Monday, May 1, 2017

Inteligencia Colectiva, Inteligencia Cívica y 
Lenguaje de Patrones


Confío en la inteligencia colectiva, la inteligencia cívica y los lenguajes de patrones en mi vida cotidiana y profesional. Más allá de eso, esos enfoques representan oportunidades importantes que pueden ayudarnos a medida que tratamos de cavar a nosotros mismos fuera del lodazal que hemos creado para nosotros mismos. Aunque me tomó un tiempo identificarlos y ponerlos en práctica, estos conceptos me han servido bien: me han ayudado a informar ya dar forma a mi enseñanza con una perspectiva y práctica que creo útiles, ricas y empoderadoras. Y me han ayudado a hacer algo de sentido del mundo y ver posibilidades para mejorarlo.


Mi hipótesis de trabajo es que uno de los problemas más importantes que enfrentamos es que nuestra incapacidad para enfrentar problemas significativos. Nuestras herramientas no parecen ser adecuadas para la tarea. No tenemos los paradigmas, teorías o vocabulario adecuados para pensar holísticamente este problema. No tenemos las instalaciones adecuadas para reconocer colectivamente los problemas, entenderlos y movilizarnos para sortearlos. Este es el tema que he elegido enfocar: ¿qué debemos hacer para desarrollar la inteligencia cívica que necesitamos para la vida en el siglo XXI? Enfocarse en este tema ha ayudado a abrir nuevas preguntas, avenidas y oportunidades que condujeron a entendimientos que no se habrían revelado sin ese enfoque.


Inteligencia colectiva


Para entender la inteligencia colectiva y cívica, es lógico establecer primero una definición de inteligencia en general: Un conjunto integrado de procesos que permiten que un agente actúe de manera apropiada a los objetivos del agente y al ambiente que percibe y actúa dentro - en particular las áreas que presentan retos o oportunidades reales o potenciales. Yo uso esa definición de inteligencia porque nos ayuda a ver el fenómeno de una manera que es consistente con la ciencia. También pone de relieve la idea de que la inteligencia es un proceso dinámico y flexible (o, más exactamente, un conjunto de procesos), no un fenómeno que simplemente existe o es una característica que puede resumirse utilizando un valor numérico simple.


La inteligencia colectiva (a veces llamada inteligencia distribuida) pone el foco en el hecho de que grupos de personas -no sólo individuos- emplean y exhiben inteligencia. La inteligencia colectiva pone un nombre en este fenómeno extremadamente importante. Después de todo, como señala Roy Pea (1993): "Cualquiera que haya observado de cerca las prácticas de la cognición se sorprende con el hecho de que la" mente "nunca trabaja sola, las inteligencias reveladas a través de estas prácticas se distribuyen entre las mentes, Y los ambientes simbólicos y físicos, tanto naturales como artificiales ".


Un ejemplo sencillo: yo solía trabajar en Boeing, una corporación que diseña y construye aviones (y otras cosas también). A intervalos regulares la corporación determina que necesita pensar en su próximo avión. Un pequeño grupo de personas esbozaría un concepto para un avión que aún no existía: ¿cuántas millas podría volar sin recargar combustible, cuántos asientos tendría, qué tipo de economía de combustible tendría, etc. Pocos años más tarde uno volaría realmente, seguido generalmente por mucho más. Este logro implica un conjunto integrado de procesos que involucran a decenas de miles de personas; El colectivo percibió su entorno, reunió recursos, coordinó con éxito sus actividades y aprendió información importante durante todo el proceso. Claramente actúa como un agente inteligente. Un montón de gente descoordinada no podía diseñar y construir un avión moderno. Y mientras hablamos de la inteligencia de los individuos, en realidad es casi imposible pensar en la inteligencia de una persona (que no es lo que se mide por las pruebas de CI) como separada de otras personas.


Nuestras circunstancias complejas nos obligan a pensar más seriamente en nuestra inteligencia colectiva. Hay dos razones principales: la primera es que porque la inteligencia colectiva define la realidad social en la que vivimos; La segunda es porque dependemos absolutamente de ella. La inteligencia colectiva es un requisito para la supervivencia, pero no cualquier tipo de inteligencia colectiva.



Inteligencia cívica


La inteligencia cívica puede ser pensada como un tipo de inteligencia colectiva, pero los dos no son idénticos. La inteligencia cívica describe lo que sucede cuando las personas trabajan juntas para abordar los problemas compartidos significativos de manera equitativa y eficiente. No se trata de resolver puzzles con soluciones claramente definidas. Usamos el término "equitativamente" porque eso es lo que es apropiado para este tipo de inteligencia. No tiene sentido considerar la inteligencia tal como está puesta en el mundo social como un ejercicio puramente "racional" que tiene lugar en ausencia de valores, justicia, respeto y otros rasgos importantes que son inherentes a la civilización humana. La inteligencia cívica también difiere de la inteligencia colectiva debido al papel esencial de la acción en la inteligencia cívica. La Inteligencia Cívica plantea la pregunta crítica: ¿Es la sociedad lo suficientemente inteligente como para enfrentar los desafíos que enfrenta?


