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Pattern language, form language, general systems theory, R-theory

One of the challenges with the development of pattern languages is the cross-appropriation of approaches of techniques from one domain (i.e. built physical environments) into others (e.g. software development, social change).

The distinction between pattern language and form language is made by Nikos Salingaros.

Design in architecture and urbanism is guided by two distinct complementary languages: a pattern language, and a form language.

The pattern language contains rules for how human beings interact with built forms — a pattern language codifies practical solutions developed over millennia, which are appropriate to local customs, society, and climate.

A form language, on the other hand, consists of geometrical rules for putting matter together. It is visual and tectonic, traditionally arising from available materials and their human uses rather than from images. Different form languages correspond to different architectural traditions, or styles. The problem is that not all form languages are adaptive to human sensibilities. Those that are not adaptive can never connect to a pattern language. Every adaptive design method combines a pattern language with a viable form language, otherwise it inevitably creates alien environments.  [Salingaros, 2014]

The focus on form is apparent in the title of Notes on the Synthesis of Form [Alexander, 1964].  Form has geometry, that brings up the idea of “life” in The Nature of Order.

Chapter Five:  Fifteen Fundamental Properties

I have introduced the idea of life as something which may occur in any spatial system, and suggested that a degree of life which appears in a thing depends on the life its component centers and their density. 

Read more (in a new tab)

One of the challenges with the development of pattern languages is the cross-appropriation of approaches of techniques from one domain (i.e. built physical environments) into others (e.g. software development, social change).

The distinction between pattern language and form language is made by Nikos Salingaros.

Design in architecture and urbanism is guided by two distinct complementary languages: a pattern language, and a form language.

The pattern language contains rules for how human beings interact with built forms — a pattern language codifies practical solutions developed over millennia, which are appropriate to local customs, society, and climate.

A form language, on the other hand, consists of geometrical rules for putting matter together. It is visual and tectonic, traditionally arising from available materials and their human uses rather than from images. Different form languages correspond to different architectural traditions, or styles. The problem is that not all form languages are adaptive to human sensibilities. Those that are not adaptive can never connect to a pattern language. Every adaptive design method combines a pattern language with a viable form language, otherwise it inevitably creates alien environments.  [Salingaros, 2014]

The focus on form is apparent in the title of Notes on the Synthesis of Form [Alexander, 1964].  Form has geometry, that brings up the idea of “life” in The Nature of Order.

Chapter Five:  Fifteen Fundamental Properties

I have introduced the idea of life as something which may occur in any spatial system, and suggested that a degree of life which appears in a thing depends on the life its component centers and their density. 

Read more (in a new tab)

Systems Changes: Learning from the Christopher Alexander Legacy (ST-ON, 2019/02/11)

One of the aims of the Systems Changes research program is to build on the pattern language approach.  This body of work stretches back into the 1960s, and has been cross-appropriated from built environments to software development (e.g. agile methods) and organizational change.  The February 2019 meeting of Systems Thinking Ontario was an opportunity to bring some people not familiar with the territory up to speed.

Here is the abstract for the talk:

The 1977 book, A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction is prominent in public library collections around the world. It represents, however, only one stage of the many works by Christopher Alexander, from his first book published in 1964, to his final book released in 2012. In addition multiple international conferences continue his legacy, in architecture and urban design (PUARL, for 10 years), in software development (PLoP, for 25 years), and in social change (PURPLSOC, for 5 years). Alexander was a builder of environment structure — an architect — and other communities have aspired to adopt the approach that he championed.

This Systems Thinking Ontario session will review pattern languages in three parts:

  1. The Eishin School project (1985, published as a book in 2012);
  2. Multi-Service Centers (1968); and
  3. Beyond Built Environments, cross-appropriating the approach from architecture to other domains.

The pursuit of “systems generating systems” at the foundation of Christopher Alexander’s pattern language has generally not been appreciated, and deserves a deeper inquiry.

Read more (in a new tab)

One of the aims of the Systems Changes research program is to build on the pattern language approach.  This body of work stretches back into the 1960s, and has been cross-appropriated from built environments to software development (e.g. agile methods) and organizational change.  The February 2019 meeting of Systems Thinking Ontario was an opportunity to bring some people not familiar with the territory up to speed.

