education

Citizen Access to Simulations

Pattern ID: 
744
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
48
Alan Borning
University of Washington
Version: 
2
Problem: 

It can be difficult to understand and bring into public deliberation the long-term consequences of major public decisions, for example, the consequences of building a new rail system or a freeway in an urban area. Simulations can help illuminate these consequences (for example, a simulation of the long-term effects on land use, transportation, and environmental impacts of different choices). To be compelling and useful, the simulation results should presented in a way that they can be understood and used by a range of interested citizens. Further, ideally not just the results, but access to running the simulation, should be available to the public, to allow experimentation with alternatives. To aid in understanding and credibility, the simulation should be constructed in a transparent fashion, so that its operation is open to inspection and discussion.

Context: 

This pattern is potentially useful to advocacy groups, other community organizations, business associations, and local and regional governments. Using this pattern depends on a suitable simulation and data being available. Another factor (less important but useful) would be the existence of a community indicators program that tracks current trends using indicators, so that the *same* indicators can be used to both track current trends and to present the simulation results. (Doing this is particularly useful in applying the Reality Check pattern [link to Reality Check pattern], in which simulation results are compared with observed, real-world data.

Discussion: 

Community Indicators [link to Community and Civic Indicators pattern] can provide an important tool for monitoring current trends in a community. However, we will usually be interested in the values of these indicators in the future, not just the present - and which actions will result in more desirable outcomes as measured by the community indicators. Simulation and modeling can provide a powerful tool for informing such discussions, particularly if the results from the simulation can be presented using the same indicators as selected in a participatory Community and Civic Indicators project. For example, the summary graphic for this pattern shows the population densities in the Puget Sound region in Washington State in 2025 given the current land use and transportation plans, as projected by the UrbanSim simulation system. The results of the work should be made available using the web or printed reports. Using the web has the advantage that definitions of indicators, documentation, and related information can be conveniently linked together. Supporting public access to running the simulation, as well as the results, might be provided in several different ways, depending on the complexity and size of the simulation and input data. Particularly for complex simulations, with substantial data requirements, accessing a simulation hosted on a server via a web interface is a good technique. Smaller simulations might be downloaded and run on individual's computers. This is in general not an easy pattern to use. In addition to developing the set of indicators (including careful definitions and documentation), a simulation of the phenomenon of interest must exist or be developed, including the necessary data and calibration to apply it in the given community. For the example used here (land use and transportation), this typically requires that the local or regional government agency in charge of land use and transportation planning either undertake the simulation work itself, or be willing to work closely with another organization that does so. The game SimCity demonstrates that many people -- including grade school children -- can be highly engaged by what might have been thought to be a dry topic, namely urban planning. While games such as SimCity can provide valuable inspiration and interaction ideas, there are key differences between such games and the simulations suggested in this pattern. First, this pattern is concerned with producing simulations of actual phenomena, for example, simulating a specific, real, urban area, with the intent of producing useful forecasts of its long-term development to inform public deliberation and debate. Second, the interaction techniques available to its users should expose only the actions and "policy levers" available to real citizens and governments (for the urban simulation example, such as building light rail systems or changing zoning). Users of these simulations can't simply declare that an area will be redeveloped (or bring in Godzilla); rather, all they can do is change relevant policies in a scenario in hopes of influencing people in the simulated environment to redevelop the area and residents to move there. Potential challenges to the result include challenges to the accuracy and reliability of the simulation.

Solution: 

Develop a simulation of the system of interest (for example, of urban land use and transportation), and make the results of the simulation accessible to interested stakeholders using indicators. When possible, make running the simulation accessible to the public as well.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Simulations can help illuminate long-term consequences of major public decisions on land use, transportation, and the environment. Citizen Access to Simulations can provide powerful capabilities for informing community discussions, particularly if the results are presented using the same indicators that were used in a participatory community and civic indicators project.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
UrbanSim

Meaningful Maps

Pattern ID: 
779
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
47
Andy Dearden
Sheffield Hallam University
Scot Fletcher
Handspring design, Sheffield, UK
Version: 
2
Problem: 

People are often unaware of the state of the world around them — especially "invisible", second-order or abstract relationships. Many of the important issues for the community, the environment and for humanity are difficult to see. To improve the world, we must understand the current situation, highlight the important factors, and help others to understand the issues. How can we collect up to date information and present it in a way that people find easy to understand?

Context: 

This pattern is useful for community groups, advocacy groups and campaigns that are working to improve the world around them. This might be about local environmental quality, promoting international respect for human rights, basic needs such as clean- water or nutrition, or access to opportunities, in a neighbourhood, city or country. Groups need to target their resources carefully to achieve the maximum impact. They also want to communicate their concerns and encourage others to support their work. To be effective they need to reveal hidden relationships.

Discussion: 

To act effectively to improve a situation, we need to understand that situation. Using a map can act both: as a way of monitoring the current situation in an area and showing how this is changing; and as a way of presenting the issues to other people to raise their awareness and encourage them to support the work. The image above is based on the Green Apple Map of New York City http://www.greenapplemap.org

Examples of using maps in this way include: Green Maps (www.greenmap.org) of cities which can show information about local open space, green transport options, pollution problems, renewable resources, sustainable or fair-trade businesses, or cultural facilities; the State of the World Atlas (Kidron et al., 2003) which includes a large set of global maps covering topics such as political systems, transnationals, climate change, biodiversity, human rights, war and peace, malnutrition and life-expectancy; locally produced maps such as the Sheffield Food Map (Fletcher et al. 2005), which shows locations of community cafes, healthy and socially responsible eating places, opportunities to grow food, buy seeds or get advice on growing, and places to get advice on healthy nutrition, cooking and health.

It is important that the map is easy for readers to understand. Distinctive icons, graphs and other visual features should be designed to represent the key topics. The Green Maps project (www.greenmap.org) provide a set of icons that can be used for maps concerned with environmental issues. Displaying such icons on a map can make inequalities between different areas easy to see. The image below shows the tip of Manhattan on one of the Green Apple Maps.

It may be helpful to make the map available on the Internet, but in giving the information away freely, you need to consider how the funding to keep the map up to date will be sustainable.

It is important that the map is seen as a reliable source of information. The project needs to define a clear set of criteria for what is / is not to be included on the map. These criteria should be publicly available.

The map also needs to be kept up to date, so the project will need to identify a person or group of people who will be responsible for assessing items against the criteria and revising the map on a regular basis. On-line versions can be made database driven.

To ensure that the map is seen as unbiased, the mapping project must be careful to remain independent of political or commercial interests that might be interpreted by a reader as influencing the content. This can make it difficult to use advertising as a source of funding for the project. Alternative sources of funds may be selling the printed version of the map, providing the map to schools or education centres in return for a fee, funding from local government or planning authorities.

Solution: 

Create a map that displays the information you care about in the area where you are working. Design easily readable icons and visual features to make the map interesting to look at, and the facts easy to see. Establish a group of people to maintain the map so that information is up-to-date, and you can monitor how things change over time. Ensure that this group are able to give unbiased reports, independent of pressure from interested parties.

Categories: 
orientation
Categories: 
organization
Categories: 
engagement
Categories: 
resources
Themes: 
Research for Action
Themes: 
Education
Themes: 
Globalism and Localism
Themes: 
Policy
Themes: 
Social Critique
Themes: 
Community Action
Themes: 
Social Movement
Themes: 
Case Studies
Verbiage for pattern card: 

To improve the world, we must understand the situation, highlight the important factors, and help others to understand the issues. Meaningful Maps can provide a clear focus for relevant information. Groups need to use their resources carefully to achieve the maximum impact. They also want to communicate their concerns and encourage others to support their work.