La Inteligencia Cívica describe la forma en que los grupos de personas se dirigen a fines cívicos a través de medios cívicos. Como tal, es una perspectiva indispensable para el progreso social y ambiental. También es importante señalar que la inteligencia cívica toma diferentes formas a diferentes escalas. Puede existir a nivel global -las conversaciones sobre el clima en París en 2015, por ejemplo- y puede existir dentro de grupos, comunidades, una nación o, incluso, un solo individuo. La inteligencia cívica requiere aprendizaje y enseñanza. En mi Laboratorio de Investigación y Acción de Inteligencia Cívica en Evergreen los estudiantes trabajan juntos para usar y promover la inteligencia cívica a través de proyectos del "mundo real". Parece que la práctica de la inteligencia cívica es una de las mejores maneras de aprender sobre ella.


Si la inteligencia cívica es lo que necesitamos, ¿por qué no lo enfrentamos directa y explícitamente? Curiosamente muchas exploraciones en la inteligencia colectiva desautorizan el pensamiento consciente o la agencia del fenómeno. En otras palabras, las abejas o las hormigas, o incluso los moldes de limo pueden exhibir inteligencia colectiva, mientras que los seres humanos, que son capaces de reflexionar conscientemente sobre su pensamiento (metacognición) e incluso cambiarlo si quieren-no son dignos de consideración.


Lenguaje de patrones


La inteligencia es un producto de la co-adaptación al entorno en el que existe. Cuantos más factores en el entorno un agente debe atender, más compleja debe ser la inteligencia. En otras palabras, la inteligencia -el conjunto de procesos- refleja en gran medida su entorno. Los lenguajes de patrones están diseñados para explicar la complejidad del mundo en el que vivimos, proporcionando componentes comprensibles de nuestra "realidad" colectiva, las características del entorno que son importantes para nosotros. Los lenguajes de patrones pueden ayudar a situarnos en una mejor posición para pensar y actuar sin perder de vista el entorno más amplio. Por lo tanto, pueden ser vistos como herramientas para avanzar la inteligencia cívica.


Pero, ¿qué es exactamente un lenguaje de patrones? El concepto fue introducido en la década de 1970 a través de un libro revolucionario sobre el entorno construido llamado A Pattern Language (Alexander et al, 1977). El libro incluía 253 patrones que podrían ayudar a las personas a construir habitaciones, casas, edificios y ciudades que eran más hermosas y que afirmaban la vida. Cada patrón describe una relación entre las personas y el entorno construido que les ayudaría a resolver un problema que era el resultado del entorno construido. La idea era proporcionar patrones que las personas pudieran utilizar para desempeñar un papel más fuerte en el diseño del entorno físico en el que viven.


¿Qué es un patrón? En general, un patrón es algo que se repite. Generalmente pensamos en patrones visuales cuando pensamos en patrones. El tipo específico de patrones a que se refiere Alexander son generalizaciones de formas en las que la gente ha tratado históricamente los problemas con el tiempo. Un patrón puede ser pensado como una semilla para pensar. No le dice qué pensar o hacer, pero puede ayudarle a usted ya las personas con las que está trabajando para identificar oportunidades útiles. Un patrón contiene una descripción de una situación actual que necesita cambiar. También contiene una visión de un futuro más deseable, que el uso del patrón puede ayudar a crear. Alexander lo expresó de esta manera: "Cada patrón describe un problema que ocurre una y otra vez en nuestro entorno, y luego describe el núcleo de la solución a ese problema, de tal manera que usted puede usar esta solución un millón de veces, sin Siempre haciéndolo de la misma manera dos veces ".


Un lenguaje de patrones es simplemente una colección organizada de patrones. Los patrones de un lenguaje de patrones trabajan juntos para proporcionar una amplia gama de ideas que las personas pueden usar y han utilizado para ayudarles a resolver los problemas que les gustaría abordar. Los lenguajes de patrones proporcionan un marco para integrar ideas dispares pero interdependientes. Promuevo y uso lenguajes de patrones porque son útiles para representar la complejidad de los desafíos que enfrentamos y nos ayudan a considerar acciones. Se pretende que sean útiles en el diagnóstico y la prescripción y para proporcionar un lenguaje común.


Trabajando con un grupo de otros 85 colaboradores, desarrollamos el lenguaje de patrones de Voz Liberadora que contenía 136 patrones *, tales como Voces de los no escuchados, Viaje por carretera activista y Marco Estratégico. Proporcionan ideas para el cambio de las tendencias a menudo dominantes que sostienen la desigualdad y la degradación ambiental. Ese trabajo culminó en un libro (Schuler 2008) que contiene patrones para trabajar hacia metas positivas a través de un enfoque en la información y la comunicación. Idealmente, las personas y los grupos pueden usar estos patrones para convertir sus ideas y aspiraciones en acciones para un cambio social positivo. La esperanza es que los patrones pueden empoderar a la gente para ayudar a crear un futuro que sea inclusivo, saludable, respetuoso y más equitativo.


Avanzando


Los problemas que enfrentamos son increíblemente complejos e interconectados. Esperar que se derretirá sin imaginación colectiva, transfronteriza y trabajo duro no es una estrategia razonable. Abrazar la inteligencia cívica como una perspectiva puede ayudar a motivar e informar a la próxima generación de colaboración en la resolución de problemas. Por supuesto, la inteligencia cívica y el lenguaje de patrones no responden a todos nuestros problemas. Sin embargo, la esperanza es que puedan ayudarnos a reformular la naturaleza del enfoque colaborativo que necesitamos para abordar estos problemas con mayor eficacia. Con la perspectiva de la inteligencia cívica y con enfoques innovadores como los lenguajes de patrones podemos desarrollar nuevos proyectos cooperativos de investigación y acción, especialmente a través de los límites que son esenciales en nuestra búsqueda de una vida mejor para los habitantes de la tierra.



