Video Bridge / Pattern Language /
The idea is to create an easy, comprehensive overview about the field that would allow to "sort patterns" (of course that does not take away from their real interrelatedness).
/Assignments for the Workshop in January
"Consider this as a map that you get to overlook the vast territory of learning that we want to discover. grouping things in a very simple concept:
In the middle we have systemic patterns of the Videobridging activity. This is the core, how do we produce, how do we get support, how do we manage the sustainability of our process, how do we prepare ourselves to take a role in society by that.
To the left, there is the societal dimension, our enviroment in terms of local community, people that might be unwilling or suspicious or uninterested or unaware. We have these people in many roles, as auditorium, as helpers, as content providers, as partners.
To the right, there is the tools, the technology that we work with. It could be with a simple webcam or with a sophisticated equipment that we capture the moment, refine it, distribute it, store it, sort the materials, embed them. There is a large bandwidth of technical patterns we need to be aware of."
In the vertical dimension, we start from the core activity and work our way all through to the environment. At the very beginning there is thought, pedagogical concept. "Everything, good and bad, begins in the mind". What do we want to achieve? At the very end, we might come up with a spatial manifestation, lets call it the "house of knowledge", a place in a village that fulfills the function of a library, a learning place, a service place, a communication place at the same time.
In the vertical dimension, the more concrete things get, they also should work their way down from action to success to sustainability to meaningfulness. FranzNahrada
Franz, it's always nice to have maps, but I doubt that this map will be more than a placebo. It may give the message "hey, what a vast field is this, we are ploughing" and it may help the search for related phenomena in the sense of "now, what phenomena do we have in the field of motivation". That's right. But I think it will not be possible to really sort patterns into these boxes.
Let's take for example one of the probably undisputed patterns, the VideoBridgeLiveEvent, into account. Is it a pedagocial pattern because it may transport educational issues (but it also may not)? Or is it a use pattern (because it is an example how to use technology) or is it a motivational pattern (because it shows a large number of people how to connect to people elsewhere and become part of the event, not just a spectator)? Or is it related to sponsoring and funding, because it is rather easy to sell such an event as a part of funded project? Or ... (of course the VideoBridgeLiveEvent is only one of maybe two dozens of central patterns and I did not want to give it a central role by using it as an example here)
It really doesn't help to put such a pattern in a category. The category that gets selected may even depend on the idiosyncratic way you use the pattern. The point is that e. g. the VideoBridgeLiveEvent is a proven pattern, that has been done at Kirchbach for about a hundred times, but it is a complex and unknown beast for probably most participants.
The task at hand is to elaborate the relevant know-how needed to understand this pattern (and all patterns) to make it useful as part of the personal tool-boxes of the participants. What resources are needed? What results can be expected?
How to produce an EducationalVideoClip? How to find and make use of existing resources, maybe collaborating as a group to reduce the average efford? How to disseminate the recherche results or the produced video clips?
Maybe at some point it may be necessary to understand technical devices like a "web cam", a "internet connection", or a "camcorder", or a "video conference system" or a "streaming server". None of this is in itself useful. What are their main qualities? How to select them? For what task? They may be solutions to problems, one could press them into pattern form, but it doesn't make sense. They are building blocks, like tiles or bricks are building blocks to architecture. The designer/architect has to understand them to a certain degree to build on them, but the design doesn't depend on them, it uses them or some alternative to reach the design goals. For this it would be better to define a base know-how, glossary or faq that tells what an "upload bandwith", "latency" or "H.264" means or what options for video mixing or video cutting seem reasonable.
Using the thinking model of a PatternLanguage means to target relevant know-how to enable people. In this case to build competency in terms of internet and media/video usage, as a group effort. Thinking in patterns should make aware that each of the participants acts in a unique environment and may need to assemble her selection of patterns serving her needs to build a unique structure in an adapted process.
Pattern are not silver bullets, they are design options. They help to create common ground in complex group situations and highly diverse needs. It is obvious that e. g. Pam's African/NGO situation is very orthogonal to Laszlo's University/Educational situation. Thinking in patterns might help to avoid the phenomena of the dominance of individual interests and corresponding frustrations.
-- HelmutLeitner December 8, 2009 9:44 CET
P.S. Actually I see this page even more negatively, as a pattern of academic dominance, as a "you have to think my way". The page is not constructed to be extendable, not as a map, where everybody can add a new river or mountain she finds. It is almost an anti-pattern, it perverts the idea of an open map towards a tool to show intellectual dominance, the dominance of the reality-unrelated categorial construction *over* the practical human needs and the direct steps to meet them.
