2018/03/19 16:10 Geoffrey Bowker, “How the West was Won by Data”, UToronto iSchool

Lecture at UToronto iSchool, on four overlapping epochs in data history

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting,based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.

Introduction by Brian Cantwell Smith

  • Geoffrey Bowker, now at U.C. Irvine, having previously been at U. Pittsburgh
  • Studied with Bruno Latour, where he met Susan Leigh Starr who would become a collaborator
  • A historian
  • Rigourous intellect

[Geoffrey Bowker]

UToronto iSchool

Visiting Toronto for dissertation by Sandra Danilovic, passed with flying colours

Italian librarian:

  • Shouldn’t ignore data centers
  • Data is moved into a central part of our culture, has been happening for a few hundred years

Key idea:  temporality

Babbage analytic engine

  • 9th bridgewater … computer time
  • Can program miracles into computers

Based work on trip in industrializing Britain

  • Economy of cities and manufacturers
  • Watch production:  used to be put together by a skilled watchmaker, can be turned into simple tasks to be farmed out to semi-skilled workers
  • Division of labour was the greatest invention to humanity
  • From distribution of mechanical labour to distribution of intellectual labour

Time of the clock, computer clock

  • 8Ghz, 8 billion clicks per second — who needs that?
  • Traders on Wall Street (who move buildings closer to Wall Street) and astronomers — theoretical and practical

Temporality of nothing happening

The world and data

Human world

  • Formation of different union structures
  • Census categories, e.g. age categories
  • Canada:  4 years, up to 90 in 4-year chunks … whereas U.S. goes up to 75
  • Even though people age differently at massively different rates, we build around the categories and make the categories more real over time

Also in the natural world

  • Histoire Naturelle, Generale and Particuliere
  • 1830s:  governmentality in the Foucault sense
  • Natural contract, Michel Serres:  world population increasing exponentially, agriculture linearly –> management need

Principles of Geology, Charles Lyell

  • 1830s
  • Dominant science of the times
  • Equations:  earth does double entry bookkeeping — accretion of land on Syrian shores, with submarine volcanoes — posed as a zero-sum game (even though it’s not really zero-sum)

Applies also to human development:  Dunoyer 1837

  • People will begin by grouping themselves more naturally
  • Single people, without confusion
  • Progress

Horkheimer:  synchronizing world history, as one for the whole human race

Soon after 9/11, Mapping American’s War on Terrorrism

  • Non-interacting gap, where the U.S. will have to carry out military operations.
  • Same argument as Bacon:  it’s the people in the gap who haven’t yet become part of civilization, we can afford to go to war with

Overlay a map of Internet communications.

Human Memome Project:

  • Like the human genome project
  • Peter Thiel:  the power of big data and psychographics
  • Fan of Things Hidden to the Foundation of the World, Rene Girard
  • A memetic core that will bring us into the world

Donning an electronic skin:  a rich data structure, but strongly philosophically charged

  • Hobbes Leviathan
  • Body of the King made up of people — no technology intervening between the ruler and his people

Neil Gross, 1999:  The Earth Will Don an Electronic Skin

  • Put out the vision of the Internet of Things
  • Gross coins the phrase
  • Skin does more than register superficial events, dead cells accumulate in layers to prevent unwanted penetration

2017 article:  graphene as electronic skin

  • What happens when data gathers insert themselves?
  • Dildonics to give pleasure at a distance
  • Seems to give immediacy, yet puts a layer of data in the immediacy

The Internet of Things:

  • Vehicles, assets, persons and pets — all managed the same way?
  • Internet of cows

Difference between ever faster time, and no time at all

  • Michelle Bastian:  Clock or calendar, can see becoming out-of-synch with some worlds, but not other
  • Clock time as coordinative time that works well in a data ecological system

Stewart Brand:  Clock of the Long Now

  • Rings every 10,000 years

Some recent articles on ecosystem services

  • What has species been doing for us, lately?

International Barcode of Life

  • Life can cause major economic losses
  • Nature is interesting, only to the extent it fits into the economic system we want
  • Want ever-faster, one that responds

Biodiversity associated with geodiversity:  preserving, for human benefit

  • Dangerous and false way
  • Preserving is dangerous
  • Want to preserve the principle of change

Put biocultural diversity into the same way

  • e.g. cut off Molokai for native Hawaiian population
  • Times are wrapped into the way we understand ecosystems

The Self and Data

Josh Berson, Computable Bodies

  • Great phenomenology of self
  • If bodily sense is an emergent property of the community, then how might we use instrumentation to expand the sphere of those comfortable in theiri skin

Watches have gone away, now coming back as Fitbit

Arthur Bentley, died in the 1960s, Leigh Starr said would have married him

  • The Human Skin: Philosophy’s Last Line of Defense
  • Skin is interesting and problematic

Joanne Recuse:  over 90% of the body is made of microflora

  • We’re interpenetrated by the outside
  • Digestive system is actually inside

The Data double, Star Trek TNG

  • Data double comes back and performs me
  • Idea of an inner self, separated from data flows, prevents political responses

[Will omit:  You’ve got to have skin, Shelly Berman]

Michel Serres:  The Natural Contract

  • Construction of the ecosystem around us should be mediated by data

Should have a discussion that is political

  • Cambridge Analytica
  • Palantir:  thesis of structural functionalist

The March of intellectual 1 (1828), William Hamilton

  • Vacuum tube between London and Egypt
  • Drones
  • Flying postman
  • Velocity, things are getting faster, goes back to early 19th century

The March of Intellect 2 (1828)

  • Leviathan pumping out printing press

Conjunction in govermentality:

  • Discovery of history
  • Also, March of the Intellect

Timothy Mitchell:  Carbon democracy

  • The late 19th century, decentralized projects, coal everywhere
  • Wouldn’t have gotten Marx and Keynes, writing outside of historical themes, they’re writing about their energy sources


Beats, frequencies, synchronization of sequences?