* Todos los patrones de Liberating Voices están disponibles en línea en inglés (http://www.publicsphereproject.org). Las versiones cortas de los patrones están disponibles en línea y en las tarjetas físicas que se pueden utilizar en talleres cara a cara. Estas versiones cortas de "tarjetas" ya están disponibles en línea en cinco idiomas además del inglés: árabe (http://www.publicsphereproject.org/patterns_arabic), chino (http://www.publicsphereproject.org/patterns_chinese), español (http://www.publicsphereproject.org/patterns_spanish(y vietnamita (http://www.publicsphereproject.org/patterns_vietnamese). En otra nota, varios años después de que el libro fue publicado mis estudiantes y yo desarrollamos un conjunto de 40 anti-patrones. Esta exploración en el "lado oscuro" ayudó a documentar formas en que las fuerzas opresoras trabajan hacia objetivos negativos (Schuler y Wagaman, 2013) y algo irónicamente fue una experiencia positiva para todos nosotros.

Referencias

Alexander, C. (1977). A Pattern Language: towns, buildings, construction. New York: Oxford University Press.
Alexander, C. (1979). The timeless way of building. New York: Oxford University Press.
Pea, R. D. (1993). Practices of distributed intelligence and designs for education. Distributed cognitions: Psychological and educational considerations, 11.
Schuler, D. (2001). Cultivating Society's Civic Intelligence: Patterns for a New "World Brain", Journal of Society, Information and Communication, Vol 4 No. 2
Schuler, D. (2008). Liberating Voices: A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution. MIT Press.
Schuler, D., and Wagaman, J. The Surprising Power, Vitality, and Potentiality of Examining the “Dark Side:" The Collaborative Production of the Restraining Voices Anti-Pattern Language in an Educational Setting. In Fall 2013 International PUARL Conference: Generative Processes, Patterns and the Urban Challenge. Neis H. (ed.). PUARL Press, Portland, OR, 2013. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Mobilization Story: Patterns for the Impending Emergency

Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017

The ascension of a TV personality with no governmental experience and a despotic and impulsive temperament to the presidency of the United States is not funny any more. His looming presence on the international stage can no longer be seen as the amusing if embarrassing distraction that it seemed—at least in the beginning—to provide to the nominating process. Unfortunately, it is now an emergency.

Any attempt to catalog the ways in which Trump has—and continues to—demonstrate his unsuitability is doomed to failure. The evidence seems to be mounting too quickly — and he has not yet been inaugurated. His nominations for cabinet posts tell quite a bit: for Education, he proposes a candidate who opposes public education; for State, he puts forward an executive in the oil industry; for Environmental Protection, a climate change denier; for Labor a fast food magnate.

Maddeningly, he is unwilling or unable to provide evidence or logical support for his many curious views. These include the fundamental benevolence of Russia and the fundamental malevolence of China among countless others. This is alarming of course but the fact that his followers and many elected officials of the Republican party do not seem to care or to ask for more explanation may be even more so.

 Is this the end of America's democratic experiment as many contemporary authors are speculating? The rejection of civic intelligence seems palpable and endemic. Yet, hopefully, the descent into chaos or worse is not inevitable. But if it is not, there must be very powerful counter currents. Therefore we must ask how quickly can a credible and peaceful — but forceful—resistance to his actions materialize? What form might it take? What roles should individuals and groups assume? What are their objectives?

 In my book, Liberating Voices: A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution I (and 85 contributors) presented 136 "patterns" for civic engagement. Each pattern acts as a seed for thought. The patterns are open-ended so groups can use them to develop ideas and actions that meet their specific needs.

 For the impending emergency that truly begins today, inauguration day, I have selected fourteen patterns that seem to be most relevant. I have put aside another thirty (listed below) which could help strengthen and build on the first set.

