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 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 ( 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.


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 @ 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?


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.


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.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Liberating Voices Pattern Links

Liberating Voices Pattern Language

The patterns that appear in the book and their respective authors are listed below. In addition to the 136 patterns, the book includes several chapters that discuss the motivation, theory, development and use of the patterns and the pattern language.


Theory is the most general level of the patterns in the language. In a broad way, the patterns in this section express the assumptions that we are making about the world and, most importantly, how we intend to engage in the world.

Civic Intelligence


      Douglas Schuler

The Commons


      David Bollier

The Good Life


      Gary Chapman

Organizing Principles

Organizing principles are less general than theory but are still quite abstract. They can motivate and inform any enterprise, yet they themselves are not corporeal, they are ideas that we can employ to orient our work in a meaningful way.
As we move forward, we realize that certain guidelines can be used to as help ensure that our work is purposeful.

Social Dominance Attenuation


      Douglas Schuler

Health as a Universal Right


      Douglas Schuler

Global Citizenship


      Douglas Schuler and Lori Blewett

Political Settings


      Jonathan Barker

Social Responsibility


      Stewart Dutfield, Burl Humana and Kenneth Gillgren

Matrifocal Orientation


      Lori Blewett


Collective Decision-Making


      Valerie Brown


Memory and Responsibility


      Douglas Schuler


Working Class Consciousness


      Steve Zeltzer


Back to the Roots


      Douglas Schuler


Demystification and Reenchantment


      Kenneth Gillgren




      Douglas Schuler


Linguistic Diversity


      Douglas Schuler


Education and Values


      John Thomas




      Burl Humana
Society needs to change in many ways. Some routes towards that end are listed below.


Transforming Institutions


      Brian Beaton


Teaching to Transgress


      John Thomas


Fair Trade


      Burl Humana and Anna Nakano


Sustainable Design


      Rob Knapp




      Lori Blewett


Spiritually Grounded Activism


      Helena Meyer-Knapp




      Kate Williams and Abdul Alkalimat
If we are to have possible chance at success, information of various types will be needed and it must be available to the widest audience.


Earth's Vital Signs


      Jenny Frankel-Reed


Big-Picture Health Information


      Jenny Epstein


Whole Cost


      Douglas Schuler




      Douglas Schuler
In order to come together and to make the changes that are necessary we will need venues in which this can happen.


Public Agenda


      Douglas Schuler


Democratic Political Settings


      Jonathan Barker


Big Tent for Social Change


      Mary Reister and Shari McCarthy
And people must have access to information, discussion venues, and, in general, opportunities for bettering themselves and the whole of society.


Opportunity Spaces


      Douglas Schuler
People must be prepared to engage in these struggle and there are a great number of skills and capacities that individuals and organizations should improve.


Strategic Capacity


      Douglas Schuler


Media Literacy


      Mark Lipton


Participatory Design


      Douglas Schuler


Citizen Science


      Stewart Dutfield


Mobile Intelligence


      Douglas Schuler




      Douglas Schuler

Enabling Systems

Enabling systems are concrete expressions of our objectives, often integrating institutions and technological systems. They are enabling because they actively encourage the multiplication of ideas and actions upon which people can help create a better society.
Now that the world is so tightly connected the need to develop better support for global systems is becoming more critical.


World Citizen Parliament


      Douglas Schuler


Economic Conversion


      Lloyd Dumas


Strengthening International Law


      Richard Falk


International Networks of Alternative Media


      Dorothy Kidd
We must build intelligence from the ground up


Design Stance


      Rob Knapp


Open Action and Research Network


      Douglas Schuler


Alternative Progress Indices


      Burl Humana and Richard Reiss


Meaningful Maps


      Andy Dearden and Scot Fletcher


Citizen Access to Simulations


      Alan Borning


Culturally Situated Design Tools


      Ron Eglash


Conversational Support Across Boundaries


      John Thomas


Truth and Reconciliation Commissions


      Helena Meyer-Knapp


Online Deliberation


      Matt Powell and Douglas Schuler
Some of our communities are under stress and they need different kinds of support.


Alternative Media in Hostile Environments


      Douglas Schuler


Mutual Help Medical Websites


      Andy Dearden and Patricia Radin


Indigenous Media


      Douglas Schuler and Miguel Angel PC)rez Alvarez


Peace Education


      Helena Meyer-Knapp
And of course globalization does not obviate the need to support the local community as well.


Intermediate Technologies


      Justin Smith


Durable Assets


      Justin Smith


Public Library


      Stewart Dutfield and Douglas Schuler


Digital Emancipation


      Gilson Schwartz


Community Networks


      Peter Day


Online Community Service Engine


      Fiorella De Cindio and Leonardo Sonnante


Community Currencies


      Burl Humana and Gilson Schwartz


Although largely invisible, policy nevertheless is a major force upon our lives. As a set of public rules, guidelines and programs, policy creates and demolishes barriers. Policy represents an arena of public affairs which, ironically enough, is often closed to the public.
Some basic principles are needed to underpin public policy and make it open and accountable.




      John B. Adams and Douglas Schuler




      Douglas Schuler


Media Diversity


      Douglas Schuler


Ethics of Community Informatics Research and Practice


      Randy Stoecker
Some policy is best advanced through systems.


Free and Fair Elections


      Douglas Schuler and Erik Nilsson


Equal Access to Justice


      Donald J Horowitz


E-Consultation as Mediation


      David Newman


Participatory Budgeting


      Andrew Gordon and Chris Halaska
Global economic systems mean that vast amounts of money is being transferred every day. How can this phenomenon better serve the public good?


Transaction Tax


      Burl Humana


Powerful Remittances


      Scott Robinson
Society runs on information and access to certain types of information is essential.