Pattern status: 
Released

Alternative Progress Indices

Pattern ID: 
777
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
46
Burl Humana
Richard Reiss
one-country.com
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Economic indexes of various kinds attempt to measure the well being of nations, markets, corporations, individual people, and society. Most of these economic indexes express return only in monetary format and risk is calculated on the standard deviation of this monetary expression. These economic indexes need to also include information that makes life worth living, natural and social capital (living capital), so non-monetary rewards are also included in the standard deviation and risks to human well being can be indicated more accurately.

Context: 

Trading on the benchmark of indices has become increasingly popular over the last few years. As indexes become more widely used than ever before they become easy indicators, for those they benefit, in measuring how our world is doing, according to them, and skew the honest reality for mankind that we hope to protect. It is imperative to accurately measure the well being of nations, corporations, individual people, and societies through indexes that adequately reflect the true costs and benefits contributing to the well being of our world.

Discussion: 

Indexes take on a market theory notion that the “efficient frontier” has all the information needed to calculate an accurate return (reward) versus risk (cost) index. Following this notion is the idea that filtering the market for certain criteria of a specialized index lowers the amount of return received for risk taken, because filtered information is inefficient. This raises questions about the “efficiency” of markets because active managers filter economic information everyday to create specialized portfolios to increase return. On this, it would theoretically stand that an index measuring the well being of society could filter for criteria rewarding the common good with little to no ill effect from lack of the so called “efficiency” imbibed by the market.

Around the globe, there is an increase in the number of sustainability and social responsibility indexes (SRI). These indexes came out of first generation socially conscious investing that excluded corporate stock from investment portfolios on the basis of particular activities deemed to be unethical. From this, a second generation has emerged and the focus of SRI has changed primarily to identifying social and environmental issues that are “material” to business performance. This is an increased attempt by companies to assess the materiality of sustainability issues on (stock) value creation. These indices paint a picture that socially responsibility is only important when a financial gain is made by corporations or stockholders. This is not exactly what we are looking for when we hope to use indexes to help measure the well being of our world. When individual investors purchase SRI traded securities/indexes they still have to deal with the reality that the costs to living capital are making life less valuable even while their portfolios grow.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)/Gross National Product (GNP) per capita has most lately been used as an index of standard of living in an economy. GDP/GNP only measures the populations ease in satisfying their material wants (an index of reward for risk taken) and all else that contributes to the sustainability of people and the environment is lost. "Adding up the monetary transactions in an economy and calling this prosperity obscures an honest account of the well being of nations." (Anielski, 2000)

Quality of life and standard of living should not be separate measurements in an index "A more complex index of standard of living than GDP must be employed to take into account not only the material standard of living but also other factors that contribute to human well-being such as leisure, safety, cultural resources, social life, mental health, and enironmental quality issues, to name a few." (Anielski, 2000)

Simon Kuznets' idea “…[in] favour of more inclusive measures, less dependent on markets..." (Anielski, 2000) rings true as a more realistic approach to well-being. "The eventual solution would obviously lie in devising a single yardstick of both economies [virtual wealth – money,debt, stock markets; and real wealth – human, natural and social capital]…that would perhaps lie outside the different economic and social institutions and be grounded in experimental science (of nutrition, warmth, health, shelter, etc.)." (Anielski, 2000) The business for this millennium is to take up this empirical economic challenge for a single bottom line index for national well-being.

“The U.S. Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) and its predecessor, the Index for Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) provide the basis for developing a new accountancy to address Kuznets’ challenge. The U.S. GPI released in 1995 and since updated…is one of the most ambitious attempts at calculating the total benefits and costs related to [economics for community] for the US. First developed by Clifford W. Cobb, GPI/ISEW remains one of the most important attempts to measure sustainable current welfare." (Anielski, 2000)

"The GPI adds a cost side to the growth ledger, begins to account for the aspects of the economy that lie outside the realm of monetary exchange, acknowledges that the economy exists for future generations as well as for the present one and adjusts for income disparities. The GPI begins with personal consumption expenditures as a baseline, the way the GDP does. Personal spending by households makes up roughly 65 percent of the US GDP. The GPI then make a series of 24 adjustments for unaccounted benefits, depreciation costs (for social and natural capital) and deducts regrettable social and environmental expenditures. Specific elements of the GPI include personal consumer expenditures, income, value and cost of consumer spending on durable goods and household capital, cost of household pollution abatement, cost of commuting, cost of crime, cost of automobile accidents, cost of family breakdown, value of housework and parenting, value of voluntary work, loss of leisure time, services of streets and highways, cost of underemployment, air pollution, ozone depletion, water pollution, noise pollution, cost of depletion of non renewable, loss of forests, long term environmental damage, loss of wetlands, net capital investment, net foreign lending/borrowing." (Anielski, 2000) The GPI has also set goals for itself "to improve its framework in the areas of human capital, technology, government spending, social infrastructure, natural capital and environmental accounts, ecological carrying capacity, genetic diversity, water projects, workplace environment, underground economy, and pollution and lifestyle induced disease." (Anielski, 2000)

The results of the GPI reveal that "…well being has declined while virtual wealth (debt, stock markets) have grown exponentially. One could say that while we are making more money we are effectively eroding the living capital which makes our lives worthwhile. “The primary benefit of the GPI is to provide decision makers with a more holistic account of the economic well-being of their community…." (Anielski, 2000)

"Any accounting system of well-being must be aligned with the values, experiences, and physical realities of the citizens of a community. The challenge in future GPI/ISEW accounting will be the ability of constructing accounts that are consistent with the held values, principles, and ethical foundation of a community or society." (Anielski, 2000)

Solution: 

Alternative indexes like the Genuine Progress Indicator that include natural and human capital can illuminate our world on the real picture of human well being that can be obfuscated by traditional economic indexes. "The ultimate utility of such measurement efforts is that the information provides evidence of trends in the welfare of society." (Aneilski, 2000)

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Economic indexes that measure the well-being of nations, markets, corporations, individual people, and society as a whole are expressed only in monetary terms and miss several important factors; they need to factor in information on positive factors such as volunteering and housework and negative factors such as pollution and crime.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Wiki Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schoolgirls_in_Bamozai.JPG

Open Action and Research Network

Pattern ID: 
775
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
45
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

As local — as well as global — problems become more numerous and more intractable, people and groups of people are working together to take appropriate action to address these urgent problems. Unfortunately, the increasing size and complexity of these problems and the corresponding "appropriate actions" that are required introduce a set of thorny issues that must be addressed for these actions to be effective.

Context: 

This pattern can be used in situations where a distributed, diverse, dynamic group of people are working towards complementary goals in complex, collaborative efforts.

Discussion: 

The ability of people to form effective "Open Action and Research Networks" is critical to the success of any attempt at significant social and environmental amelioration. It is also an approach that is only now being explored. For that reason, the concept — and this pattern — reflect the uncertainty and ambiguity that is inherent in the situation.

As we have said before, most of the daunting problems that we face today are large and complex. Grappling with large and complex problems is invariably best served when addressed by many people working together. Indeed this is often the case as each "stakeholder" in any situation can be said to be "working" on the problem. Yet each person and organization working on the problem has a unique orientation which can be at odds with others. "Orientation" is a broad term that includes reward structures; goals, tactics, and strategies; areas of interests; obligations and allegiances; values and norms, status, legitimacy, and power; and ultimately, the very language that the community uses to discuss the issues. Consider, for example, the wide range of people who are working to minimize the negative effects of global climate change, or what Margaret Keck calls an "ecology of agents." These people include scientists, activists, inventers, “green” business people, educators, politicians, and “ordinary” people among others, and these people are as often as not members of other organizations and networks with diverse goals and varying resources and abilities to influence others.