With these fourteen patterns as the base I have developed a narrative that weaves them together. (The pattern names are shown LIKE THIS.) The narrative describes one way that we collectively could use the patterns for thinking and acting in these strange times. But it is not the only one that can be developed. The patterns are intentionally open-ended and there are millions of ways they can be woven together to tell stories.

~~~~~

First and foremost, the election of Trump represents an enormous challenge to CIVIC INTELLIGENCE. The fact that Trump was elected demonstrates that our CIVIC INTELLIGENCE is currently deficient. To resist his policies it must be re-energized. And in the long run it must be inclusive and sustained if it is to equal to the challenges that we will inevitably be faced with in the future.

The mobilization should help prevent many of the oppressive intentions of Trump, his supporters, and the legislative bodies under his party's control. At the same time, ideally, the circumstances that gave rise to Trump's support—the anxiety, mistrust, anger, frustration, and fears of many Americans—should be addressed. Moreover, the general CIVIC INTELLIGENCE of the citizenry should be strengthened and institutionalized so as to avoid this type of emergency in the future.

It is absolutely vital not to succumb to hopelessness or cynicism. Instead, it is crucial that a SENSE OF STRUGGLE emerges that acknowledges the magnitude of the challenge while also providing motivation to persevere and to build community. This pattern was demonstrated within days after the election when PEACEFUL PUBLIC DEMONSTRATIONS sprouted up all over the country including one at the middle school in our neighborhood. These help show the size and strength of the rejection of the policies proposed by the president-elect to the world and also, significantly, to the participants themselves.

But proclaiming dissatisfaction is not enough. Many groups were vilified and threatened during the campaign and after. Accommodating the broad diversity of concerns and those who have those concerns will require a BIG TENT FOR SOCIAL CHANGE. And, at the same time, COMMUNITY NETWORKS must be animated to help ignite and perpetuate a sense of enduring solidarity. We are seeing this with neighborhood meetups and dinners and a lots and lots of new groups and projects that are helping to create new occasions for meaningful action.

Thinking about our actions and making meaning out of our situation is critical and everybody can participate. Why are we doing this? What do we expect to achieve? How do we describe our hopes and fears to others? How do we describe our connections to each other? This where THE POWER OF STORY comes in. From the times before the advent of writing to the present we conveyed meaning to each other with the stories we tell each other. One of the ways that the pattern can be used is through another pattern, VOICES OF THE UNHEARD, which reminds us that some voices have more access to the microphones and helps us work to ensure that these unheard voices are heard. This pattern in turn helps to support another pattern, ANTI-RACISM. During the campaign racism was employed overtly (immigrants from Latin America are rapists, Muslims are terrorists) and implicitly ("Make America Great Again"). To fight this we must from the beginning adopt an ANTI-RACISM approach.

Although our CIVIC CAPABILITIES always existed to some degree, they have been undervalued and underused by the citizenry. This has helped usher in these new unfortunate realities. On the other hand, with strengthened CIVIC CAPABILITIES we can better fight the damaging program of Trump and his allies. We can also reclaim and reconstitute a new PUBLIC AGENDA which must also be defended now and in the future. Although we have known for a long time that helping to define and enact the PUBLIC AGENDA is not the sole province of government it too has been neglected. And when citizens withdraw, corporations and other moneyed interests fill the gap. This new PUBLIC AGENDA reaffirms that the United States exists for the general welfare of its inhabitants, not for the private strip mining of its assets.

Many of the actions to counter the new types of oppression and ignorance seem to be organic and natural—and they are. We have done much of this before. Positive social change has been won before. But it is not won via a steady or predictable route. For that reason we must seriously evaluate and build our STRATEGIC CAPACITY. This means that examining the threats, the actions we need to take, the resources that we need, and look ahead, consciously building ideas that will allow modern day Davids to defeat modern day Goliaths. Goliaths notwithstanding, we are likely to find ourselves outside of our comfort zone as we move forward. EVERYDAY HEROISM describes the necessity of making this work somewhat routine. People who risk their life for a noble cause are heroes, but people who face smaller challenges, sometimes daily, are also heroes although their work is less commonly heralded.

As we all know, this election has exposed a great chasm of attitudes, beliefs, and perspectives. For that reason CONVERSATIONAL SUPPORT ACROSS BOUNDARIES becomes extremely important. Ideally the people who supported Trump are open to discussion to some degree; important discussions about the situations affecting families, jobs, health, and education must be had. And they must be open and direct, not circumvented via ideologically dictated media such as Fox News. Many other patterns in our library of patterns are directed towards reconciliation, some directly and some indirectly, and these also need to be consulted, customized, and deployed.

This is not a test. We now live in under emergency situations in which decisions are being made daily that affect the health, safety, and well-being of people everywhere. Democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are all imperiled, in the United States obviously, but around the world, indeed, in any place that is affected by actions of the US—everywhere, in other words.

Emergencies call for EMERGENCY COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS. But what is different about communication systems now, during this emergency? Although mainstream media is not entirely unreliable it probably is not adequate for our current needs. And, of course, historically around the world mainstream media has become compromised. A variety of other patterns in the pattern language provide some ideas as to what directions we can take.

The narrative described above is only one way to weave a story using the patterns. I encourage others to weave their own. Unfortunately, the patterns do not come with a guarantee. The hope is that is they can help unlock the ideas and aspirations that we need to help create a better world. The work is important and vast. Today is the day!


~~~~ Appendix ~~~~

All of the 136 Liberating Voices patterns can be found at http://www.publicsphereproject.org/patterns/lv. We also have cards (both physical and in paper form) that contain short versions of the patterns that are available in English, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, and Vietnamese. There are many other translations underway and we're always looking for translators.

The 14 Patterns selected for the mobilization story above are below:



The 31 additional patterns to be employed soon are below: 






Friday, January 6, 2017

Collective Intelligence, Civic Intelligence, and Pattern Languages


Preface to a book by the Seminario Visiones sobre las Mediaciones Tecnológicas de la Educación group at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)

I rely on collective intelligence, civic intelligence, and pattern languages in my everyday and professional life. Beyond that those approaches represent important opportunities that can help us as we attempt to dig ourselves out of the quagmire we've created for ourselves. Although it took awhile to identify them and put them to use, these concepts have served me well: they have helped me to inform and shape my teaching with a perspective and practice that I believe is useful, rich, and empowering. And they have helped me make some sense of the world and see possibilities for improving it.My working hypothesis is that one of the most significant problems we face is that our inability to face significant problems. Our tools do not seem to be adequate for the task. We do not have the right paradigms, theories, or vocabulary to think about this problem holistically. We do not have the adequate facilities to collectively recognize problems, understand them, and mobilize to circumvent them. This is the issue that I have chosen to focus on: what should we do to develop the civic intelligence that we need for life in the 21st century? Focusing on this issue has helped open up new questions, avenues, and opportunities that led to understandings that would not have been revealed without that focus.