The categorisation of patterns is very useful to order them and find them. I thought of a map that could serve as a way of exploration and ordering alike.
I am still not convinced that you are right, and I will try to show that in the course of the closer descriptions of patterns in each category.
The separation between "patterns" and building blocks is good for understanding the basic nature of patterns; patterns are there and needed when you have an alternative and a decision to make. In this sense they are not trivial. A brick is not a pattern, but a brick house might be a pattern.
We will see.
Franz, you've seen I've built stubs for a minimum amount of patterns and rudimentary content and distributed them roughly into your category system. It is really just a start of 5% of the 100% necessary for useful system. It would be necessary for you to get the participants to contribute their knowledge and views and also do this yourself. I will only continue to contribute if there is sufficient reciprocity. -- HelmutLeitner December 11, 2009 16:26 CET
Well understood. Thank you for your work so far, its tremendous. FranzNahrada December 11, 2009 19:42 CET
Helmut I understand your critic of the system. But as Franz agreed the idea is these sections become Chapters in a Manual. So with this determinism in mind it does work to organize the thinking in this way.
As for your contributions, it can be very frustrating to write lots of stuff and no-one else seems to contribute. However, by leading a way you trail blaze a path that others can follow. I recommend reading the Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn
to see how this works and how mavericks and lone wolves and folks who are just plain wrong are really needed. And this link is a case in point (I'd love a copy of the wikipedia article to be available auf Deutsch - but its not there yet - does that mean the English article should not have been written? Is it worthless if you yourself do not translate it? In light and gratitude for your efforts (that I hope to build on)!
Markus, you probably refer to:
The need for patterns is probably not obvious to participants, until they get in situations where they feel lost. If at that point someone is knowledgeable enough to suggest that "pattern" is not just a label, but a way of thinking and of handling collaborative problems, and shows how this can be accomplished in the case ... then patterns will become attractive.
I try to find my way toward patterns, which seems to be a fascinating method. Thanx to Helmut Leitners little book 'MusterTheorie I have had the chance to find out more about it than just by browsing on the net. My questions will probably represent the questions that other newcomers might have with it:
for me the "problem" with the pattern story for the SSL workshop starts with its definition (as you find in the dorfwiki)
and it continues with the following explanation:
Thank you Tara, I am also happy that we do experiment with the wiki. Your questions are very crucial and very central to the whole process.
1. Pattern theory stems from architecture and of course one could argue that architecture is one of the oldest arts of mankind. So, as ChristopherAlexander claimed, Patterna are "timeless solutions", proven and recurring in many contexts, which form the base of our building culture. "Each pattern describes a problem which occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use this solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice. CA . But Pattern theory also has emerged in the youngest art of mankind, in the creation of software.  In fact, it was there where pattern theory really had its breakthrough. I quote from that world, from the Fluidproject Wiki: "A design pattern usually arises through a combination of creativity and discovery." We might find that something which seems to be the result of a single creative act holds the potential to do much more. We might mix experience with intuition and speculation, as long as we are ready to put our hypothesis to the test. Many patterns we seek might be transpositions of something that worked for 2 or three generation in the film and TV world.Many patterns we seek might be the retrieval of older patterns, like the digital reference room might be the retrieval of a book catalogue. Videobridging is a very new art, newer than software writing, so we actually do not have a lot of experience.
But what we have is a host of different perspectives. I claim that there is a strong relation between the degree to which a research community is heterogenous and its abilities to discover, identify and even create good design patterns. You are right, looking for a pattern language in a new field is a bit of a bold approach, but maybe the best way to master the dichotomy of theory and practise.
(This was to be continued but Helmut has put this in great and true words [#To Tara from Helmut below] so I can skip this part)
A word on local learning communities and the role of videobridging. I think of it not as "first" and "second" step, but as a synergetic structure. The Videobridge opportunity can draw together people that have not been together before, and might encourage them to deepen on a subject. Maybe it would be good to look how this has worked in Kirchbach.
Tara, I agree with you and Franz. Your questions are justified and important. And what Franz says: pattern are used in different fields and may be difficult to transfer wording from one field (architecture) to another (modern media competency) without some change. I am constantly looking for neutral definitions like "a pattern is a solution to a problem in a context (that takes the form of an object)." that might fit them all. On the other hand: such abstract wording often looks a bit lifeless.