It is against and within this complex environment that the stakeholder players must act / interact. This diverse group of people — of continually shifting size, shape, orientation and modus operandi — can scarcely be called a "team" since teams (particularly in sports) have a single objective. It is clear that many of the "players" working in these new "open networks" have similar objectives, working for example, for social and environmental ameliorization, and these players will come from a multitude of communities: some are interested in research, some action, some the creation of policy, some physical or material changes right now, while others are interested in abstract goals to be attained in the indeterminate future. In the worst case, the diversity of the players destroys the team. Ideally the diversity is the source of its strength. (Indeed diversity of thinking is essential to effective strategy [See Strategic Capacity pattern].)

According to Ganz, "the task of devising strategy in complex, changing environments may require interaction among team members like the performance of a jazz ensemble. As a kind of distributed cognition, it may require synthesizing skills and information beyond the ken of any one individual, making terms of that interaction particularly important." Nearly opposite to the "ensemble" idea is the impossible vision of "herding cats" in which each "cat" is totally unconcerned about the doings of the other "cats."

The networks that this pattern must address vary tremendously. At one end of the scale there are networks with few members and resources, short duration, and informal procedures. At the other end are networks like the LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) Network that was started in 1980, involves 26 sites in the US, and over 1,800 scientists and students. Although the LTER Network is fairly well financed (by the National Science Foundation) and is more formal and less diverse than some groups, the networks on both ends of the scale do share many points in common befitting their structure as networks of semi-autonomous peers.

Some of the questions that this "network approach" should ultimately address are as follows:

  • How can differences of opinion be "managed" — i.e. encouraged to some degree, while not allowing them to become destructive?
  • How is coordination and cooperation accomplished without coercion?
  • How can we cooperatively evolve useful modes of organization and engagement that are especially suited for these new environments and ensembles?
  • How can people maintain respect for allies who have other perspectives and capitalize effectively on the diversity of the ensemble?
  • How do efforts survive personnel change by ensuring that relevant information, including facts, “lessons learned” and intriguing opportunities are made available to new members?
  • How can environmental scientists and other types of researchers (including social scientists) conduct research that meets the demands of their profession and the needs of the communities they are working with?
  • How are conflicts and misunderstandings over short-term and long-term goal reconciled?

Each organizational type (and each organization!) has its own orientation which encompasses its thinking and acting and it is this orientation which is likely to be challenged when working with others.

Shared concerns and principles help bring people together into groups, organizations and networks. Beyond that, however, other things are also critical. The individuals within the network should be able to work with other people to solve problems collectively and to help maintain cordiality and integrity within the group. Also because the membership of these networks is dynamic, there must be ways to bring in new members easily. Besides shared values and shared ideas about the roles, interests and constraints of the other players, there should be shared goals. Goals and other forms of collective, documented statements or plans, however symbolic they might be can provide coherence over time.

Margaret Keck's work in Brazil provides an excellent example of the power that these documents can have. In 1971, the Soluçãao Integrada (Integrated Solution) was included as the sanitation component of the metropolitan development plan. Although it was abandoned by the following government and replaced by a more expensive, less popular and more environmentally degrading plan called SANEGRAN. According to Keck, the very existence of the plan made it "possible for non-technical social and political actors to challenge public authority on water policy." In fact, in more striking terms, the plan, "Like a shadow government existing in counter point to sitting ones, the plan has functioned as a shadow sanitation plan for Sao Paulo for more than a quarter century, making critical action more possible" (Keck, 2001).

Girard and Stark (2006) point out the importance of agreeing on general philosophical aims among disparate groups without descending into micromanagement or debate. Sharing of ideas, documents and information was the also general aim of the Telecommunications Policy Roundtable, that met monthly in Washington, DC, in the 1990s to help build a general public interest policy for the Internet and other informaiton technologies. The LTER Network, as a body of researchers, places data in a central postion for their work and has developed specific formats to encourage the develop and sharing of data as well as policies for its use in a loosely coupled network configuration (Karasti and Syrjänen, 2004).

Today's phenomenon of creating movies with a team that was assembled for the purpose of making a single movie is instructive. Clearly reputation and "who you know" play some part in the selection of individuals. Once on the set, however, the person's skill-set, role in the enterprise, and ability to work with others in a dynamic milieu where unexpected events ma arise, is put to the test. While the "Open Networks" we discuss here are not identical, the agility, intelligence, and effectiveness that these groups can potentially manifest is huge.

Solution: 

Acknowledge the importance of this pattern and work consciously to identify the inherent dilemmas of the situation as well as the emerging wisdom that is to be learned from the practice. We must take note of the avenues that are likely to yield important and useful insights about working together as we move forward.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

As problems become more and more intractable, more—and more diverse— people much work together. While diversity is a necessity and can be a source of strength, it introduces problems that can worsen if we don't address them effectively. We must acknowledge the importance of Open Action and Research Networks while resolving the issues and building on the incipient wisdom.

Pattern status: 
Released

Design Stance

Pattern ID: 
807
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
44
Rob Knapp
Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Conscientious social or environmental activists try to understand the issues or problems they confront, and not just act blindly. However, significant issues are typically intricate, ill-defined,, and conceptually complicated, to the point where whole careers are devoted to sorting out small portions of them, and action is delayed indefinitely or activist energy dissipated. But the alternative of rushing to action, substituting passion or outrage for understanding is counterproductive in its own well-documented ways.

Context: 

This pattern is for people, on their own or within organizations, who are ready to initiate meaningful action. They have done enough analysis of whatever issue or problem they are concerned with, and have developed enough conviction to be sure that action is needed. Their question is, What action? or perhaps, How can I focus the notions, wishes, and urges that surround this issue into specific, meaningful steps? This pattern does not give detailed answers

Discussion: 

The complexity of significant issues in the present time is overwhelming. This is obvious for national issues such as health care, outsourcing of jobs, or energy policy. But small scale problems, such as a derelict lot, are often equally complex (think of drug dealing, vandalism, invasive plants, liability, and city departmental turf battles) in relation to the energy and good will available to deal with them. Seemingly obvious moves ("Let's all clean it up!") get blocked in unexpected ways ("Who are you to order us around?") or generate further issues (the lot becomes a better place to play hooky). The activist has to escape the "paralysis of analysis," but also must be accurate about the effects and costs of actions, which can radiate far beyond the immediate zone in which they occur.

Large and small scale social and environmental problems in the U.S. have come under concerted assault before, most notably in the Progressive era of the early 20th century. The great successes of that time, in clean water, safe housing, conservation of natural areas and much more, also established dispassionate expertise as the preferred approach to such issues (at least by liberals). Gather enough data, include enough considerations, weigh it objectively, and sensible, legally defensible decisions will emerge—or so goes the argument. However, as the complexity of issues has increased, and as affluence has permitted many more parties to mobilize their own experts, the ideal of dispassionate expertise is becoming unreachable. Technicalities breed sub-technicalities, and the latter sub-sub-technicalities, in a fractal process of escalating delay and cost. And it turns out that many of the actors have more uses for the delays than for smooth functioning.

There is a way forward, embodied in the long tradition of physical design. Buildings, ships, bridges and dams, water systems and waste disposal are objects of transcendent complexity, if one tries to assemble in advance all the knowledge and technique that might be required to make them, but yet do come into existence, and serve their very diverse tasks effectively.

The process which generates buildings and bridges, namely "design," is quite different from expert-based decision-making, even though expertise plays an enormous role in it. Instead of assuming that the answer can be deduced definitively from the evidence, the designer takes a different stance: The designer constructs, in imagination, an intervention in the world, and then uses powerful representations of the world, such as drawings, mathematical models, or simulations, to assess the ways in which the contemplated intervention would change the world. Usually, modifications are indicated, and the process goes round again, often numerous times, before the design settles into final form.