Here is the abstract for the talk:

The 1977 book, A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction is prominent in public library collections around the world. It represents, however, only one stage of the many works by Christopher Alexander, from his first book published in 1964, to his final book released in 2012. In addition multiple international conferences continue his legacy, in architecture and urban design (PUARL, for 10 years), in software development (PLoP, for 25 years), and in social change (PURPLSOC, for 5 years). Alexander was a builder of environment structure — an architect — and other communities have aspired to adopt the approach that he championed.

This Systems Thinking Ontario session will review pattern languages in three parts:

  1. The Eishin School project (1985, published as a book in 2012);
  2. Multi-Service Centers (1968); and
  3. Beyond Built Environments, cross-appropriating the approach from architecture to other domains.

The pursuit of “systems generating systems” at the foundation of Christopher Alexander’s pattern language has generally not been appreciated, and deserves a deeper inquiry.

Read more (in a new tab)

Narrating Wholeness: Pattern Language Generating Semi-Lattice(s), System(s), and/or Holon(s) (PUARL 2018/10/27)

In what ways might the generation of wholeness through pattern language be strengthened, through an appreciation of advances in the systems sciences?  A workshop at the 2018 International PUARL Conference was an opportunity to review linkages and discuss some details.

An outline to frame the conversation was written in three parts.

  • 1. Communicative Framing
    • 1.1 Form and synthesis
    • 1.2 Organization as semi-lattice
    • 1.3 Systems generating systems
    • 1.4 Generative patterns and non-generative patterns in software development
    •  1.5 System-A and system-B, as two ways of shaping and building living environments
    • 1.6 Holons (from systems ecology)
  • 2. Dialectical Sensemaking
    • 2.1 Types of systems and models
    • 2.2 Autopoiesis and allopoiesis
    • 2.3 Economies as agricultural, industrial and services (coproduction)
  • 3. Narrative Synthesizing

In full, the abstract read:

Does a pattern language generate into (a) whole(s)? This workshop will discuss the meaning of architecting a system, complemented with recent research from the systems sciences.

In 1967, at the formation for Center for Environmental Structure, Pattern Manual specified that (sub)systems are fewer in number (and implicitly larger) than patterns:

The environmental pattern language will contain hundreds of subsystems and tens of thousands of individual patterns. Every conceivable kind of building, every part of every kind of building, and every piece of the larger environment will be specified by one or more subsystems of the environmental pattern language.

In summary: An environmental pattern language is a coordinated body of design solutions capable of generating the complete physical structure of a city.

Read more (in a new tab)

In what ways might the generation of wholeness through pattern language be strengthened, through an appreciation of advances in the systems sciences?  A workshop at the 2018 International PUARL Conference was an opportunity to review linkages and discuss some details.

An outline to frame the conversation was written in three parts.

  • 1. Communicative Framing
    • 1.1 Form and synthesis
    • 1.2 Organization as semi-lattice
    • 1.3 Systems generating systems
    • 1.4 Generative patterns and non-generative patterns in software development
    •  1.5 System-A and system-B, as two ways of shaping and building living environments
    • 1.6 Holons (from systems ecology)
  • 2. Dialectical Sensemaking
    • 2.1 Types of systems and models
    • 2.2 Autopoiesis and allopoiesis
    • 2.3 Economies as agricultural, industrial and services (coproduction)
  • 3. Narrative Synthesizing

In full, the abstract read:

Does a pattern language generate into (a) whole(s)? This workshop will discuss the meaning of architecting a system, complemented with recent research from the systems sciences.

In 1967, at the formation for Center for Environmental Structure, Pattern Manual specified that (sub)systems are fewer in number (and implicitly larger) than patterns:

The environmental pattern language will contain hundreds of subsystems and tens of thousands of individual patterns. Every conceivable kind of building, every part of every kind of building, and every piece of the larger environment will be specified by one or more subsystems of the environmental pattern language.

In summary: An environmental pattern language is a coordinated body of design solutions capable of generating the complete physical structure of a city.

Read more (in a new tab)

Evolving Pattern Language towards an Affordance Language (Almaden, 2018/05/09)

With a visit of one week at IBM Research Almaden with @rarar and @jimspohrer , I was invited to give a talk.  As an IBM alumnus who was active in pattern language community from the mid-1990s, this was an occasion to surface some history of science about activities inside the company that is otherwise opaque.  This history shapes my aspirations and predispositions towards continuing the development of pattern language in new domains.