  • Rhythm is important
  • Question you didn’t ask:  industrial revolution and time getting faster, P.P. Thompson, for the working class, it was more about busy-busy time (speed clocks went faster, kept the child labourers working)
  • Also a chaotic time, work for a short period of time, then unemployment
  • Sarah Sharma:  gig economy
  • Business traveler out of time
  • Taxi driver forced to fit to the rhythm of others

Bad examples of the data-driven world, longer trajectory.  Are there positive examples for a liberatory agenda?

  • Early 1950s cybernetics was mechanical
  • Then second order cybernetics, Stafford Beer, Platform for Change
  • That agenda is attractive and possible
  • Think second order cybernetics built these
  • The Brain of the Firm:  ECG of the firm
  • Liberatory, different world from being a child, messing around with an encyclopedia
  • We all have access to encyclopedias, now
  • UToronto rescuing environmental data from Trump
  • We can create our liberatory data sets

Data not being separate from the self?  Laws around ownership of self, rights to integrity.  Ownership of data not written into law.  Can’t lend your hand to another agency.

  • Europe and Canada more interesting than the U.S.
  • Talk about privacy is irrelevant, it should be about agency (over ownership)
  • Not seeing much happening with agency
  • A shell game:  political questions on how we can create and deal with new forms of agency
  • Incredibly liberatory
  • A side of political action
  • Privacy:  Schoenberg, Forgetting in the Digital Age, it was easier to pick up Jews in Holland than in France, because the French lied
  • Seed vault in Norway, not Costa Rica:  both political climate and physical climate favourable
  • Fukuyama:  End of History, into permanent statis, uniform world

Time, and the spiritual:  Eckhardt Tolle, The Power of Now — there’s only right now.  Tolle as derivative of Buddhism, being present.  Many focused on right now.  Jesus, focus not on tomorrow or yesterday, focus on now.

  • Cynical aside:  Silicon Valley executives spend money to be in the now
  • Hedde:  Enlightment, trying to bring every part of nature onto a single timeline
  • Innumerably different times, e.g. elephant time, time of humans
  • That would be a true living in the present, being aware of an honouring of those rhythms
  • Unflattening, actor-network theory as a cartoon — unflattening all of our temporalities

Computers phenomenology.  Relativistic physics, a nanosecond and a flop.  We are slow, meso scale.  Contingent facts.  Re-imagine space-time to be more general.  Operating in relativistic space-time.

  • Michele 1830s:  Out in space is back in time
  • Paris is center, south of France is back in time
  • McKowski:  time
  • Reading Craig Callendar, What Makes Time Special — temporality is fundamentally different
  • Ontology:  have to develop a new ontology about what it means to be in the world — both a philosophical and political task

Value in disequilibrium analysis?

  • Know nothing about disequilibrium analysis
  • Do see an issue where people say we need to understand equilibria — things falling over each other
  • Climate change
  • Interest in fitness landscapes — they’re not about time, it’s not the fittest who survive, it’s the luckiest

West is invested in disproportionate distributions of time.  Colonial time.  Going back into past, making a trajectory of time, into the future.  Time artisans, extracting timelines.  What are a larger set of typologies in western time?  Temporalities of climate change, when did they begin?  Data as politics, substituting for?

  • Western history have problems with Vico, which is about circular time.
  • Separate ideology of circular time
  • Principle of remembering, Jewish spiritual traditions, celebrating certain festivals, presence of the past in the room with you, as a relative historical time
  • Universal time is western
  • Kalpa:  the unit of time, if you take a boulder, and stroke it once every 10,000 years, it’s the time it takes to fall to dust
  • Don’t think that there is a single universal time
  • Certain people get to live disjunctive lives, so other live in organized time
  • Science as Alienated:  universal space and time (Galilean) came with the rise of the capitalist form

Data double, partially true.  Authoritative tools.  Need to develop a politic of data and time?

  • Can create non-authoritative
  • Believe in liberatory technologies
  • Where is the site of these happening?  At Facebook?  In the computer clock?
  • Steppenwolf:  A person has an infinite number of souls within in them.
  • Leibniz, the fold, not things inside and outside, everything is folded into everything else
  • If get into folds, then process ontologies, Whitehead
  • Pure analytic philosophy:  identity of the thing — mereology, things are not identical over time, everything changes over time
  • Understanding selves is unstable folding
  • Terrorist group in France:  committee for the liberation or destruction of computers


Draw.io open source

I’ve been a fan of using @drawio to create SVG diagrams since early 2016, when I created maps for systems thinking course at Aalto U. in Finland.  At that time, draw.io was freeware on many platforms (e.g. saving on Google Drive).