This design stance can be used for many different kinds of problems, from housebuilding to social activism. Houses are a straightforward example to start with. The early stages of designing a house are typically to have some very general ideas about its features and character, to choose a location, and to make some rough sketches or diagrams about how the features might be physically embodied. (By the way, many houses are not designed. They are copied or cut-and-pasted together from previous buildings and unexamined assumptions. Such houses are not under discussion here.) Already at this point, constraints and limitations begin to show themselves, such as high cost or the difficulty of all rooms having the same dramatic ocean view. Client(s) and designer(s) re-imagine the house in ways that address these challenges somehow, and may also reveal opportunities, for example a convenient location for storage. New drawings emerge, often with labels as to sizes, materials, and the like.There may be several rounds of imagining and drawing. Eventually the drawings have become detailed and definite enough to guide construction. The dream has evolved into a reality.

Social activists often use much the same process to establish a program or campaign for a reform. The locus of action is societal, say a budget decision, rather than physical; the constraints may have more to do with politics or social history than with drainage or carpeting; the number of people affected may be much larger than a household; there may be spreadsheets or maps or organizational charts rather than sketches or blueprints. But the same cycle of construction an intervention in the world, using imagination aided by concrete representation, is there.

Solution: 

Therefore, approach issues with the stance of the designer: construct, in imagination assisted by concrete representation, ways to intervene in the world for the better. More specifically, choose a client, a locus of action and a form of intervention; use static or dynamic simulations to indicate how the setting will react to your intervention; gather information and make analyses (but limit the scale to the smallest allowed by your setting) to shape the details of your contemplated intervention; modify, adjust, and refine repeatedly, evaluating effects at each round. Assume few limits at the start, and use the iterative process of modifying and evaluating to teach you which real limits exist and how to cope with them. When the right balance of timeliness and effectiveness presents itself, follow Samuel Mockbee's advice: "Proceed and be bold."

Verbiage for pattern card: 

How can people or organizations focus notions, and wishes into meaningful steps? Adopt a productive mode of thinking using the stance of the designer: construct, in imagination assisted by concrete representations, ways to intervene in the world for the better. Assume few limits at the start, and iteratively modify and evaluate. When the right balance of timeliness and effectiveness presents itself, follow Samuel Mockbee's advice: Proceed and be bold.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Rob Knapp
Information about summary graphic: 

Rob Knapp

International Networks of Alternative Media

Pattern ID: 
810
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
43
Dorothy Kidd
Dept. of Media Studies, University of San Francisc
Version: 
2
Problem: 

A key challenge facing movements for social change is the global commercial media. A handful of western-based trans-national media corporations, working in tandem with regional companies, control most programming, emphasising entertainment to recruit urban consumers, and circulating news primarily framed by the interests of corporate business and western foreign policy. Public programming to encourage dialogue and debate of public issues has withered. Stark inequalities are increasing, in both poor and rich countries, between those with the full means to produce communications and those without, especially if we factor in the violence of poverty, illiteracy, and patriarchal, racial, and caste oppression.

Context: 

A global network of communications activists, advocates and researchers is emerging to address these problems. This network of networks operates simultaneously on at least three planes, the construction of alternative communications media, the reform of the mainstream corporate and state media, and the support of trans-national communications networks for social change movements. Alternative media projects (zines, radio, video, television and internet sites and blogs) not only serve people seldom represented in the corporate media; they also demonstrate what democratic media might look like in their alternative content, modes of operation and overall philosophy. Communication reformers campaign to make existing local, national and global communications systems more accessible, representative, accountable and participatory.

Finally, media activists work in support of social change movements whose transnational communications networks also provide additional links for the movements to democratize media.

Why now? This is due to at least three inter-related global trends. First, the global shift to neo-liberalism presents people all over the world with a complicated, but very clear set of common problems. Secondly, the communications networks first emerged as links among social justice movements to address these common problems. Finally, the network of communications networks began to take its own shape, as groups everywhere inventively adapted the glut of consumer hardware and software from the transnational corporate market.

Discussion: 

A New World Information Communications Order (NWICO)
The trans-national movement to transform communications predates the shift to global neo-liberalism. During the 1970s, led by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a coalition of national governments of the global south, mobilized to challenge the old imperial status quo in which news, information and entertainment media were controlled by western governments and corporate powers. They called within the UN System for a New World Information and Communications Order (NWICO), for an end to the dominance of the western colonial powers, the equitable distribution of the world’s information resources, the right to communicate, and the support of alternative and community based media in democratizing communications. Rejecting this multilateral consensus, the US and UK Governments withdrew from the Commission, arguing with the commercial media industry that any measures to limit western media corporations or journalists represented state censorship of the “free flow of information.”

The US instead shifted to what we now call neo-liberalism, or the Washington agenda. They called for market rules (privatization of public resources and deregulation of government oversight of corporations) at home and abroad. The Reagan Government successfully gutted anti-trust and public interest rules, as well as public support programs at home, and pushed for the implementation of similar policies in other countries through their powerful voice in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Bank (WB). However, the US Government was still unable to win in the multilateral arena, failing to get culture (AV services) onto the trade block in the General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs (GATT), the precursor to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Instead, they decided to work on the less powerful countries one or two at a time, and began unilateral free trade talks with Taiwan, Canada and Mexico.

During the same decade, the number and sophistication of alternative media projects and networks grew around the world. These networks emerged both from the confluence of links between social movements, primarily from the countries of the south, mobilizing against the Washington agenda; and alternative media groups inventively seizing the newly available consumer production media. Primarily based in local geographic communities, media activists began to link across their own countries, national and regional boundaries to share resources, and campaign for greater access to radio, cable and satellite, and the newly emerging computer-linked systems. They also began to support one another on common issues, including the massive cuts in public spending and state-run services, the growth in global media conglomeration, and the US, Japanese and European calls for global standards in digital systems and copyright rules.

The trans-national networks begun in this era include the World Association of Community Radio (AMARC) , and the Association of Progressive Communicators (APC ). AMARC now operates via regional organizations, programme sharing through special theme-connected collaborations (against, for example, discrimination against women, and racism) and global media reform coalitions. Formed to support the global network of women, labour, ecologists, indigenous peoples, and of activists organizing against free trade and corporate globalization, APC continues to build on the idea of communication rights, prioritizing the capacity building of women, rural and poor people, and the media reform efforts of member groups.

During the 1990s, a new set of activists demonstrated the more tactical use of the technologies and networks in political change. In 1989, the pro-democracy activists of Tienanmen Square in Beijing China used fax machines to get their message out to the world . In 1994, the Zapatista National Liberation Army built on what Harry Cleaver called the emerging trans-national “electronic fabric of struggle,” employing old and new media, and global media networks, to challenge the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Then, in 1997, the Korean labor and social movement activists use highly sophisticated broadband media to demonstrate against the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and also opened Jinbonet, the first Web-based interactive peoples’ news service. This alternative vision of communications took another leap forward in 1999 when the first Independent Media Center (IMC) formed in Seattle to support the protests against the World Trade Organization (WTO). Drawing from the Zapatistas, the IMCistas created a global news network. Building on the existing networks opposed to corporate globalization, and providing easy-to-use open-publishing software, the global IMC quickly grew to over 150 centers around the world.

