our ideas a voice and the opportunity to truly create change. This pattern, "Say No To Embedded, Boxed In Systems That Are Ineffective" is a link to another pattern on the system "Changing The Flow Of Financial Information" and a committment to making that pattern effective. To achieve the stated research goal of advancing the pattern language each pattern should heed Christopher Alexander's own criticism and be enterprising enough to move away from ineffective systems that "box in" new and creative ideas. This can be scarry but is vitally important.


For example, to truly change the flow of financial information, a new economic system must be created. To just redisplay our financial information in a new format on an old economic system will not create the kind of economic and social change intended. What is wanted is a new system that will allow us to use our personal financial information to create energy and force socio-economic changes that are important to the users. This new economic paradigm is different than the old economic paradigm in that it is not controlled by business but by the users. The new system is embedded in the pattern language but will not be ineffective to the users because it is not boxed in by the old economic system paradigm.


The arguement for a completely new economic system is important to my pattern "Changing the Flow of Financial Information". Our current economic system is so strong and well established it almost seems ludicrist and suicidal to go against it. The only way to imagine such a change in systems is to not think of the old system at all. Just begin by starting a new system and go with it. The new system need not be in conflict with the old system, just better than it. To be better the new system must serve people, not business or other bureaucratic institutions as we now know them. Under the current economic system the real change that needs to happen can never occur.

Throughout the Pattern Language for Living Communication we need to be committed in our effort to go outside of current systems, that are embedded, boxed in, and ineffective. Even though our thesis may be good, if the process binds our ideas so they cannot work then we need to create new systems with processes that will make our thesis effective.


It is my contention that patterns submitted to the Pattern Language for Living Communication should be given the "boxed in" litmus test. Not neccessarily to extracate them from the system but to help the patterns improve before they are developed further. I think this will add strength to the structure of the Pattern Language for Living Communication. We have the opportunity to learn from Christopher Alexander's experience and wisdom. Alexander thinks ineffective processes can impede the ideas and changes we intend and desire. In addition to the goal of "providing an accessible public input and presentation system", we need to create standards that will strengthen the pattern language structure and make the patterns in the system strong enough to effect change. This seems like a logical next step in advancing the pattern language "enterprise", a term Doug Schuler used to express the Pattern Language for Living Communication in his presentation in Sweden last June.

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