On May 22, 2017, draw.io adopted the Apache 2.0 license, becoming fully open source (with commercial funding from selected open source providers).

Changed to Apache 2.0 license

In August 2017, desktop versions for Windows, MacOS and Linux were released.

Desktop versions of draw.io

Released desktop versions of draw.io

At that time, the pricing for draw.io was reiterated:

  • None of our versions are freemium, they are either completely free, or only pay-for.
  • You own the content you produce and may use it for any purpose all cases. We don’t sell your personal information or data.

For Dokuwiki, upputtter has a plugin on Github, and there is a 2017-2018 discussion on the Dokuwiki forum.

Any reservations on fully endorsing draw.io as a standards-based, no-charge technology by myself have now been resolved.  Download links for draw.io Desktop are on their Integrations page.

#draw-io, #open-source, #svg

Android PDF links

On Android Oreo tablet, reference links on my PDF book don’t show up via Adobe Acrobat nor Google PDF Reader.  Links show up with qPDF Viewer, Foxit PDF Reader & Editor, and Xodo PDF Reader & Editor.  Presumption of basic functionality by bigger names is untrue.

qPDFFoxit PDF Reader & EditorXodo PDF Reader & Editor

Kubuntu 17.10 LaTeX textgreek.sty

Under Ubuntu 16.04, building a PDF under TeXstudio worked.  Under Kubuntu 17.10 (with pdfTeX 3.14159265-2.6-1.40.18 (TeX Live 2017/Debian)), running the same input files resulted in:

! LaTeX Error: File `textgreek.sty' not found.

These seemed like an error with reported in Feb. 2015, as “texlive-latex-extra: missing dependency – textgreek.sty requires lgrenc.def (texlive-lang-greek)“, but somehow this error was different.

A post at tex.stackexchange on “How do I install an individual package on a Linux system?” suggested instead …

Method 2:

Find and install the package through your package manager.  [….]


Searching for package contents with textgreek in artful returned:

File Packages
/usr/share/doc/texlive-doc/latex/textgreek/textgreek.pdf texlive-science-doc
/usr/share/texlive/texmf-dist/tex/latex/textgreek/textgreek.sty texlive-science

So, textgreek.sty is available via apt or Synaptic, when installed with texlive-science.

Package search in artful for textgreek



#latex, #texlive, #textgreek

2017/11/07 10:15 Donna Dillenberger, “Cognitive Blockchain”, Cascon

Plenary #cascon @DonnaExplorer IBM Fellow, IBM Research, Global leader of Enterprise Systems

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting,based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.

Intro by @mrmindel, Head of IBM Centre for Advanced Studies

[Donna Dillenberger]

Cascon 2017

What is blockchain?

  • Database gets out of sync
  • Blockchain software propogates records onto other databases
  • Why not distributed databases?  Because a distributed database is owned by a single entity
  • Blockchain means no single party controls
  • In addition, distributed database could have someone deleting record
  • Can also put smart contracts onto a blockchain:  changes data, or checks for conditions before or after commitment


  • Have descriptive analytics, then can create predictive analytics

IBM Global Trade Digitalization demo (powered by IBM Blockchain)

Post-presentation follow-throughs.  Some of the content may be similar to …

  • Shipment, Kenya to Rotterdam, then can click on where vessel location is
  • On the blockchain, data from IoT centers, and ports
  • As ship moves, each of point put records on the blockchain — start container tracking, commercial invoice is available, packing list is available, sensor has refrigeration
  • Blockchain analytics products geophysical map
  • Then can put on sensors, for logistics planning, e.g. weather
  • If the ship is late, how late?
  • If refrigerated, if mango aren’t good, who’s at fault?

Not just shipping from export to import countries:  documents

  • Before blockchain, paper was printed, human couriers carried on ship — 15% of the international cost, $26B
  • If a way for secure exchanges, savings in billions of dollars

When Kenyan farmer brings produce, can just use mobile phone to upload documents

  • Then Kenyan regional association can approve certificate of origin
  • Smart contracts are dictating a workflow
  • Sanitation department can add certificate onto blockchain
  • All signatures done onto blockchain
  • Then horticultural association that gave the farmer seeds, they upload a commercial invoices so that coffee can leave
  • Mombasa customs, don’t have lost or forged papers, blockchain means can’t be deleted
  • Workflow programmed by smart contract, requires all signatures

Data immutable:  health inspections, sanitation, signature of individuals

  • Then can do analytics:  where is the hold-up, e.g. waiting for sanitation certificate
  • U.S. customs is asked for this for parts of products, e.g. Ikea shipping parts to the U.S.
  • A major path for opium is in the legs of furniture
  • U.S. customs wants to know that the furniture is coming from Sweden, but the legs may come from Indonesia

Once have analytics, customer asking for blockchain data to be combined with natural language to deal with compliance

  • Financial services, 30% of cost is just meeting compliance

Cognitive Blockchain demo

  • 1. Ingest regulation
  • 2. Kick off bot
  • 3. Obtain permissions (to see records)
  • 4. Check blockchain records compliance