International Network for Communications Reform
In the last five years, the network of networks has begun to flex its collective muscles to reform the dominant global media system. Coalitions of activists, often in tandem with progressive government representatives, are calling for more democratic communications at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) (); against the US push for the free trade of culture, with a Convention on Cultural Diversity, adopted by UNESCO in 2005 (http://www.cdc-ccd.org>); and for the protection of the global knowledge commons with a Development Agenda and a Treaty on Access to Knowledge and Technology at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Solution: 

More than a coalition of “Nos,” this new network of networks demonstrates that another communications is possible and already happening. Its strength is based in cooperation via social movement organizing, media reform campaigns and the adaptation of information and communications for the greater use of all. Almost all are severely challenged by their lack of sustainable funds and technical resources, and continuing inequities between members of racialized and gendered class differences and of cultural capital. However, faced with the stark realities of neo-liberal immiseration, the network continues to build, creating a complex lattice of local-local, regional (especially south-south), and trans-national links that circumvent the old colonial north-south linkages and power dynamics. If there is one glaring structural vacuum, it is the lack of involvement of US activists, and particularly those based in US communities and social justice movements. In the next five years, one of the key challenges will be for US activists to bring together efforts for media justice in the US, recognize the leadership of the rest of the world, and assist in mobilizing against the Washington agenda at home.

What can people do to help build this network? In their own area, they can help support or produce programming for their local alternative communications media. They can also find and support the existing local, national and global campaigns to reform the mainstream corporate and state media. This is especially crucial in the US, whose media and media policy affect so much of the world. Finally they can educate themselves about what’s going on in their own communities, national and especially internationally, and then help link the work of the local and global justice networks.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

A handful of Western-based transnational corporations control most media programming. They emphasize entertainment and news acceptable to business and Western foreign policy. A global network of communications activists, advocates, and researchers is working to reform the mainstream media and to construct alternative media. Alternative media projects not only serve people; they also demonstrate what democratic media might look like.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
March of Indigenous Peoples, Colombia 2008. Tejido (social fabric) of communication was key to mobilization, Victoria Maldonado, Waves of Change

Strengthening International Law

Pattern ID: 
579
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
42
Richard Falk
Prof. Emeritus Int. Law & Practice, Princeton
Version: 
2
Problem: 

In an era when international cooperation is critical no overall reliable system of global governance is in place that enjoys universal respect and satisfies concerns about accountability of leaders, participation of peoples and their representatives, and transparency of the regulatory process itself. Particularly disturbing is the persistent tendency of political leaders to consider resort to war as their fundamental instrument for the resolution of international conflict and to divert vast resources to the preparation for war without being constrained by the limits set by international law governing the use of force.

Context: 

It is important not to overstate the role and contributions of international law, which in the past has been used to lend an appearance of legality to colonialism and aggressive war as well as to serve the interests of oppressive governments who engaged in abuses of their populations, being shielded by the law that upheld the territorial supremacy of sovereign states.

International law is relevant in many different settings that reflect the extraordinary diversity of transnational activity in the contemporary world. Legal professionals- lawyers- represent governments, corporations, banks, international institutions- to facilitate their activities, both by acting within the limits set by regulations contained in international law, and by altering legal standards to the extent helpful for more orderly conduct of affairs. Ordinary citizens, NGOs, and international civil servants all invoke international law to influence policy debates on a variety of global issues. International law is an important means for communicating claims and grievances, and provides insight into whether particular demands are reasonable or not.

The viability of international law has been recently drawn into serious question by the American response to the 9/11 attacks. It has been claimed that the nature of international terrorism combined with potential access to weaponry of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, makes it unreasonable for states to wait to be attacked. The United States Government relied on such reasoning to justify its invasion of Iraq in 2003, which was widely regarded by international law specialists and world public opinion as a flagrant violation of both the UN Charter and international law. International law is partly motivated by considerations of mutual convenience (e.g. the immunity of ambassadors, safety signals at sea) and partly reflective of the accumulated wisdom of seasoned statesmen.

Discussion: 

From the perspective of the United States, the country that is most responsible for establishing the legal framework governing war after World War II and also the main challenger in light of recent global developments, the resolution of the debate about whether to limit foreign policy by reference to international law is of the greatest importance. It should be noted that the two greatest failures in American foreign policy in the last fifty years have resulted from the Vietnam War and the Iraq War. These failures would not have occurred if American policy had been self-limited by reference to international law. It is a general fallacy to suppose that in the twenty-first century a powerful country is better off if it is not restricted in its policy options by law. The evidence suggests that the restrictions contained in international law reflect the encoded wisdom of several centuries of statecraft. The narrowing of the availability of war by international law over the course of the last century is an acknowledgement, in large part, of the growing dysfunctionality of war as instrument for the resolution of conflict.

It is not only war and uses of force that need to be regulated effectively by international law, it is also necessary for advancing the human security of peoples throughout the world afflicted by disease, poverty, environmental degradation, oppressive governance. Respect for law and international institutions encourages cooperative problem-solving that is increasingly necessary given the realities of globalization. In this regard, it is necessary to adapt the law-making procedures of the world to the significant roles being played by a variety of non-state actors, including market forces, regional organization, and civil society organizations. Whether incorporating this globalizing agenda and these non-state actors is achieved by an enlarged conception of international law, or by a transition in legal conceptualizing that adopts the terminology of global law is less important than the realization that the law dimension of world order is of critical importance in the struggle to achieve a less violent, more equitable, and more sustainable future for the whole of humanity.

The prospects for strengthening international law have two important current centers of gravity: (1) the unresolved debate in the United States as to whether to pursue security within a framework that respects international law and the authority of the United Nations. The learning experience associated with the failure of the Iraq policy needs to be converted into a renewed appreciation that reliance on military dominance and discretionary wars is dysfunctional at this stage of history, and that a voluntary respect for international law would simultaneously serve the national and global interest.
The resolution of this debate is of great importance to Americans and the world because of the leadership role that the United States plays on the global stage. The evidence supports the view that American global leadership will only recover its claims of legitimacy if it is able to revive its earlier enthusiasm for promoting the rule of law in world politics.
(2) This specific debate, heightened in intensity after 9/11, hides an underlying set of issues associated with achieving a more effective and equitable approach to global governance in light of a series of world order challenges that have been generated by such problems as global warming, an imminent energy squeeze, mass migrations, and an array of self-determination struggles. At present, contradictory trends are undermining efforts to fashion a humane approach to these challenges. On the one side, globalization in all its forms is rendering the boundaries of states increasingly irrelevant to the patterning of many substantive concerns, while at the same time border controls are growing harsher and walls are being created to fence some people in and others out.
This requires a new set of international legal initiatives, ambitiously conceived, to address these problems in a manner that does not produce chaos, oppressive violence, and ecological collapse. It is no longer acceptable to consider that world order can be entrusted to sovereign states pursuing their short-term interests. Protecting the future for the peoples of the world presupposes an ethos of responsibility, which in turn rests on the willingness to replace traditions of unilateralism and coercion with improved procedures of cooperation and persuasion. It is here that the past and future of international law offers hope to humanity provided the turn away from law can be reversed.

The growing fragility and complexity of international life provides a fundamental argument for strengthening international law, and for moving toward the establishment of ‘global law’ that is able to regulate for the common good activities of market forces, regional organizations, international institutions, civil society actors, as well as the behavior of states. With a growing prospect of an energy squeeze requiring a momentous shift to a post-petroleum world society, the strains on regulatory regimes will be immense. Trust in and respect for international law will encourage approaches that are more likely to be fair and effective than the sort of chaos and resentments that will follow if relative power and wealth are relied upon to shift the main burdens of adjustment to the weak and poor.