Collective Intelligence

To understand collective and civic intelligence, it makes sense to first establish a definition of intelligence in general: An integrated set of processes that enable an agent to act in ways that are appropriate to the agent's goals and to the environment that it perceives and acts within — particularly areas that present actual or potential challenges or opportunities. I use that definition of intelligence because it helps us see the phenomenon in a way that is consistent with science. It also highlights the idea that intelligence is a dynamic and flexible process (or, more accurately, a set of processes), not a phenomenon that simply exists, or is a characteristic that can be summed up using a simple numeric value.

Collective intelligence (sometimes called distributed intelligence) places the focus on the fact that groups of people—not only individuals—employ and exhibit intelligence. Collective intelligence puts a name on this extremely important phenomenon. After all, as Roy Pea (1993) points out, "Anyone who has closely observed the practices of cognition is struck with the fact that the ‘mind” never works alone. The intelligences revealed through these practices are distributed – across minds, persons, and the symbolic and physical environments, both natural and artificial."

A simple example: I used to work at Boeing, a corporation that designs and builds airplanes (and other things too). At fairly regular intervals the corporation determines that it needs to think about their next airplane. A small group of people would sketch out a concept for an airplane that did not yet exist— how many miles could it would fly without refueling, how many seats it would have, what type of fuel economy would it have, etc. — and a few years later one would actually fly, generally followed by a lot more. This achievement involves an integrated set of processes involving tens of thousands of people; the collective perceived its environment, marshaled resources, successfully coordinated its activities, and learned important information throughout the process. Clearly it acts as an intelligent agent. A bunch of uncoordinated people could not design and build a modern airplane. And while we do talk about the intelligence of individuals, in reality it is nearly impossible to think of a person's intelligence (which is not what's measured by IQ tests) as being separate from other people.

Our complex circumstances force us to think more seriously about our collective intelligence. There are two primary reasons: The first is that because collective intelligence defines the social reality that we live within; the second is because we absolutely depend on it. Collective intelligence is a requirement for survival but not just any type of collective intelligence.

Civic Intelligence

Civic intelligence can be thought of as a type of collective intelligence but the two are not identical. Civic intelligence describes what happens when people work together to address significant shared problems equitably as well as efficiently. It is not about solving puzzles with clearly defined solutions. We use the term "equitably" because that is what is appropriate for this type of intelligence. It makes no sense to consider intelligence as it is enacted in the social world as a purely "rational" exercise that takes place in the absence of values, justice, respect, and other important features that are inherent in human civilization. Civic intelligence also differs from collective intelligence because of the essential role of action in civic intelligence. Civic Intelligence raises the critical question: Is society smart enough to meet the challenges it faces? 


Civic Intelligence describes how well groups of people address civic ends through civic means. As such it is an indispensable perspective for social and environmental progress. It is also important to note that civic intelligence takes different forms at different scales. It can exist at the global level—the climate talks in Paris in 2015, for example—and it can exist within groups, communities, a nation, or, even, a single individual. Civic intelligence requires learning and teaching. In my ongoing Civic Intelligence Research and Action Laboratory at Evergreen students work together to use and promote civic intelligence through "real world" projects. It seems that practicing civic intelligence is one of the best ways to learn about it.


If civic intelligence is what we need then why do not we face it directly and explicitly? Curiously many explorations in collective intelligence disallow conscious thought or agency from the phenomenon. In other words, bees or ants, Or even slime molds can exhibit collective intelligence while humans, who are able to consciously reflect on their thinking (metacognition) and even change it if they want—are not worthy of consideration. 

Pattern Languages

Intelligence is a product of co-adaptation to the environment in which it exists. The more factors in the environment that an agent must attend to, the more complex the intelligence must be. In other words, the intelligence – the set of processes– reflects its environment to a large degree. Pattern languages are designed to account for the complexity of the world that we live in by providing comprehensible components of our collective ”reality,” the features in the environment that are important to us. Pattern languages can help put us in a better position to think and act without losing sight of the broader environment. Hence, they can be seen as tools for advancing civic intelligence.

But what exactly is a pattern language? The concept was introduced in the 1970s through a revolutionary book about the built environment called A Pattern Language (Alexander et al, 1977). The book included 253 patterns that could help people build rooms, houses, buildings, and towns that were more beautiful and life-affirming. Each pattern describes a relationship between people and the built environment that would help them solve a problem that was a result of the built environment. The idea was to provide patterns that people could use to play a stronger role in the design of the physical environment in which they live. 

What's a pattern? In general, a pattern is something that repeats.  We generally think about visual patterns when we think about patterns. The specific kind of patterns that Alexander refers to are generalizations of ways in which people have historically addressed problems over time. A pattern can be thought of as a seed for thinking. It does not tell you what to think or do, but it can help you and the people you are working with to identify useful opportunities. A pattern contains a description of a current situation that needs to change. It also contains a vision of a more desirable future, one that using the pattern can help create. Alexander expressed it this way: “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.”