The high-level agenda aimed to cover three parts:

  • 1. 1964 → 1999 → 2012: 
    Synthesis of Form→OOPSLA 1996→Battle (Eishin)
  • 2. 1993 →2002→2006→2010: 
    Hillside Group→IGS Method→AWB→Eclipse
  • 3. 2014 → … : 
    Wicked Messes→Service Systems Thinking

Here’s the abstract sent in advance of my arrival:

Pattern language has its origins from architects of built physical environments. The approach was cross-appropriated into software development methods at the rise of object-oriented design, and was influential in the emerging styles with agile practices. The idea has been extended into social change. Are the philosophical foundations from the 1960s-1970s appropriate for the 21st century era of service science, and innovations in augmented intelligence?

The communities of interest on pattern language are coming together (i.e. PLoP and PUARL-Purplsoc are colocating in Portland, OR, in October 2018), coming from three historical subgroups.

The PUARL subgroup is led by former students of Christopher Alexander from the Center for Environmental Structure at Berkeley in the 1970s. They continue to work on “towns, buildings and construction”, with recent interests in large scale incidents (e.g.

Read more (in a new tab)

With a visit of one week at IBM Research Almaden with @rarar and @jimspohrer , I was invited to give a talk.  As an IBM alumnus who was active in pattern language community from the mid-1990s, this was an occasion to surface some history of science about activities inside the company that is otherwise opaque.  This history shapes my aspirations and predispositions towards continuing the development of pattern language in new domains.

The high-level agenda aimed to cover three parts:

  • 1. 1964 → 1999 → 2012: 
    Synthesis of Form→OOPSLA 1996→Battle (Eishin)
  • 2. 1993 →2002→2006→2010: 
    Hillside Group→IGS Method→AWB→Eclipse
  • 3. 2014 → … : 
    Wicked Messes→Service Systems Thinking

Here’s the abstract sent in advance of my arrival:

Pattern language has its origins from architects of built physical environments. The approach was cross-appropriated into software development methods at the rise of object-oriented design, and was influential in the emerging styles with agile practices. The idea has been extended into social change. Are the philosophical foundations from the 1960s-1970s appropriate for the 21st century era of service science, and innovations in augmented intelligence?

The communities of interest on pattern language are coming together (i.e. PLoP and PUARL-Purplsoc are colocating in Portland, OR, in October 2018), coming from three historical subgroups.

The PUARL subgroup is led by former students of Christopher Alexander from the Center for Environmental Structure at Berkeley in the 1970s. They continue to work on “towns, buildings and construction”, with recent interests in large scale incidents (e.g.

Read more (in a new tab)

Architecting for Wicked Messes (OCADU 2018/03/07-09)

Each year, my lecture in the “Understanding Systems & Systemic Design” course — in the program for the Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University — reflects where my research is, at that point in time.  For 2018, the scheduling of my visit was towards the end of a busy winter.  Firstly, I had just finished teaching a Systems Methods course at the UToronto iSchool.  Then, the Open Innovation Learning book was officially launched.  Less than 6 months earlier, I had conducted a workshop at the Purplsoc 2017 meeting, and at the PLoP 2017 meeting.  This shaped an agenda for the prepared slides as:

  • 1. Designing for tame problems c.f. Architecting for wicked messes
  • 2. Analyzing the complicated c.f. Synthesizing the complex
  • 3. Unfreeze-change-freeze c.f. Co-responsive movement
  • 4. Planning (teleology) c.f. Programming (teleonomy)
  • 5. Industrial value chain c.f. Co-producing offering

While the lecture slides were the same for two class sections spaced 2 days apart, the verbal content varies as spontaneous flow.  On both days, agenda point 4 (Teleology c.f. Teleonomy) was cut short to jump to a few ideas in point 5.  (On the second day, a question from a student led back to point 4).

Both lecture days took a break after about 90 minutes.  Thus, there are four recordings total, i.e. two part for each of two days, in two playlists.  The videos online at Youtube are embedded below, and downloadable versions of audio and video are further down.… Read more (in a new tab)

Each year, my lecture in the “Understanding Systems & Systemic Design” course — in the program for the Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University — reflects where my research is, at that point in time.  For 2018, the scheduling of my visit was towards the end of a busy winter.  Firstly, I had just finished teaching a Systems Methods course at the UToronto iSchool.  Then, the Open Innovation Learning book was officially launched.  Less than 6 months earlier, I had conducted a workshop at the Purplsoc 2017 meeting, and at the PLoP 2017 meeting.  This shaped an agenda for the prepared slides as:

  • 1. Designing for tame problems c.f. Architecting for wicked messes
  • 2. Analyzing the complicated c.f. Synthesizing the complex
  • 3. Unfreeze-change-freeze c.f. Co-responsive movement
  • 4. Planning (teleology) c.f. Programming (teleonomy)
  • 5. Industrial value chain c.f. Co-producing offering

While the lecture slides were the same for two class sections spaced 2 days apart, the verbal content varies as spontaneous flow.  On both days, agenda point 4 (Teleology c.f. Teleonomy) was cut short to jump to a few ideas in point 5.  (On the second day, a question from a student led back to point 4).