Solution: 

The lessons of failed wars over the course of recent decades need to be converted into a sophisticated appreciation that reliance on military superiority and discretionary recourse to wars has become increasingly dysfunctional at this stage of history, and extremely wasteful with respect to vital resources needed to achieve other essential human goals, including the reduction of poverty, disease, and crime. Protecting the future for the peoples of the world presupposes an ethos of responsibility, which in turn rests on the willingness by both the powerful and the disempowered to replace whenever possible, coercion with persuasion, and to rely much more on cooperative and nonviolent means to achieve order and change. Law is centrally important in providing guidelines and procedures for moving toward a less violent, more equitable, and more sustainable future for the whole of humanity. With the rise of non-state actors (market and civil society actors; international institutions of regional and global scope) there is underway a necessary transition from an era of international law to an epoch of global law. It will be beneficial for the citizens and governments of the world to encourage this transition.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Unfortunately, political leaders resort to war as the way to resolve international conflict. Preventing this in the future will require an ethos of responsibility and a willingness to rely on cooperative and nonviolent means to resolve conflict. Strengthening International Law — and making it more accountable and transparent — will be critical for moving toward a less violent, more equitable, and more sustainable future for the whole of humanity.

Pattern status: 
Released

Economic Conversion

Pattern ID: 
795
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
41
Lloyd Dumas
University of Texas at Dallas
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Approaching two decades after the disappearance of our only superpower rival, America’s military budget is almost as large as all other countries military budgets combined. We continue to spend at Cold War levels despite the fact that, as we are slowly learning, none of the most pressing 21st century threats to security — terrorism, proliferation, climate change — are effectively addressed by military force. Why? In part because the livelihoods of millions of people in politically powerful military-dependent institutions and communities are tied to the flow of military dollars.

Context: 

This troubled world is very different today than even a few decades ago. We have more to fear from handfuls of determined terrorists and blowback from the environmental damage we have done than from attack by standing armies. Changing times call for changing strategies, yet people with vested economic interests in the status quo always feel threatened by change. Those convinced that our continued wellbeing depends on redirecting national priorities will find it easier to bring about change if they can reassure people tied into the current system that their economic wellbeing is not at risk.

Discussion: 

Economic conversion is the process of efficiently transferring people and facilities from military-oriented to civilian-oriented activity. Changing the consequences of substantial military spending cuts from massive job loss to a change in what people produce on the job removes the politically powerful “jobs” argument. By forcing military programs to be judged on their real contribution to security, conversion is important to more intelligent decision making on national priorities.

Huge military budgets are ineffective in facing down 21st century threats to security. Obviously, military spending offers no advantage in confronting the threat of increasingly severe weather events (hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, floods) that, with other environmental disasters, appear directly linked to global warming. Less obviously but equally true, military force is of little use in confronting terrorist threats. The world’s most powerful military did nothing to prevent or stop the 9-11 attacks. Virtually every terrorist caught, every terrorist plot foiled has been the result of first-rate intelligence and police work, not the threat or use of military force. Military force has also been useless in preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Not only is high military spending ineffective in addressing the most pressing security threats, it is also a serious drain on economic strength, one of the most important sources of national wellbeing and international influence. This idea is hardly new in economics, going back to Adam Smith, the 18th century founder of capitalism. Smith argued that military spending was economically unproductive. Decades ago, economists commonly used “military burden” almost synonymously with “military budget.”

Today, the problem is the same, but some mechanisms are different. Large numbers of highly skilled engineers and scientists are needed to develop modern technologically sophisticated military weapons and related systems. But engineers and scientists are also critical to modern civilian industry. They develop new technologies that improve products and processes, driving the growth of productivity, which allows producers to pay higher wages and still keep prices low. Rising wages and low prices are the recipe for increasing economic prosperity. Quality products at low prices are also key to keeping industries competitive with rivals abroad, and therefore to keeping unemployment low and profits strong.

By directing the nation’s technological talent away from developing the technologies civilian-oriented producers need, huge military budgets drain a nation’s economic vitality. This is one reason for both the collapse of the Soviet Union and the de-industrialization of the United States. Thus, there are compelling economic and security arguments for re-orienting national priorities. Economic conversion facilitates this process.

When World War II ended, the U.S. transferred 30 percent of its economic output from military-oriented to civilian-oriented activity in one year (1945-46) without unemployment rising above 3 percent. That remarkable feat, which depended on advanced planning by the private sector and government, successfully “reconverted” an economy that had moved into military production during the war back to producing the civilian products it made before the war. Though the scale is smaller today, the problem is more complicated. Unlike the 1940s reconversion, most of those working today in what President Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex” have never done anything but military-oriented work. And the difference between military and civilian-oriented activity has become much greater. The process is no longer one of going back to what is familiar; it is now a move to new work in a very different environment.

For example, military sector engineers today are under enormous pressure to squeeze every ounce of performance out of products they design. With enormous military budgets, cost is not nearly as important an issue. Civilian sector products must perform well, but keeping cost low is absolutely critical. Engineering for maximum performance with little attention to cost is very different from engineering for low cost with reasonable performance. To successfully transfer from military to civilian work, engineers must be retrained (given some different skills) and re-oriented (taught to look at engineering from a different perspective). In general, more specialized and skilled people require more retraining and re-orientation.

Converting facilities and equipment requires assessing their character and condition to find the best match to productive civilian use. From 1961-1981, more than 90 U.S. military bases were closed and converted to industrial parks, research centers, college campuses, and airports --- with a net 20 percent increase in employment. In the 1990s, Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin, Texas was converted to a booming civilian airport. In October 2005, the nuclear weapons complex at Rocky Flats, Colorado was closed, and the land on which it stood is being turned into a National Wildlife Refuge.

The conversion movement in the U.S. began in the 1970s and grew through the early 1990s. In 1977, bi-partisan sponsors introduced the National Economic Conversion Act in the Senate, and soon after in the House of Representatives. Repeatedly reintroduced through the years, it never became law. If it had, the decentralized nationwide private and public sector process of conversion planning and support it would have set up would have prevented the economic shockwave that military dependent workers and communities felt in the late 1980s/early 1990s, and made it politically much easier to forestall the subsequent return to Cold War military spending levels.

Given the urgent need to redirect the nation’s attention and resources to address the economic and security realities of the 21st century, economic conversion has never been more important. Through letters, town hall meetings and personal visits, our representatives in the Congress must learn that reducing the military drain on our economy is critical to rebuilding the American middle class, repairing our decaying national infrastructure, and addressing the real problems of homeland security. Working with existing citizen’s organizations, conversion can help build alliances among the growing number of businesspeople who oppose the unilateralist militarism that has poisoned the nation’s image abroad, workers who see themselves going backwards, and environmentalists who want the nation to free the resources necessary to stop the slow motion disaster of global warming.

Solution: 

Conversion defines economic alternatives for those tied into institutions of militarism and war anywhere, helping build support for redirecting national priorities toward more effective, nonmilitary solutions to real national security needs. It is also critical to removing the economic burden of high military budgets, and thus reinvigorating national economies.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Why is US military spending at cold war levels despite the fact that the most pressing threats to security are not effectively addressed by military force? Economic Conversion is the process of efficiently transferring people and facilities from military-oriented to civilian-oriented activity. Given the urgent need to redirect attention and resources to new economic and security realities, Economic Conversion has never been more important.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Let us Beat Swords into Plowshares, Evgeniy Vuchetich, Wikimedia Commons

World Citizen Parliament

Pattern ID: 
484
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
40
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Economic inequality is steadily rising worldwide: Nearly everywhere the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Although the world's economy has grown considerably over the past few decades, half of the world's population subsists on less than $2 (US) per day. At the same time, meaningful representation among the world's population is steadily declining. This lack of representation results from — and engenders — increasing power and diminishing accountability of the world's corporate and governmental institutions.

Context: 

The social world as it now exists: vast needs — and intriguing possibilities — for citizen engagement with global affairs. The United Nations is an assembly for the world's nation's. Business, likewise, has an incredible assortment of institutions and events such as the World Economics Forum, the Chamber of Commerce, etc.