A pattern language is simply an organized collection of patterns. The patterns in a pattern language work together to provide a wide range of ideas that people can use — and have used — to help them address the problems that they'd like to address. Pattern languages provide a framework for integrating disparate but interdependent ideas together. I promote and use pattern languages because they are useful for representing the complexity of the challenges we face and help us consider actions. They are intended to be useful in diagnosis and prescription and to provide a common language. 
 
Working with a group of 85 other contributors we developed the Liberating Voices pattern language that contained 136 patterns*, such as Voices of the Unheard, Activist Road Trip, and Strategic Frame. They provide ideas for shifting out of the often dominant trends that sustain inequality and environmental degradation. That work culminated in a book (Schuler 2008) containing patterns for working toward positive goals through a focus on information and communication. Ideally people and groups can use these patterns to turn their ideas and aspirations into actions for positive social change. The hope is that the patterns can empower people to help create a future that is inclusive, healthy, respectful, and more equitable. 

Moving Forward 

The problems we face are incredibly complex and interconnected. Hoping that they will melt away without collective, cross-border imagination and hard work is not a reasonable strategy. Embracing civic intelligence as a perspective can help motivate and inform the next generation of collaborative problem-solving. Civic intelligence and the pattern language approach will of course not answer all of our problems. The hope is, however, that they can help us reformulate the nature of the collaborative approach we need to address these problems more effectively. With the civic intelligence perspective and with innovative approaches such as the pattern languages we can develop new cooperative research and action projects, especially across boundaries that are essential in our quest for a better life for the earth's inhabitants.

* All of the patterns in Liberating Voices are available online in English (http://www.publicsphereproject.org/patterns/lv). Short versions of the patterns are available online and in physical cards that can be used in face-to-face workshops. These short "card" versions are now available online in five languages in addition to English: Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, and Vietnamese. On another note, several years after the book was published my students and I developed a set of 40 anti-patterns. This exploration into the "dark side" helped document ways in which oppressive forces work toward negative goals (Schuler and Wagaman 2013) and somewhat ironically was a positive experience for all of us.

References

Alexander, C. (1977). A Pattern Language: towns, buildings, construction. New York: Oxford University Press.
Alexander, C. (1979). The timeless way of building. New York: Oxford University Press.
Pea, R. D. (1993). Practices of distributed intelligence and designs for education. Distributed cognitions: Psychological and educational considerations, 11.
Schuler, D. (2001). Cultivating Society's Civic Intelligence: Patterns for a New "World Brain", Journal of Society, Information and Communication, Vol 4 No. 2
Schuler, D. (2008). Liberating Voices: A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution. MIT Press.

Schuler, D., and Wagaman, J. The Surprising Power, Vitality, and Potentiality of Examining the “Dark Side:" The Collaborative Production of the Restraining Voices Anti-Pattern Language in an Educational Setting. In Fall 2013 International PUARL Conference: Generative Processes, Patterns and the Urban Challenge. Neis H. (ed.). PUARL Press, Portland, OR, 2013. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

How civic intelligence can teach what it means to be a citizen

Douglas Schuler, Evergreen State College

This political season, citizens will be determining who will represent them in the government. This, of course, includes deciding who will be the next president, but also who will serve in thousands of less prominent positions.

But is voting the only job of a citizen? And if there are others, what are they? Who decides who will do the other jobs – and how they should be done?

The concept of “civic intelligence” tries to address such questions.

I’ve been researching and teaching the concept of “civic intelligence” for over 15 years. Civic intelligence can help us understand how decisions in democratic societies are made now and, more importantly, how they could be made in the future.

For example, my students and I used civic intelligence as the focus for comparing colleges and universities. We wanted to see how well schools helped educate their students for civic engagement and social innovation and how well the schools themselves supported this work within the broader community.

My students also practiced civic intelligence, as the best way of learning it is through “real world” projects such as developing a community garden at a high school for incarcerated youth.

So what is civic intelligence? And why does it matter?

Understanding civic intelligence

Civic intelligence describes what happens when people work together to address problems efficiently and equitably. It’s a wide-ranging concept that shows how positive change happens. It can be applied anywhere – from the local to the global – and could take many forms.

For example, civic intelligence was seen in practice when representatives of the world’s governments created and unanimously approved a global action plan last year in Paris. While climate change remains an immense threat, this global cooperation involving years of dedicated debate and discussion produced a common framework for action for worldwide reduction of greenhouse gases.

Civic intelligence describes when people work together to address problems. Takver, CC BY-SA

Another example is that of mayors around the world establishing networks such as the Global Parliament of Mayors to bring elected officials together on a regular basis to discuss issues facing cities, such as housing, transportation and air quality. One of these networks, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, was launched when representatives of the world’s 40 largest cities wanted to collaborate to address climate change.

Similarly, millions of researchers, teachers, artists, other individuals and NGOs worldwide are working to improve their cities and communities. These efforts are amazingly diverse.

In one such case, groups of church members and others from the community in Olympia, Washington, worked for several years with homeless people and families to develop affordable housing solutions. And in Brooklyn, a group of young people started an experimental School of the Future to develop their ideas on what schools could or should be.

What’s the history?

The term “civic intelligence” was first used in English in 1898 by an American clergyman Josiah Strong in his book “The Twentieth Century City” when he wrote of a “dawning social self-consciousness.”