Australia and the Kimberley process:  to reduce conflict diamonds

  • How to get a Kimberley certificate:   download a 18-page PDF

Post-presentation follow-throughs.  Some of the content may be similar to …

Have Watson ingest the 18-page PDF

  • IBM Regulatory Analytics service
  • Already has e.g. ingest Dodd-Frank, Basel resolution
  • Want to ingest this new Kimberley document
  • Watson extracts 73 rules

Build a compliance tool, taking those rules

  • Could type in role yourself
  • Connect to the block chain:  records describing the diamond, and surface the Kimberley Certificate
  • Want bot to see when the certificate was created, but not the contents describing the diamond
  • Blockchain has 1,200,000 records, there are 857,000 permitted access — can view compliant and non-compliant … there are 113,023 records that are not compliant
  • Before, human beings would have to read ALL of the records
  • Can ask the bot, what’s common about the non-compliant records:  They came from particular countries, all in the last quarter
  • AGX has to most number of non-compliances
  • If the databot allows to see more, could see which inspectors signed off
  • Could combine with weather data, for correlations:  e.g. are all records from countries that have had drought in the last 2 years?

Cognitive and blockchain:  When records are on the blockchain, how can I validate that birth certificate is really valid?

  • Created a portable solution:  IBM’s Verifier
  • Can scan drug, wine, art, luggage … manufactured parts … DNA identification … biological cell imaging … skin tissues … water pollutants … oils, liuqids, metals … currencies, passport stamps, birth certificate
  • Can attach IBM Verifier to any cell phone
  • Two vials:  Mobil-1 5w30 and Sunoco 10w30 … could use for olive oils or champagnes

What does cognitive mean?

  • Uses deep learning, uses regression, but these are just models to mine data for insights
  • Cognitive is more than deep learning, because it leans by itself, you don’t have to describe things to it
  • It also recognizes intent, e.g. human emotions
  • e.g. hurricanes are coming in the path of this ship, which will cause a delay, so let’s divert the ship so that mangoes can arrive on time
  • Not waiting for a human to feed it data

Problems with cognitive systems, AI, and analytics in general

  • Working with data
  • 90% of effort is getting data, then transforming data
  • Have to sample correctly
  • Normalize the data
  • Then, can you trust the data?  Where is it coming from?  What is the pedigree of the data?  (Delusional Tweets of a president?)
  • e.g. drugs reacting differently for different genders, sizes and weights
  • Can you trust the model itself?
  • Academics love to download data from the Internet, what do open source libraries carry
  • Microservices:  don’t code something when you can download it
  • But in training the microservice, could have been on image of Donna, with instruction then to shut down the power grid when you see her

Effects from untrusted data:

  • Poisoned tweets, news, blogs, ads
  • Have impacted elections, Brexit
  • Say that pollutants aren’t affecting air quality
  • Sick persons classified as healthy
  • Anomalies classified as normal
  • As a responsible computer science, models are trained to the unusable:  false positives — could be in dams, electrical grids, infrastructures and autonomous systms

How could blockchain help artificial data?

Use the blockchain to train on data where we known the provenance, where the data came from

  • e.g. drug experiences are from 30-year old females

Blockchain can help AI:

  • Trust:
    • Pedigree
    • Immutability
    • Auditable
  • Confidential
    • Hyperledger Fabric — sharing with confidentiality
    • Records, Grants access rights, requests
  • Provenance
    • Traces ownership and usage across complex provenance chains

Provenance, Walmart’s Food Safety Solution Built on the IBM Blockchain Platform | IBM Blockchain | August 2017 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SV0KXBxSoio

Post-presentation follow-throughs.  Longer version at …

  • Did this project because of food scares
  • e.g. baby formula with melamine
  • e.g. horse meat instead of beef
  • Want to predict when food while spoil, and when the ingredients aren’t quite right
  • On Walmart cognitive blockchain, didn’t have people write onto a computer, they use with existing systems
  • Interact with humans, the way that humans want to interact, not the way that computers want them to


As a consumer, would like to find the problem with my egg, but will have proprietary information, and then will have a choice of who can see what.  Framework?

  • Blockchain isn’t owned by one entity
  • Hyperledger has a governance policy:  will all clients be able to see information on the blockchain
  • e.g. this blockchain has Kroger, Unilever, etc. … that don’t allow to see participants
  • Bitcoin and public blockchain allow people to see all of the data, and an anonymous person can put on data:  a potential exposure to poisonous data

Provider that doesn’t reveal data (e.g. patient)?  Can break that in emergency?

  • Looking at different approaches
  • Hyperledger allows roles
  • Could say heart surgeon sees only part of data
  • Dentists can only see that part of data
  • Up to you as patient to see that
  • If hospital owns data, then could have a smart contract, if the person comes in unconscious, might enable anyone to see data
  • Ethereum, Bitcoin, don’t permit these, Hyperledger does

Concerns about data so security that the data gets lost so that no one can get to it?  Data superpower building a back door?  Blockchains growing so large so that no one can manage them?