Discussion: 

"The tremendous growth in the commitment to, and practice of, democracy in domestic settings juxtaposed against globalization's large-scale transfer of political decision-making to international institutions has made the almost complete lack of democracy at the international level the most glaring anomaly of the global system today." — Andrew Strauss

Richard Falk and Andrew Strauss have explored the possibility of a "Global Parliament" for several years. It is their work which inspires this pattern and many of the ideas advanced in this pattern originated in their writings. Disclaimer: The concept of a "Global Peoples Parliament" comes from Richard Falk and Andrew Strauss. The version advocated here is not "official" (nor authoritative).

Civil society is obligated to create institutions that are strong enough to challenge other organization -- governments, businesses, criminal groups, extremists -- but not on their terms.

This pattern has only partial analogs in the "real world." This is due, generally, to the extremely broad scope of its coverage — it is supposed to address all of the world's inhabitants! The very fact of globalization provides the most solid support (and for the need) of the World Citizen Parliament pattern. Smaller versions that approximate some aspects of this pattern do, of course, exist, and we can learn a lot from these experiments as we attempt to cultivate and grow democratic forms that are more wide-ranging. The European Parliament may be the most prominent example of a large civic society institution whose representatives are democratically elected by people from various countries.

This pattern is related to INDEPENDENT REGIONS, the first pattern in A Pattern Language. Alexander was striving to identify the right level of autonomy based on "natural limits to the size of groups that can govern themselves in a human way." Metropolitan regions will not come to balance until each one is small and autonomous enough to be an independent sphere of culture. That pattern's solution states that, "Wherever possible, work toward the evolution of independent regions in the world; each with a population between 2 and 10 million; each with its own natural and geographic boundaries; each with its own economy; each one autonomous and self-governing; each with a seat in a world government, without the intervening power of larger states or countries."

Alexander's pattern and ours have similarities and differences. Both presuppose an increased voice of the citizen through additional opportunities for participation and new collective bodies that are independent from governments as they now exist. At first glance the two approaches might seem incompatible — Alexander's pattern does not call for an all-citizen's body nor does this pattern mention autonomous regions. The parliament concept, however, does not rule out autonomous, independent regions per se, only that individual people would have a forum for addressing issues was outside of their independent region — or what looks very much like a country but with new boundaries that better reflected cultural and natural boundaries (which does little or nothing about addressing the realities of various cultural or ethnic or religious groups "stranded" behind redrawn boundaries). Moreover, the state conceptualized in Alexander's pattern could actually be attained in a more "natural" evolutionary way through this pattern.

Developing a top-down approach is neither viable nor consonant with the principles of civil society. This leaves us with the option of developing principles and ideas that are we believe are at the core of what a federation should be and allows the parliament grow or evolve, built from the seeds that we envision today. This envisioned global federation would then become a type of ecosystem for collective bodies. [Ideally it would be principled and explicitly cooperative -- but how to ensure? At the same time we would need to ensure that it doesn't become just another arena for people to exploit for their own interests. Use the Commons ideas from Bollier, Ostrom and others, for one thing. The World Social Forum provides many important ideas about how this could be accomplished. What distinguishes this from how things exist already is an explicit declaration and decision to participate in the project, to share information with others and to communicate with other collectives in the federation.

Collective groups are generally composed of people in a geographically delimited area (some of whom have passed certain formal requirements for membership and attained the status of citizen), of people with similar professional interests (e.g. medical associations or labor unions), or social aims or philosophy (American Civil Liberties Union, American Rifle Association, etc. )

The draft statement that I proposed at the Online Deliberation Conference / Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing Symposium, Stanford University, on May 22, 2005, sums up the important aspects of this pattern.

In many places attempts are being made to trivialize citizenship and reconstitute citizens as (everyday) consumers and (sporadic) voters. Real power is in many ways being transferred to large corporations and other unelected organizations such as the World Trade Organization.

Realizing the growing and critical importance of citizens and civic society in addressing humankind's common problems, we the undersigned propose the initiation of a "Grand Challenge" whose ultimate objective is the development of a World Citizen Parliament. We realize that this is an extremely complex project that will require years of complex, nuanced, creative and thoughtful negotiation and collaboration. We are aware that this project will have to address an extremely broad range of social and cross-cultural factors. We, however, believe that beginning this discussion in an explicit and open way is preferable to many other varieties of globalization that lack this transparency.

Moreover, we realize that precisely defining an ideal system in advance is impossible. For that reason, we propose to begin a principled, long-term, incremental, participatory design process that integrates experimental, educational, community mobilization, research and policy work all within a common intellectual orientation: specifically to provide an inclusive intellectual umbrella for a diverse, distributed civil society effort. We realize — of course — that this is an audacious proposal. However, we agree with Richard Falk, that a parliament or forum like this is critical for the future of humankind and our planet. Civil society historically is the birthplace of socially ameliorative visions. This effort is intended to help build a more effective platform for these efforts, to help address humankind's shared problems — such as environmental degradation, human rights abuses, economic injustice and war — that other sectors — notably government and business — are seemingly powerless to stem.

Ultimately we would expect that the recommendations that are issued will play important roles in policy development of the future as well as in our ways of thinking. Each of the experiments that we undertake in the next few years will undoubtedly have drawbacks, some of which will be revealed only as people attempt to address real concerns. Information and communication technology will play an important role in many of these projects and people in these fields will need to work with social scientists, representatives from civil society organizations and many others if a World Citizen Parliament that sensitively, fairly, and wisely explores and addresses the concerns of the under-represented citizens of the world is ever created.

Solution: 

Launch a non-centralized, heterogeneous, loosely-linked network of people, online and offline resources, institutions, deliberative and other collaborative settings. Develop articles, scholarly papers, opinion papers, manifestos, research findings, and anything else that is relevant to this effort. Develop concepts, design principles, and experiments that lay the groundwork for a World Citizen Parliament. The new deliberative bodies that we develop over the next few years will necessarily be advisory only at the onset.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Governments and corporations have forums that further their interests. Civil society must create institutions that are strong enough to assert theirs. The deliberative bodies that we develop are likely to be advisory at the onset but hopefully will lay the groundwork for a more integrated and influential World Citizen Parliament as time goes on.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Feijaocomarroz from pt, Passeada de abertura do Forum Social Mundial de 2003, que reuniu mais de 150 mil pessoas, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Techno-Criticism

Pattern ID: 
879
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
39
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Because technology and technological systems can play out in so many ways, this is one of the longest problem statements in the pattern language. Technological systems are often portrayed as nearly miraculous solutions to problems both real and imagined. For this reason, people put faith in technology that is not always warranted. Moreover, the technologists peddling techno-utopian visions in which technology causes problems to vanish — essentially by magic — are not subjected to the same scrutiny that other societal prognosticators receive. For one reason, technologists by virtue of their special knowledge and unfathomable jargon are often intimidating to non-technologists. An unquestioning reliance on technology can result in a technocratic culture where people come to expect technological solutions. Technology puts major decisions in the hands of the technologists; degrades public discussion; diverts attention, discussion, and funds. Socio-technological systems generally have implicit trajectories. They're often implemented as "total programs" when almost by definition they are partial solutions that don't address or the social aspects either with analysis, co-design, education or funding. This is what is generally lacking when introducing computers into the classroom or in discussions about bringing inexpensive laptops to the children of Africa. The use of technology often introduces new problems including ones that humankind is not prepared for. (And then of course "technology will solve the new problems.") Introducing mandatory laptop computers in a middle school or high school, for example, soon leads to additional issues. Should students be able to use Instant Messenger during class? Download movies? Play fantasy baseball? As was pointed out in the play, Mitzi's Abortion (Hefron, 2005), based on a true story, technology can tell a pregnant woman that the baby she's carrying has no brain, but it can't provide any guidance on what she can do about the situation or how to negotiate with her insurance company to help her with financial burdens that may arise. Technology can be used for dumbing down (and having technology shouldn't be an excuse for ignorance — Why learn anything when I can simply find the knowledge on the Internet whenever I want to!). Moreover, it almost goes without saying that technology is the near perfect candidate for systems of exploitation, control, and surveillance. Machines will never be seized with doubts about ethics or morality as a human pressed into an inhuman situation may be. On the other hand, we must continually remind ourselves that technology breaks down. It is not perfect and never will be. The large number of failed tests of the Strategic Defense Initiatives, the mixed results of laptops in schools, the quiet withdrawal of facial recognition systems for "homeland security," and the potential for economic collapse due to unanticipated results of automated buying and selling all show the imperfection of our technological creations. The irony is, however, that technology might be most dangerous when it works correctly. For example, wouldn't a total failure of nuclear or biological weapons be preferable to "success?" Although Isaac Asimov presumed that humans would never allow robots to make life or death decisions or take the life of a human, the "launch on warning" computerized systems in the US (and presumably Russia) are virtually the same, minus the anthropomorphic features we've come to expect in our robots.

