Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

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. 

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How do Systems Changes become natural practice?

The 1995 article by Spinosa, Flores & Dreyfus on “Disclosing New Worlds” was assigned reading preceding the fourth of four lectures for the Systemic Design course in the Master’s program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University.  In previous years, this topic was a detail practically undiscussed, as digging into social theory and the phenomenology following Heidegger is deep.  Peter Jones and I are fans of ideas expanded into the 1999 book. I was privileged to visit personally with Fernando Flores in Berkeley in 2012, as I was organizing the ISSS 2012 meeting.  Contextualizing this body of work for a university course led into correlated advances in situated learning and communities of practice.

A preface to the lecture included The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory, and revisiting Change as Three Steps to clarify what Kurt Lewin did and did not write.

The agenda was in four sections. In the timebox available, the lecture covered the first two:

  • A. Situated Learning + History-making
    • Legitimate Peripheral Participation + Practices (Lave, Wenger)
    • Skill Acquisition + Disclosing New Worlds (Dreyfus, Spinosa)
  • B. Commitment + Language-Action Perspective
    • Conversations for Action (Flores)
    • Deliverables, procedures, capacities, relationships

Slides for the last two sections were ready to go, but foregone in favour of other course work priorities.

  • C. Argumentation + Pattern Language
    • IBIS (Rittel), Timeless Way of Building (Alexancer)
    • Architectural Programming c.f. Designing
  • [postscript] (Open Innovation Learning)
    • Quality-generating sequencing; Affordances wayfaring; Anticipatory appreciating
    • Innovation learning for; Innovation learning by; Innovation learning alongside

This fourth lecture is available on Youtube as streaming web video.… Read more (in a new tab)

Whom, when + where do Systems Changes situate?

Covering practical wisdom (phronesis), the third of four lectures again was compressed for the Systemic Design course in the Master’s program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University. The students in the part-time session on February 7 extended their discussion period longer than those in the full-time session on February 5. I again jumped slides in the sequence to stay within the timebox.

The agenda was in four sections:

  • [preamble] Episteme, Techne, Phronesis (reordered)
    • Intellectual Pursuits (Rethinking Systems Thinking)
    • Systems changes as situated c.f. ideal-seeking
  • A. Value(s), Judgment, Soft Systems Thinking
    • Appreciative Systems (Vickers, Checkland)
    • Policy, impacts and consequences of systems changes
  • B. Service Systems (c.f. Production Systems)
    • Science of Service Systems (Spohrer, Kijima)
    • Material-products c.f. information-services as systems changes
  • C. Socio-Technical Systems Perspective
    • Tavistock Institute + Legacy (Trist, Emery, Ramirez)
    • Coproduction and design principles guiding systems changes

The web video can be streamed on Youtube.

Copies of the video files are downloadable for disconnected viewing.

Video H.264 MP4 WebM
February 7
(1h21m)
[20200207_OCADU_Ing HD m4v]
(HD 2477kbps 1.6GB)
[20200207_OCADU_Ing nHD m4v]
(nHD 1344kps 866MB)
[20200207_OCADU_Ing HD webm]
(HD VP8 375kbps 349MB)
[20200207_OCADU_Ing nHD webm]
(nHD VP8 139kbps 206MB)

Readers who want to follow through on web link references may want to review the slides directly.

Whom, when + where do Systems Changes situated?

The same presentation slides were used for both lectures.  The questions from the students were considerably different across the class sections, so the diligent listener might want to compare them. … Read more (in a new tab)

Why (Intervene in) Systems Changes?

With a focus on “ecological systems”, the second of four lectures planned for the Systemic Design course in the Master’s program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University proceeded as a timeboxed presentation:  targeting 40 minutes of content (skipping slides to stay within time constraints), followed by 10 minutes of discussion.  Since the slides are rich with content and links to sources, students were directed to pay attention to what I was saying, over trying to read the slides projected behind me. 