  • There’s a difference between blockchain implementations
  • Bitcoin keeps growing
  • Linux Foundation Hyperledger Fabric, has an activity to archive blockchain
  • e.g. after financial regulation, have to keep all financial records up to 30 years, and every transaction (trades) has be recorded, has to have copies for last day, last week, last month, up to 7 years
  • Financial companies store on tape, up to petabytes, exabytes
  • If blockchain is over 50 years old, archive that
  • Superpower?  True with public data, Ethereum and Bitcoin, anyone can see that
  • But not true with all block chain
  • With Ethereum, said superpowers can’t change:  when had a problem, said would roll back … but originally, records were to be immutable
  • Hyperledge Fabric protocols:  can add more nodes, it’s one company or person compromising his node, but then others nodes push it out and don’t allow others to join
  • IBM Secure Service Container:  when the blockchain is hosted in IBM Cloud, all of its data is automatically encrypted, not by human, but by hardware that isn’t addressable by software
  • Even if U.S. government asks for key, IBM doesn’t have then
  • This is a response to Edward Snowden, who was a system administrator
  • Blockchain data so secure that it gets lost?  Don’t understand that question, will take offline

Wish you had been at this presentation?  Some of the content may be similar to …

#blockchain, #cognitive, #dillenberger, #ibm

2017/10/25 09:30 Michael Mehaffy, “Horizons of Pattern Languages: Software, Cities, Planet”, PLoP

Plenary @michaelwmehaffy Pattern Languages of Program PLoP2017

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting,based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.

Intro by Takashi Iba

Michael Mehaffy has collaborated with Christopher Alexander from the beginning of the 1980s

  • Generative codes
  • Future pattern language
  • Urban planning

Independent consultant, appointment with Oregon State University

  • Books on urban architecture and design

Participated in the 20th PLoP conference

[Michael Mehaffy]

PLoP 2017 -- Michael Mehaffy

30,000 foot talk

Not a software person, some familiarity:

  • Programming on Cray
  • Then minicomputers with 10K
  • Early Apples in the 1970s

Got interested in electronic music

  • Architecture as frozen music
  • Led to working with Christopher Alexander

Got to scales of cities, towns, settlements

  • Now the main focus:  we’re doing badly on planning cities

Most recently been involved with Habitat III:  Sustainable urbanization

  • Some Alexanderian ideas in the document, due to community involvement

Other UN intiatiatives

  • COP21 Climate Negotation
  • Sustainable Development Goals

Institution involved with:  The Future of Places, in Stockholm

  • Focus on public space:  the spine of the city, where everything comes together
  • Access to the benefit of the public city
  • Main focus of the new urban agenda
  • The Centre for the Future of Places, KTH

Rapidly urbanizing around the globe

  • Not all bad
  • Urbanization is often fragmented

Two varieties

  • Slums
  • Market rate development — resource inefficient, greenhouse gas emissions

Have to do a better job in both cases

  • Cities can interconnect us with each other and resource
  • Connected catalytic system
  • Develop cultures and innovations, economy

Mike Batty and Peter Ferguson:

Problem:  there’s an operating system for growth that produces predictable result

  • People can protest before it’s built
  • It’s often bad
  • Degradation of a quality of life

Have to take on reforming growth

Economically unsustainable

  • Map of Houston Texas, where the global financial crisis happened, in the houses that that people had loans they couldn’t afford
  • Denver:  foreclosures, drive until you can afford
  • Challenge in managing technology
  • Ward:  A technologist, but more a person who thinks about how people work together

Techne + Logos:  the logical of making things work together

Conundrum:  The Internet

  • 20 years ago, we were excited to share information
  • What happened:  clickbait, insipid discussions, that drown out the real quality in the Internet
  • Twitter trolls
  • Also wider culture, race to the bottom, Wrestlemania with nuclear weapons
  • A serious issue: How we’re improving or not improving a constructure problem-solving approach

Edward Sapir 1920s, Culture:  Genuine and Spurious [see http://www.katarxis3.com/Sapir.htm]

  • Technological, yet cultural

Want to meet common challenges:  climate change, inequality, sustainability

Breaking down knowledge

  • NASA web site
  • Claims and counterclaims
  • Some people interested in economic impacts, benefactors
  • Creates distortion in ability to agree

Contrast to Wikipedia:

  • Page on Battle of Hastings
  • Not in dispute
  • Google search will often show Wikipedia citation as the first
  • Wikipedia used to be the butt of responses
  • Wikipedia is getting smarter, as the rest of the Internet is getting dumber
  • Wikipedia page:  Global warming conspiracy theory


  • We need to gather up knowledge that isn’t reliable
  • Want it sufficient for shared action
  • Science and languages do this

Wiki as Pattern Language, paper workshop at PLoP 2012 [see http://www.hillside.net/plop/2013/papers/Group6/plop13_preprint_51.pdf ]

  • Ward thought of wiki not only as way to distribute patterns, but it’s a pattern language itself
  • Pattern of overlap:  Herbert Simon, The Architecture of Complexity, 1962, near-decomposability with overlap
  • Alexander, Notes on the Synthesis of Form, in semi-lattice
  • Have useful information

Notes on the synthesis of form:  mereology, parts and wholes

Mereology:  part-whole relations

A City is Not a Tree, 1965

  • Rock-paper-scissors problem

Republished article in 2016 book, with commentary

Structure of a pattern

  • Forces of a door, hinges and knob
  • Can’t just put them any other way, have to get strong forces right
  • Look at strong forces and weak forces, and can slide them around
  • If there’s some relationship, e.g. to entrance, you have a whole new pattern, e.g. room
  • Nearly-decomposable hierarchy

In architectural patterns, it’s a physical decomposition

  • It’s an evidence-based process, some things that work, some that don’t

Don Norman, The Design of Everyday Things

  • Affordances

Alexandrian form, 7 parts:  images, upward hyperlink, downward hyperlink

Another conundrum:  Why have pattern languages not been more influential in the world of the built environment?