Both lecture days took a break after about 90 minutes.  Thus, there are four recordings total, i.e. two part for each of two days, in two playlists.  The videos online at Youtube are embedded below, and downloadable versions of audio and video are further down.… Read more (in a new tab)

Open Innovation Learning, Book Launch

Recordings of the book launch proceedings are now available as a web video playlist, and downloadable files.

Open Innovation Learning: Theory building on open sourcing while private sourcing was first released as a perfect bound softcopy and an open access PDF in November 2017.  In February 2018, the ePub and Mobi editions were put online.

On February 21, a special session of Systems Thinking Ontario invited friends and colleagues to celebrate the publication that had taken most of the past three years in full-time research and writing.  The recordings are available in 4 parts:

  • 1. Welcome, by Peter Jones
  • 2. Self-introductions by attendees in the audience
  • 3. Highlights of the book, presented by David Ing
  • 4. Commentary by Stephen Perelgut and Tim Lloyd, followed by questions from the audience

With family, friends and colleagues attending, this was one of the most memorable evenings of my life.

1. Welcome, by Peter Jones

As the official host of Systems Thinking Ontario at OCADU University, Peter Jones served as the master of ceremonies.

The files are also available for download onto a mobile device.

Digital video
(5m48s)
H.264 MP4 WebM
[20180221_1840_ST-ON OILTB_Jones HD_504kbps.m4v]
(HD 504Kbps 28MB)[20180221_1840_ST-ON OILTB_Jones nHD_49kpbs.m4v]
(nHD 49Kkps 8MB)
[20180221_1840_ST-ON OILTB_Jones HD_826kbps.webm]
(HD 826Kbps 45MB)[20180221_1840_ST-ON OILTB_Jones nHD_120kbps.webm]
(nHD 120Kbps 13MB)
Digital audio
(5m48s)
[20180221_1840_ST-ON_OILTB_Launch_Welcome_PeterJones.mp3]
(5MB)

Peter explained the Nordic tradition of presenting dissertation research in a venue open to the public.… Read more (in a new tab)

Recordings of the book launch proceedings are now available as a web video playlist, and downloadable files.

Open Innovation Learning: Theory building on open sourcing while private sourcing was first released as a perfect bound softcopy and an open access PDF in November 2017.  In February 2018, the ePub and Mobi editions were put online.

On February 21, a special session of Systems Thinking Ontario invited friends and colleagues to celebrate the publication that had taken most of the past three years in full-time research and writing.  The recordings are available in 4 parts:

  • 1. Welcome, by Peter Jones
  • 2. Self-introductions by attendees in the audience
  • 3. Highlights of the book, presented by David Ing
  • 4. Commentary by Stephen Perelgut and Tim Lloyd, followed by questions from the audience

With family, friends and colleagues attending, this was one of the most memorable evenings of my life.

1. Welcome, by Peter Jones

As the official host of Systems Thinking Ontario at OCADU University, Peter Jones served as the master of ceremonies.

The files are also available for download onto a mobile device.

Digital video
(5m48s)
H.264 MP4 WebM
[20180221_1840_ST-ON OILTB_Jones HD_504kbps.m4v]
(HD 504Kbps 28MB)[20180221_1840_ST-ON OILTB_Jones nHD_49kpbs.m4v]
(nHD 49Kkps 8MB)
[20180221_1840_ST-ON OILTB_Jones HD_826kbps.webm]
(HD 826Kbps 45MB)[20180221_1840_ST-ON OILTB_Jones nHD_120kbps.webm]
(nHD 120Kbps 13MB)
Digital audio
(5m48s)
[20180221_1840_ST-ON_OILTB_Launch_Welcome_PeterJones.mp3]
(5MB)

Peter explained the Nordic tradition of presenting dissertation research in a venue open to the public.… Read more (in a new tab)

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