Context: 

Virtually anybody who is alive today will be confronted with new technology that is likely to change the circumstances of their life.

Discussion: 

The interesting and more useful use of the word criticism is as it is used in art or literary criticism,, namely the analysis, evaluation, interpretation and judging of something. Technology, or, rather, its practice including discourse, development, use, education, funding, regulation, and disposal, in addition to its physical embodiment, deserves this type of attention like all other aspects and creations of humankind.

Although technology, and ICT particularly, has a variety of attributes — or "affordances" — that will allow / encourage new capabilities (while discouraging others) and individual people obviously will play important roles in technology use (in the small?), the extreme "weight" of the social context will always exert considerable impact. The mistake that people most frequently make is forgetting the fundamental fact that technology in all of its guises is applied within specific social contexts. In other words, the phrase Guns don't kill people, people kill people could be more accurate if it read, Guns don't kill people, they just vastly improve the ease and efficiency of doing so. Without the "need" to shoot people only a fraction of the world's arsenal would exist. There is no such thing as "technology by itself" and, therefore, it makes no sense to view it in those terms.

The Strategic Defense Initiative, commonly called "Star Wars" illustrates many of the reasons why techno criticism is so necessary. Basically untestable, demonstrably unreliable, The SDI effort escalates militarism at the expense of non-military solutions while removing large sums of money from other more worthwhile enterprises. Additional militarization of space and the development of the next-generation of nuclear weapons also cry out for very deep technocriticism.

One of the most visible, current manifestations of techno-utopianism is that revolving around the prospects of a new "$100 Laptop" ostensibly for the children of Africa. Although many people believe that computers have intrinsic "subversive" nature that would empower people around the world it's not at all clear to me why African kids would be less attracted to Grand Theft Auto or other violent, time-squandering video games, then, say, their American counterparts if a brand-new laptop computer was suddenly in their possession.

A last example provides a glimpse of what can happen when fast computers and knowledge of human behavior are combined within specific systems of power. In a provocative article entitled, "AI Seduces Stanford Students" (200_) Kevin Poulsen describes a phenomenon called the "chameleon effect" in which "People are perceived as more honest and likeable if they subtly mimic the body language of the person they're speaking with." Now scientists at Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab have demonstrated that computers can exploit the same phenomenon, but with greater success and on a larger scale. Sixty-nine student volunteers interacted with a realistic human face, a computer generated "digital agent" that delivered a three-minute persuasive speech. Unbeknownst and undetected by seven out of eight students, the talking head was mimicking their every expression — eye movements, head tilts, etc.

The ominous result of this experiment was that the students reported that the echoing "agent" was "more friendly, interesting, honest, and persuasive" than the one that didn't blindly ape the facial movements of its mark. One doesn't need excess paranoia to imagine what lay in store for us when ubiquitous mass media systems, perhaps two-way, are joined with the system described above. Poulsen describes one way in which this could be accomplished.

"Bailenson [the Stanford researcher] says the research not only shows that computers can take advantage of our psychological quirks, but that they can do it more effectively than humans can because they can execute precise movements with scientifically optimized timing. The killer app is in virtual worlds, where each inhabitant can be presented with a different image, and the chameleon effect is no longer limited to one-on-one interaction. A single speaker — whether an AI or a human avatar — could mimic a thousand people at once, undetected, transforming a cheap salesman's trick into a tool of mass influence."

Ironically the people who are best equipped to apply this pattern are the people who know the most about how technology is designed, deployed, marketed, etc. Technophiles probably make the best Technocritics. This is an argument for technical education that is integrated with the humanities and the social sciences, marriage that many people in the non-technical disciplines might find as distasteful as those in the technical disciplines do. A society that was technologically literate would not "throw technology at problems" any more than they'd "throw money at problems." That, however, is not at all the same as saying that technology or money never can help solve problems —' as both resources when applied wisely can help immensely.

Organizations like Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility who have worked with issues like SDI and electronic voting and groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists and Electronic Privacy Information Center are working in this area. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists provides thoughtful discussion on matters of weapons and national security. The world is ready for discussions in this area that aren't dominated by the media and the digerati. Many policy options come to mind, but in general, they should be based on informed public discourse. One intriguing example of this is the "co development laws" in Scandinavia in the 1980s in which new technology could not be introduced without the consent of the workers. Another ripe field is that of genetic engineering of seeds and other biological entities.

Luddism is not an answer to the question of "autonomous technology" anymore than it is to uncritically embrace it. The solution is not to totally eschew the use of technology in society. Technology is an integral part of the human condition. At the same time it is important for the reasons discussed above to acknowledge and to consider how technology is presented, designed, discussed, implemented and used, just as other activities, particularly ones with similar potential for large-scale disruption should be subjected to this scrutiny. Unfortunately there is a surprising number of people who interpret any of this discussion as being "anti-technology" (which is barely even thinkable). At any rate, this reaction has a chilling effect on the idea of actual conversations on the technology (as would befit a democratic society) and has the adverse effect of reinforcing the stereotype that technologists are binary thinkers who are simply not capable of more nuanced thought.

Langdon Winner, one of the intellectual founders of technocriticism (along with Lewis Mumford, Norbert Weiner, and, even, Dwight Eisenhower) made these statements in relation to the advent of ubiquitous digital computer networks:

As we ponder horizons of computing and society today, it seems likely that American society will reproduce some of the basic tendencies of modernism.
  • unequal power over key decisions about what is built and why;
  • concerted attempts to enframe and direct people's lives in both work and consumption;
  • the presentation of the future society as something nonnegotiable;
  • the stress on individual gratification rather than collective problems and responsibilities;
  • design strategies that conceal and obfuscate important realms of social complexity.

Although technological systems can be extremely powerful, they are subject to a number of limitations that must be understood and probed thoroughly if these systems are to be deployed effectively in society. A more visible, inclusive and engaging practice of Techno Criticism could go a long way towards educating society on the myriad implications — both creative and destructive — of technology in today's world.

Solution: 

Technology often alters power relations between people, generally amplifying the power for some and not for others. The development of new military technology through history dramatically illustrates this phenomenon. The distribution of computers in society is yet another example. Generally, rich people have them and poor people don't. If computers enable people to be more productive (as computer related companies assert) then economic benefits would obviously accrue to those that have them. People need to understand or at least anticipate to some degree not only the effects of specific technological artifacts (RFID in running shoes, for example) but the socio-technological systems that they support or destabilize.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Unquestioning reliance on technology can create a culture where people expect technological solutions to all problems. This blind faith can help put decisions in the hands of the technologists, degrade public discussion, and divert attention and funds. It often alters power relations by amplifying the power for some. We need to understand and anticipate the effects of specific technological artifacts and the broader implications as well.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Baby Monkeys Playing, photograph by Richard Sclove
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