The agenda was in four sections:

  • [preamble] Errors, Attention and Traps (Ecological Understanding)
    • Systems Changes Learning Circle (Bateson, Gibson, Ingold)
    • (Resistances to) Changing as primary system of interest
  • A. Socio-Ecological Systems Perspective
    • Tavistock Institute (Emery, Trist)
    • Organization as primary system of interest
  • B. (Social-) Ecological Systems  + Panarchy
    • Stockholm Resilience Centre (Holling, Walker, Peterson)
    • Ecology as primary system of interest
  • C. The Ecosystem Approach
    • Resilience Alliance (Waltner-Toews, Kay)
    • Sustainable development project as primary system of interest

Online, the video is available on Youtube for streaming.

Viewers who prefer to watch video on a disconnected device can download a video file.

Video H.264 MP4 WebM
January 31
(1h18m)
[20200129_OCADU_Ing HD m4v]
(HD 2666kbps 1.2GB)
[20200129_OCADU_Ing nHD m4v]
(nHD 1352kps 637MB)
[20200129_OCADU_Ing HD webm]
(HD VP8 425kbps 292MB)
[20200129_OCADU_Ing nHD webm]
(nHD VP8 224kbps 156MB)

Readers who want to follow through on web link references may want to review the slides directly.… Read more (in a new tab)

Are Systems Changes Different from System + Change?

The Systems Changes Learning Circle has met at least every 3 weeks over the past year.  As part of an hour+ lecture to introduce systems thinking, students in the Systemic Design course in the Master’s program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation at OCAD University were immersed in questions where we’ve focused our attention, complemented by background into traditional foundational materials.  An audio recording has now been matched up with presentation slides, so that learners outside the classroom can partially share in the experience.

This lecture begins with the rising interest in “systems change”, that is related to “theory of change” from funders of social innovation programs.  From there, the lecture aims to recast (speak in a different way) and reify (make some specified ideas more prominent) an understanding of systems thinking.

The presentation was overprepared — we can’t predict how engaged students will be on the ideas, before their brains are full.  Of 55 slides, we stopped on slide 37.  For streaming, the video is accessible on Youtube. (with a 6-minute excerpt on the Luoyang Bay abalone farms from the documentary Watermark, by Edward Burtynsky, removed).

Viewers who prefer to watch video on a disconnected device can download a video file.

Video H.264 MP4 WebM
January 17
(1h18m)
[20200117_OCADU_Ing HD m4v]
(HD 2814kbps 1.7GB)
[20200117_OCADU_Ing nHD m4v]
(nHD 210kkps 179MB)
[20200117_OCADU_Ing HD webm]
(HD 470kbps 392MB)
[20200117_OCADU_Ing nHD webm]
(nHD VP8 114kbps 184MB)

Readers interested in the full set of 55 slides are welcomed to view them online or download them.… Read more (in a new tab)

Ecology and Economy: Systems Changes Ahead?

Following the workshop at 2019 CANSEE Conference, cohosted with David L. Hawk, we were invited to contribute an article to a special issue of WEI Magazine.  Here’s the abstract for the workshop in May:

Systems Changes, Environmental Deterioration

This dialogue-oriented workshop will be framed by two short position papers (< 30 minutes each) towards energizing a discussion on the prospects for systems thinking and ecological economics.

(1) Systems Changes research program

Shifting the emphasis from stable states to a fluid world, what patterns describe shifts due to (i) human will, and (ii) nature? The Systems Changes program aims to extend research from the 1970s (e.g. West Churchman systems approach; Horst Rittel wicked problems; Christopher Alexander pattern language; Eric Trist and Cal Pava action learning) with 21st century advances (e.g. holons and hierarchy theory; resilience science; ecological anthropology; open sourcing).

(2) Environmental Deterioration: What have we learned about systems change(s) over the past 50 years?

Since the 1960s, nations have enacted regulations towards environment issues, sustainability of resources and stewardship of the environment: USA EPA (1969); Canadian EPA (1988/1999); EU Treaty of Maastricht (1993). Yet in 2009, the Stockholm Resilience Centre declared that human activity has exceeded two thresholds of nine planetary boundaries. Is it too late for the human race to act, or even to try? The 1979 Ph.D. dissertation on “Regulation of Environmental Deterioration” from the University of Pennsylvania will be considered retrospectively.

(3) Dialectic: Group Discussion

In an open group discussion, in what ways might a shift from “systems thinking” towards “systems changes” make a difference (or not)?

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