Untold numbers of people have been thinking and practicing civic intelligence without using the term. A brief look at some notable efforts reveals some historic approaches to its broader vision. Let’s take a few:

Laurie Chipps, CC BY-ND
  • John Dewey, the prominent social scientist, educator and public intellectual, was absorbed for much of his long professional life with understanding how people pool their knowledge to address the issues facing them.

  • The American activist and reformer Jane Addams, who in 1889 cofounded the Hull House in Chicago, which housed recent immigrants from Europe, pioneered scores of civically intelligent efforts. These included free lectures on current events, Chicago’s first public playground and a wide range of cultural, political and community research activities.

Civic intelligence today

There are more contemporary approaches as well. These include:

  • Sociologist Xavier de Souza Briggs’ research on how people from around the world have integrated the efforts of civil society, grassroots organizations and government to create sustainable communities.

  • With a slightly different lens, researcher Jason Corburn has examined how “ordinary” people in economically underprivileged neighborhoods have used “Street Science” to understand and reduce disease and environmental degradation in their communities.

  • Elinor Ostrom, recently awarded the Nobel Prize in economics, has studied how groups of people from various times and places managed resources such as fishing grounds, woodlots and pastures by working together collectively to preserve the livelihoods’ sources for future generations.

Making use of civic intelligence

Civic intelligence is generally an attribute of groups. It’s a collective capability to think and work together.

Advocates and practitioners of civic intelligence (as well as many others) note that the risks of the 21st century, which include climate change, environmental destruction and overpopulation, are quantitatively and qualitatively unlike the risks of prior times. They hypothesize that these risks are unlikely to be addressed satisfactorily by government and other leaders without substantial citizen engagement.

Civic intelligence reminds us that citizens assume responsibility. Gonzale, CC BY-NC

They argue that with or without formal invitations, the citizen must assume more responsibility for the state of the world, especially since in some cases the leaders themselves are part of the problem.

“Ordinary” people could bring many civic skills to the public sphere, such as innovation, compassion and heroism that are indispensable to the decision-making processes.

That is what brought about changes such as human rights, overturning slavery and the environmental movement. These were initiated not by businesses or governments, but by ordinary people.

Twenty-first century civics

The civics classes that are required in the public schools mostly focus on conventional political processes. They might teach about governance in a more conventional way, such as how many senators there are (100) or how long their terms are (six years). But self-governance needs more than that.

At a basic level, “governance” happens when neighborhood groups, nonprofit organizations or a few friends come together to help address a shared concern.

Their work can take many forms, including writing, developing websites, organizing events or demonstrations, petitioning, starting organizations and, even, performing tasks that are usually thought of as “jobs for the government.”

And sometimes “governance” could even mean breaking some rules, possibly leading to far-reaching reforms. For example, without civil disobedience, the U.S. might still be a British colony. And African-Americans might still be forced to ride in the back of the bus.

As a discipline, civic intelligence provides a broad focus that incorporates ideas and findings from many fields of study. It involves people from all walks of life, different cultures and circumstances.

A focus on civic intelligence could lead directly to social engagement. I believe understanding civic intelligence could help address the challenges we must face today and tomorrow.

The Conversation

Douglas Schuler, Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies, Evergreen State College

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Neither an Optimist nor a Pessimist Be

Originally published @ InternetRevolution.com in September 2010

Far from the public eye, a battle is raging.

The battle is being waged over abstractions but it touches our hearts and, perhaps more importantly, our minds. And although it's a battle with consequences, it's a battle that really shouldn't be fought at all.

The battle I'm referring to is the one between the Optimists and the Pessimists.

On one side are the optimists. They believe that in spite of everything things are getting better. The pessimists, as everybody knows, believe that things are inevitably getting worse.

Although I've been accused of being one or the other of them on various occasions, I'm not a member of either camp. In fact because both sides are wrong, I hope they both lose.

The two views are strangely similar. Both views make wild, unprovable claims. Both views are simplistic. And both demonstrate fatal forms of intellectual blindness: Optimists refuse to see the challenges; pessimists won't acknowledge the opportunities.

Ironically it's the point that both sides agree on that's the most dangerous: that historical momentum makes human effort unnecessary. Both views imply an inevitability that is not only inaccurate but paralyzing. In short, they offer excuses that many people are consciously or subconsciously looking for, reasons for not getting involved.

But, with apologies to Shakespeare, if neither an optimist nor a pessimist be, who or what should we be? Is there a word for a better way to think about the future?

Luckily such a word exists. The word is meliorism.

Admittedly the word is a bit obscure. But it needs to be rescued from its obscurity. And it needs to be the last idea standing after optimism and pessimism have been retired from rhetorical service.

Meliorism is the belief that the world can be made better by human effort. (But note that the flip side — that human effort can make the world worse — is also true.) And also note that that operative word is can. Unfortunately, unlike the virtual guarantees afforded by optimism and pessimism, meliorism focuses on the difficult challenges that we face, not on a fruitless debate.

But what does all of this have to do with the evolution of the Internet?

Plenty.

For one thing the internet inspired the optimists to some of the greatest rhetorical heights of all times. The optimists convinced many people that a golden age was imminent. The governed would achieve parity with the governors. Knowledge would flow equally to all and education would be transformed. The wisdom of crowds would rule the land. And censorship was impossible because information wants to be free.