  • Google hits:  260,000 in architecture dwarfed by the number in software

Newman and Bhat:  Multi-cellular life from a pattern language approach [see “Dynamical patterning modules: a “pattern language” for development and evolution of multicellular form” at http://doi.org/10.1387/ijdb.072481sn

  • Malfunctions of life, like cancer

Why are architects only a small portion of all pattern languages?

  • Architects are weird?
  • Defective in the built environment?
  • Something going on in technology and culture:  collaborative and management models, open source systems

Things pointed out by Jane Jacobs in 1961

  • Put finger on momentous changes

Looking at another book with Jane Jacobs compared with Christopher Alexander

  • Web as compared to hierarchy

Cities Alive, new book by Michael Mehaffy

Network science:  new discoveries

  • Certain connections are important
  • Cellular automata generating
  • Morphogenesis
  • Fractals as scale-free patterns

Seeing patterns in evolutionary history

A new urban agenda

In Portland, Sustasis Foundation

  • Met Ward during recovery of New Orleans
  • New patterns

Potential of federated wikis

  • Same idea as wiki, but it’s federated, meaning that there isn’t just one structure, can copy and clone and work in different versions, and then bring back together
  • Can adapt more locally
  • Open source peer-to-peer development
  • Allows more evolution
  • Handles quantiative data
  • Transparency of data, click through

There are some issues with fed wiki, need some innovations to make it more useful

Could take architectural patterns to the next level

Ph.D. dissertation, building scenarios on greenhouse gas

  • Can model the predictive outcomes, based on the patterns interconnecting with each other

Could use fed wiki for financial, etc.

Key remaining issues with the Pattern Language book

  • Not enough ability to customize, 253 patterns got frozen, not flexible to change, write, throw out
  • Hard to interface with web, when trapped in book form
  • Not enough information for architects, about structure

The Nature of Order was about that

  • How to operationalize the pattern language, when it comes to geometry
  • How does nature do this?
  • Nature doesn’t make a blueprint of the final state
  • It’s more like a code or recipe for growing form


  • We can draw from biological systems
  • Learn from traditional forms, in structures not much different


  • Can look at regions in space
  • Architectural plan, urban plan, any structure — can identify patterns
  • Sets  or systems with distinctness
  • Living systems amplify generative relationships
  • Processes of exchanging signals and nutrients

Example of face:  Penelope Cruz, can find centers that result in people thinking she’s beautiful

  • If you remove the relationships, get a strange doll-like characteristic
  • Loses its life
  • Order, underneath it, is not a living system

Structure-preserving transformations

  • Can map geometries
  • Harold Egerton’s photo of drop into a thin film of milk:  new structure happens spontaneously
  • Alexander thinks life is a strong emergent possiblity
  • Can talk about layers, scale, strong centers
  • With 15 categories, Alexander can account of almost all structural properties

Was 12, became 15

  • The last few that were added:  e.g. simplicity and inner calm
  • The properties were in the order that he thought about them

Aesthetic phenomena is our portal into the deeper universe

  • Also transformations, in boundaries
  • Can see in natural structures, and traditional architectural structures

Now in a period where we have been using simple industrial processes

  • Geometric forms have become stripped of interconnected characteristics
  • Snap-on technology
  • Standardization

This is what Jane Jacobs was talking about

Death and Life of Great American Cities

  • Still back at World’s Fair 1958

Sprawl model from CIAM Model 1938

  • Victor Gruen‘s Shopping Mall
  • Supercampuses
  • Dendritic pattern, rather than web networks
  • Problem with hierarchical structure, not being walkable

Not just physical structure, it’s process

  • Like cooking a pizza, have to have web of interconnections in great cities, that allow creating benefits
  • Have to have biological process, using stepwise processes
  • This is the essence of generative codes

As opposed to a brittle, template based approach, using segegated zoning, etc.

Relationship between bottom-up and top-down

  • More like gardening than carpentry

Thinking about all of these as strategic toolkits, to put things together

Issue is the same for software, as other domains

  • How to speed up the feedback cycles?
  • How to get better adaptive quality?  Especially for externalities, e.g. resource depletion
  • Can identify just the key elements

Ward Cunningham:  how do you generate rather than specify?


A lot of success in the software world, architecture has less success.  In architecture, will patterns to grow to match success

  • Do believe that.
  • Have to deal with it
  • 253 patterns have a copyright problem, now people just getting over it
  • Federated wiki:  need some barriers removed
  • In software, didn’t have the static evolutionary problem, writing in code

Curation.  Paradox between our study and inspiration from nature, and the fact that we’re part of nature.  If we’re only one system, what does curation mean?