Positive Health Information


      Jenny Epstein


Accessibility of Online Information


      Robert Luke


Open Access Scholarly Publishing


      John Thomas


Mobile ICT Learning Facilities


      Grant Hearn
And the community itself should lead in other initiatives.


Grassroots Public Policy Development


      Douglas Schuler and Michael Maranda


Multi-Party Negotiation for Conflict Resolution


      Helena Meyer-Knapp and Stewart Dutfield


Users' IT Quality Network


      Aake Walldius and Yngve Sundblad


Academic Technology Investments


      Sarah Stein


How effective people are in their pursuits depends on how well they can work together. This realization motivates the patterns in this section and in the next. People and groups -- both informal and formal -- must actively engage with the world "outside" to achieve their goals. This, of course, can assume many forms from the purely cooperative to the openly combative.
Collaboration can often be better served when new ways of looking are employed.


Wholesome Design for Wicked Problems


      Rob Knapp


Voices of the Unheard


      John Thomas


Design for Unintended Use


      Erik Stolterman
In order to continually improve the effectiveness of our collaborations it's essential to build intelligence capabilities


Civic Capabilties


      Justin Smith


Strategic Frame


      Douglas Schuler


Value Sensitive Design


      Batya Friedman


Future Design


      Douglas Schuler


Experimental School


      Douglas Schuler, Steve Schapp and Thad Curtz




      Norman Clark


Citizen Journalism


      Lewis A. Friedland and Hernando Rojas


Document Centered Discussion


      Todd Davies, Benjamin Newman, Brendan O'Connor, Aaron Tam and Leo Perry
We'll also need to develop and strengthen institutions and programs that promote collaborations.


Citizen Diplomacy


      Douglas Schuler


Mirror Institutions


      Douglas Schuler


Patient Access to Medical Records


      Amir Hannan


Citizenship Schools


      Lewis A. Friedland and Carmen J. Sirianni


Community Building Journalism


      Peter Miller

Community and Organizational Building

A group is effective insofar as it integrates the insights, knowledge, skills, interests and resources of its members. Beyond this, a group must reflect on its own state, including its aims, methods of interpreting, decision-making, and planning and adjust its behavior accordingly. An effective group, moreover, must understand and adapt as well as shape the "environment" in which it finds itself.
Organizations must take part in collective learning.


Informal Learning Groups


      Justin Smith


Appreciative Collaboration


      Stewart Dutfield


Sustainability Appraisal


      Nick Plant


Shared Vision


      Stewart Dutfield and Douglas Schuler
And we need to think about organizations that can motivate and orient our work.


Community Animators


      Justin Smith


Online Anti-Poverty Community


      Penny Goldsmith


Sense of Struggle


      Douglas Schuler

Self Representation

The world contains a vast diversity of viewpoints and voices. These patterns in this section celebrate and strengthen that diversity while seeking ways to reduce conflict and encourage dialogue and understanding.
Thinking about ourselves in a new light will mean redefining the agenda.


Self-Help Groups


      Justin Smith


Self-Designed Development


      Justin Smith


Engaged Tourism


      Christine Ciancetta


Appropriating Technology


      Ron Eglash
And although much of the work is outwardly directed much of it needs to be home grown as well.


Control of Self Representation


      Douglas Schuler


Homemade Media


      Douglas Schuler


Arts of Resistance


      Douglas Schuler


Labor Visions


      Nancy Brigham


Universal Voice Mail


      Jenn Brandon
Stories belong to communities and our shared human experience. It's time to take them back and rediscover b and reinvent b stories


The Power of Story


      Rebecca Chamberlain


Public Domain Characters


      John Thomas and Douglas Schuler


Everyday Heroism


      Douglas Schuler


These patterns represent tangible projects that any community can initiate. Though these are generic in some way, the local situation will vary in every case and these projects will assume a "family resemblance" rather than a uniform one.
Building a new world requires new spaces and places to encourage innovation and collaboration. Here are two b and there may be others.




      Michel J. Menou, Peter Day and Douglas Schuler


Thinking Communities


      Aldo de Moor


Great Good Place


      Douglas Schuler
Communities are often faced with chores that they haven't anticipated or adequately dealt with. The patterns below are intended to help them roll up their sleeves and get to work.


Soap Operas with Civic Messages


      Douglas Schuler


Emergency Communication Systems


      Douglas Schuler


Community Inquiry


      Ann Bishop and Bertram (Chip) Bruce


Illegitimate Theater


      Mark Harrison and Douglas Schuler


Environmental Impact Remediation


      Douglas Schuler and Jim Gerner
Some of this work will involve technology development;


Open Source Search Technology


      Douglas Schuler


Socially Responsible Video Games


      Douglas Schuler


Open Source Everything


      John Thomas
Some will involve engaging the powerful;


Power Research


      Douglas Schuler


Citizens' Tribunal


      Douglas Schuler


These patterns describe activities that can be particularly effective even if only applied sporadically. They are limited in space and time, yet they can focus attention, unite disparate efforts, and help create conditions for future collaborations. These patterns appear last but are not insignificant. Indeed one of our most important tasks is discovering more of these tasks.
Many of these tactics involve probing and engaging.


Whistle Blowing


      Tom Carpenter and Douglas Schuler


Tactical Media


      Alessandra Renzi


Media Intervention


      Douglas Schuler


Peaceful Public Demonstrations


      Douglas Schuler
Many involve learning with a mission.


Activist Road Trip


      Douglas Schuler


Follow The Money


      Burl Humana
Finally, although these patterns are intended to help people engage with the world with dedication, strength, creativity and love, it's not really possibly b nor desirable b to engage all the time. Don't forget that for your actions and thoughts to be effective, you must periodicallyb&


Retreat and Reflection


      Douglas Schuler