On the other hand, cynical utopia deniers — dour pessimists — continued to assert that things will always be unequal, the Internet will change nothing at all, and that the human race will never develop the civic intelligence that it needs — Internet or no Internet.

But little by little people are breaking free of the optimism / pessimism trap. They are realizing the Internet is not magic after all. They are learning that it's not immune to the forces that created the commercial television or radio we know today.

The fact remains that the Internet represents an extremely rare opportunity. For one thing, it's a meta-medium that can assume many shapes. Because it's becoming a tool that billions of people use, it could help people of the world work together to address their shared concerns. The "coulds" could be multiplied ad infinitum: the Internet could be used to help mediate discussions between adversaries; it could be used to develop solutions to problems of environmental degradation, oppression and intolerance, and violence. It could

Another critical question surfaces in relation to these issues. Is there a role for business in building the information and communication infrastructure that promotes the civic intelligence that the world needs? And if not, why not?

Unfortunately the standard rules might not apply. For one thing, who is interested in building capabilities for people with few economic resources? And while the costs of despotism and anarchy are high indeed, democracy has no immediate ROI. And would venture capitalists bother with ventures with dubious aims like developing social imagination or improving collective problem-solving capabilities?

Clearly people in business can be counted on for innovation for economic gain. My presumption is that they could retool themselves intellectually for social innovation as well.

Meliorism, unlike optimism or pessimism, doesn't allow us to wriggle out of our responsibilities. In the case of the Internet, meliorism compels us to imagine what the Internet could be and to work for those possible outcomes.

We have the imagination and the resources to build the Internet that the utopians may have envisioned and the dystopians swore we'd never see. It will take the meliorists who have gotten tired of the silly debate over optimism and pessimism to roll up their sleeves and actually make it happen.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Civic Intelligence ~~ Towards a Reconciliation of Disparate Threads

This note is an early version of a summary of the findings and assertions so far in relation to my exploration of civic intelligence. 

As you know I'm trying to develop civic intelligence as a focus for research, activism, education, policy-making, ... , etc. You also of course know that it's not a term that's in common use and I'd like to change that. I would love your comments on any and all aspects of this.

I've been packing (and unpacking) the idea of civic intelligence in many ways for quite awhile. Sometimes it's used as a part of social inquiry, sometimes it's meant to be aspirational, and sometimes it's intended to be used as a goal or guideline — and other uses are possible (ranking schools for example). These varieties of uses could be a source of confusion (in either the critique or the exploration itself). My belief and hope is that the diverse perspectives are in fact coherent, although that might not be apparent without the background logic.  

I'd like to think that a graphic depiction can be developed that showed the main elements and regions of the overall exploration. Ideally this would help maintain coherence, reduce misinterpretation, and promote additional work in this area. (And, of course, critique could help shape this effort into more productive ways.)

I'm trying to explore a lot of things simultaneously — including the fact that exploring and practicing civic intelligence seems to be empowering to students, although this isn't addressed in this note.

The following is an attempt to describe one region of the framework which is largely positivistic and should have the necessary rigor and logic to be palatable to social scientists of various types. I consider that everything is subject to modification.

(1) We start with a (working) definition of Intelligence. This seems to be keeping with standard views of intelligence while containing elements that lend themselves to characterization and analysis. I wanted to focus on the potential richness of the concept (of intelligence) rather that be limited to a minimal, quantified and somewhat non-useful construct that some social scientists seem to prefer.

Definition of Intelligence: An integrated set of processes that enable an agent to act in ways that are appropriate to the agent's goals and to the environment in which it exists / acts — particularly areas that present actual or potential challenges or opportunities. 

The "processes" generally many different types of varying functions, goals, and complexity, including perceiving, deciding, reasoning, learning, remembering, imagining, hypothesizing, categorizing, and many, many others.

An "agent" can be one or more people, any group, animal, computer program, hybrids of the above, and others as well as any artifacts, natural or otherwise, or system of artifacts that are useful in pursuit of the goals. 

Collective intelligence is a major type of intelligence that is distinguished from individual intelligence (e.g. that of a single person).

Intelligence can also be distributed over space and time. And the results of the diverse processes can be stored in many ways—in human memories, libraries, online, or in tools, systems, or artifacts.

(2) The various components / elements of the definition suggest ways to characterize, analyze, categorize various approaches.

Composition of the "agent"
Environment in which the intelligence operates (Intelligence is context dependent)
Processes that are used and how they are integrated (i.e. the structure)
Goals, values, and norms
The products of the processes

The claim that I'm making is that it is probably possible to identify different versions of intelligence by the goals, types of actions, and composition and coordination of the agent. This might not be 100% certain but it could be useful.


[TO BE CONTINUED]

Civic intelligence can be used to rank colleges and universities!

Civic intelligence can — and ought — to be a key element of education. Especially progressive education.

One use, among many others, would be to actually rank institutions of higher education based on the idea of civic intelligence. My students and I worked on this project and I worked our findings into an opinion piece entitled What is the civic intelligence of your university or college?.

I'm trying to make the case that colleges and universities could / should think about themselves in terms of civic intelligence.

We're hoping to go to the next phase: putting more rigor into the rubric and actually using it to rank some schools.

I'd love to hear your thoughts in relation to this idea.

Relevant patterns include: Indicators, Public Agenda, Education and Values, and Experimental School.