  • We have a nested series of systems, all with the same fundamental structures
  • Then have new ways of dealing with problems
  • Used to think language …

Why use the word problem?

  • What happens naturally
  • We’re not creating new superstructures of abstraction, can do more things, e.g. create cities
  • Termites can lay down simple
  • On the other hand, human beings generate a lot of noise
  • Curation:  idea that separate the process of creating content, from the process of editing it
  • In science, have the bucket and the searchlight

Curation.  We are intentional.  There are differences in intentionality.  Half of salmon make it back.  Over time, things die.  Alexander patterns are about generating life.  What do you do about death that occurs.  Patterns of repair?

  • Accounting for death?  Have to account for death
  • It’s not a harmonious process, it is a process that creates waste
  • Jane Jacobs:  Cities have lots of issues, conflicts, because human have issues and conflicts, and people bring them.  Hope to not evolve into an age of disaster.  Hope to evolve to more complexity
  • Intentionality:  an articulation of some deeper evolutionary tendency, towards complexity
  • We want more life, more complexity
  • More deeply embedded, in the structure of things
  • More articulated teleology:  an ideal state … that gets us into trouble, but that how we plan and we plan badly sometimes

If not planning, need to do some curation?

  • Self-organization versus planning
  • It’s not versus:  planning for self-organization

Complexity theory.  Form.  Definition of the pattern as a problem-solution form is adapted to the problems evoked here?  Ways to account for the evolution of things?  Could we try to adapt a stronger definition of patterns, to insert into the natural flow of things?

  • Patterns are language-like ways of expressing our intentionality of the way we want our ways configured
  • Anti-pattern as something that the world should not look like
  • Embodied in the structure is some intentionality of not getting scalded
  • If evolves, still need the human hand to guide it
  • Design methods movement, which was started to guide good design, Alexander disowned 10 years after dissertation, need a human being to guide the process
  • It only works if you have your own life
  • Patterns express intentionality, our way of life
  • Map of the reality

Take-away:  Not emphasizing the nature of pattern language.  Build more on it.

  • In planning, moving away from a static model
  • Won’t know what it will have in the end
  • However, should have the forces right, in the most important ways
  • Human-centered

#pattern-language, #plop, #plop-2017

2017/10/21 08:35 Yodan Rofe, “The issue of ‘feeling’ as a criterion for choosing between different patterns or configurations (social and spatial)”, Purplsoc

Plenary by Yodan Rofe #purplsoc Pursuit of Pattern Languages for Societal Change http://www.purplsoc.org/conference2017/

At Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting,based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.

[Arrived late, presentation was already in progress]

Purplsoc Yodan Rofe

Feeling in Alexander’s theory

  • Trying to find the next thing to do, that will make the biggest change in the feeling of the place
  • What’s the next move?
  • After you’ve decided what to do, generate alternatives — part of the method, sometimes generating an extreme amount of alternatives for the site plan, and evaluate them with feeling, to know which is a better solution

Underlying all of this, in working with groups of people, feeling is to a great degree shared

  • Each of us is different, but we may share 80-85%

When started to do Ph.D., wanted to test this out about whether people feel the same about the environment

  • Mihaly Csikszentmihaly:  one of first to study good feelings
  • Method:  experience sampling method, subjects have buzzers, when he buzzes them, they have to report what they were doing, what they felt, what was their activity
  • Developed theory:  particular conditions where people felt threatened
  • When involved in purposeful activity that challenges them, but is not outside their capacity:  flow
  • They become more involved in their selves
  • This is close to Chris Alexander’s ideas of centers
  • Looking at self as a series of centers that we gain experience over life
  • People’s happiness goes through dips in the 20s and 30s, and then grow, sometimes through adjusting expectations

Second:  Antonio Damasio‘s theory of feeling

  • Descartes’ error — and this is covered in the last book of The Nature of Order
  • The rational mind isn’t connected with the emotional mind
  • Similar to Daniel Kahneman‘s thinking fast and slow
  • Outside the realm of conscious thinking
  • Distinguishes between emotion, about the messages that the body to sends to the mind, and feeling this is reflexive in the mind
  • Feeling is not an immediate response, it’s a combination

Third:  Daniel Kahneman‘s idea of experienced utility

  • The feeling at any particular moment, at any particular time
  • Kahneman says people have problem with history and future, but are good with what they’re feeling right now
  • Measuring is simple, as simple as measuring colour, e.g. purple that looks pink, but close between the two

Developed by Russell and others:  the affective space (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PAD_emotional_state_model)

  • Two dimensions:  arousal and pleasure
  • Y-axis:  We may seek different levels of arousal depending on time of day, age, inclination — could be all over the place
  • We would want to be in joyful enthusiasm to extreme pleasure, most people wouldn’t want to be agitated distress or apethetic depression
  • X-axis:  Pleasure
  • Kahneman speaks of objective happiness
  • Over individuals, objective happiness is connected to day to day occurences, rather than large big events in life
  • Even people who won lottery or had severe disasters, they go back to where they were, in terms of tone in everyday
  • Notion of patterns is important in the way life works

In the mid-1990s, wanted to validate Alexander’s notions about feelings  [maybe see “Space and Community – The Spatial Foundations of Urban Neighborhoods: An Evaluation of Three Theories of Urban Form and Social Structure and Their Relevance to the Issue of Neighborhoods” | Yodan Rofe | 1995 | Berkeley Planning Journal at https://escholarship.org/uc/item/8691z2bp ?]

  • Show connections between what people felt, and the quality of space
  • How to use feeling maps, as a diagnosis of place
  • Like the metaphor of being a doctor

How to map feelings?

  • When come to a neighbourhood, too large to be mapped by a single person
  • Walking too far makes you tired
  • Need to make smaller areas that are walkable
  • Workshop with CNU Philadelphia, 7 areas
  • Then scientific problems:  what do you put on the map?  It could impact the decisions of the people
  • So must put buildings and big trees, e.g. garden, playing field
  • Today, might be simpler, using handheld devices, people walking around, making evaluations with GPS feeding into a GIS, although some problems because dealing with mobile may impact the feeling
  • When people make notation, will they know how to read the map — so may be better to be with them, and then could make notations, but then having a person with you changes the feeling, e.g. a woman in an unknown place might feel different with another person
  • Transfer to one map, yellow good, orange is good, red is bad, blue is very bad
  • Scale taken from The Oregon Experiment:  4-level map
  • Also tried a 5-level scale, it’s not easy for people in the 21st century and people will choose neutral, so want to force them on feeling good or bad

Golden Gate neighbourhood of north Oakland, on the edge of Berkeley

  • With urban design professionals, different from residents
  • Try to coordinate feelings with places
  • Then, how to improve neighbourhood feelings
  • Put a feelings survey in all of the mailboxes, got 53 response of 47 usable
  • Area that was mapped enough for sufficient were in the southwest towards Berkeley
  • Can see a concentration of blue dots:  all of San Pablo are blue and red, not feeling good
  • Also had them diagram in different places, where to make a bubble — trouble, some people were inventing relationship
  • Prior had done pilots with undergrads and grads
  • Did some statistical analysis:  test ordinal responses on differences
  • Would expect almost normal, 50% good and bad, actually tilted a little bit towards good in east area — but can see west feels better than east
  • Kahneman’s paper 6 years later explained a lot of this

San Pablo Avenue has bad feelings, Stanford Avenue is feeling better

Going down to Gaskill Street, west side feels good, east side feels bad

It’s quality of the places, not a fault of the person

For intersubjective, do Cronbach reliability test:  remove values and see how the number change

  • Reliability is found to be very high
  • Didn’t want to divide people into cells, tried to put them into cluster — did in about half of a block
  • 3 observations in a cell, about 4000 sq. meters, reliability was very high, 98%
  • At 5 observations, over 90%

Social aspects affecting feeling

  • Tenure (owners, renters)
  • Age
  • Years of residence
  • … all affect feelings
  • Did a logit model on how people make decisions
  • Variable as social, location as street
  • Social only added 5% to accuracy of model — spatial more determinant than social
  • Conclusion:  individual tendency tends to colour feeling, but moves in the same direction — people tend to move together

Then go, to look at space

  • e.g. two houses on Marshall Street

Two views on public library (which is also a museum of African American history)

  • People may respond differently if they know library is also a musem

An intersection, looking 4 different directions

  • People coming to an intersection from a different way would have a different feeling

Sources of feelings:

  • Most important were neighbours and gardens — which are related, since good neighbours keep good gardens
  • Positive and negative feelings are not symmetric
  • Lack of crime doesn’t insure good feelings

First example:  Mitzpeh Ramon ethnographic study

  • Happy with it, but not enough to put into a peer-reviewed journal in the late 1990s
  • Was working on the Boulevard book
  • With Amelia Rosenberg-Weinrub, studied as an ugly place in Israel with varied in culture — she liked the feeling maps, she didn’t have confirmation bias, just used feeling map in ethnography
  • [maybe see “Mapping feeling: An approach to the study of emotional response to the built environment and landscape” | AR Weinreb, Y Rofè | 2013 | Journal of Architectural and Planning Research at http://www.jstor.org/stable/43031085 ]
  • Adjusted instrument, changed the structure
  • Created a map with some clustering — didn’t do statistical analysis (which isn’t what anthropologist do)
  • Did more interaction with people, talking with them as they walked, so could say more about what they felt
  • Found affected more by place by than social aspects
  • Positive areas, e.g. play area
  • Negative areas, ugly building
  • Got published in J. Architectural Planning and Research

Comparison of Neighbourhood Public Open Spaces with L.Arch Inbal Zarchin

[Will stop presentation here]

Now a resurgence of interest, after 2 decades where no one was interest

Interim summary

  • Problem isn’t with measurement of feelings, it doesn’t have to do with how to map centers and extent
  • Hard to quantify
  • Need to rely on judgement:  in double-bind


What did you ask

  • How do you feel?  Very good to very bad
  • Feeling was affected by who was there, as much as with place
  • When ask a lot of people, then biases disappear
  • Statistics know people have individual circumstances, but when ask a lot of people, then they cancel them out

Tough to map patterns.  Have you or students tried to correlate tree, or property levels?

  • No, but others do
  • In urban society, we value nature, because we don’t have so much of it

#pattern-language, #purplsoc-2017