Comment from SamRose: What Helmut describes above is related to what we are finding in ForwardFoundation : that if you identify core/fundamental concepts, you can then often interchange the language and metaphors accurately depending on who you are talking with. Sometimes people just need to be "walked over" to the concept. So, in those cases, you can start with what they are familiar with, and carry that familiarity forward into the new territory.
Example: "Data and Database" could equal "Warehouse and objects within warehouse". -- SamRose
But apart from that one can always think about patterns as a quest to find best practices and put them into a useful form, like a toolbox. What can be doubtful about a toolbox that is available to fill your needs, that is at your disposal?
A pattern language means to collect needs and experiences (problems and solutions). It would be inefficient not to look at the past. But it also allows to suggest and experiment with new ways to accomplish things. There can be nothing wrong with new, understandable and reusable solutions ... as long as we do not suggest "it is better because it's new".
There are many solutions that are put into doubtful form: "I have the solution, but I do not tell you how it works" or "I have the solution, but you have to buy my expensive product or service" or "I have the solution, forget about your solutions" and so on. Pattern method leads us to ask the crucial questions and make this transparent.
The pattern method teaches us to put solutions side by side, accept them as possible alternatives and look at all the pros and cons to make best use of what is available. A pattern language is an open system. It is open to additional patterns, it is open to additional insights about existing patterns, it is open to the individual use of patterns according to the individual needs.
The pattern method respects the individual and its needs. Your needs are just as interesting and important as those of anybody else. They deserve to be taken seriously and to lead to an individual design of an overall process and system that may adapt and combine patterns in a unique way, where the final decision about how this should be is yours. Just as nobody right in his mind would suggest that all family homes should follow one master plan and be built identically, the situations and needs of individuals and organisations to react to new media are so different that no patent recipe, no silver bullet can exist that fits them all. The pattern method is a method of individual design. To understand this means to focus on the productive ways: to build a toolbox and provide know-how and enable people, not to seek and promote one patent solution. To accept that each one has a certain position from which to unfold, not to be frustrated because the personal situation doesn't seem fit to those of the others.
Back to my critique of this page: this page is put in a central position but it doesn't embody the ideas of the pattern method. Nice as it looks, which problem is solved by having a rigid categorisation system that nobody will dare to extend or adapt? Why is a fourth column, that of personal needs and enabling, missing? Do you and others feel better if you look at the matrix? Can you identify? Or do you feel overwhelmed by its complexity? Can you remember it, back at home? Can you use it to solve one of your problems?
Another comment from SamRose: Wow, these are really good points, Helmut. In ForwardFoundation we are starting with the problems people are solving, assessing and evaluating in collaboration with people we are working with (teaching them to self assess and self evaluate at the same time) and working backwards from the purpose of what they want to do, thinking about processes that meet those goals, and then thinking about the mediums and technologies they could access. --SamRose
I have some difficulty using Wiki - just a few minutes ago I edited the page and erased all old contributions - so lets try again
I am glad that Franz pointed to this forum to give me the possibility to talk about the challenges of developing patterns. And I want to say how much I value the work and input Franz is giving to make the workshop a success.
And yet my own experience with the matrix was similar to what Helmut said - that it did not make sense to me at first – I did not know in what box to put my favourite pattern, which I wanted to explore. (WorldCafeVideoBridging?????). Pedagocical?, Motivation?, SocialImpact??
In addition to what has been said I believe one of the drawbacks of the matrix is that it is a finished product, while the process of cognition for arriving at the product is hidden. It reflects Rumi´s (mystic, poet) saying: “to reach the milk by way of cheese” pointing to the error of trying to understand the origin of phenomena in terms of the finished product.
I one way it seems I agree with Helmut – and most likely also with you Franz - that we start suggesting and collecting different patterns people are interested in (eg “What is the pattern of community Building” (Tara, Knut) and select out of a larger pool several of them and explore them , work with them … some of them be already well understood “(VideoBridgeLiveEvent)”; “EducationalVideoClip”??)..
it might be also to use dialogic conversations to get at coherent meanings and also to study the pattern of dialog itself
And we can use the Matrix as a valuable starting point for ordering and clarifying intentions and be open what wants to evolve during the workshop
At present I am just learning … reading in the timeless way …. yesterday I ordered Helmuts Mustertheorie … and I am refreshing my knowledge about other pattern languages – like in quantum physics, chaos theory, neurosciences and more recently in living systems theory
This workshop can become a great event .. looking forward for it – wish you all a happy New Year
HelmutLeitner: I would like think about a simpler categorization: