Prolog/Acknowledgement/History on Pattern Language

John C. Thomas, who has been awarded the 2018 SIGCHI Lifetime Research Award, provides some background on his interest in pattern language, in the preamble to the Context-Setting Entrance.

It occurs to me that some readers would like to know more about Pattern Languages; the pros and cons; pointers to the research; perhaps, how to write (or find) Patterns. I will do that soon on the basis of my current understanding. I’d like to put out a few more examples first though. I find that concepts such as “Pattern” and “Pattern Language” are much better defined by example than by rule. In the meantime, here below are some pointers to give a better flavor of what this odd creature, A Pattern Language, actually looks like and whether it can be housebroken or used for hunting. As you can tell by the list below, I have tried this creature in many different circumstances. To me, it seems quite happy and affectionate. I think that when it comes to trying to work with Pattern Languages, it is necessary to treat it something like a puppy. Your attitude will be an even more important a predictor of your success than your cleverness or knowledge of the Patterns.

Let every Pattern be “frisky” and let each Pattern explore and check out odd corners of the domain (and each other). There are cases where a Pattern doesn’t apply and there are cases where no Pattern applies just as your puppy can’t do anything they want. And, there are a few places where Pattern Languages are not at all appropriate just as there are places where no pets are allowed. For example, some situations are well enough understood that they can be characterized by a mathematical formula. No need for a Pattern (or a puppy) there, though it could still be fun.

A workshop at CHI2006 and  a position paper at CSCW2011 are cited.

John C. Thomas | “Context-Setting Entrance” | Feb. 13, 2018 | petersironwood at

Via Vaiatres Quaerit 850 ans years



Multiparadigm Inquiry Generating Service Systems Thinking

Deepening the systems thinking in pattern language calls for a multiparadigm approach.

What if a pattern language was opened up to contemporaneous research into wicked problems, the systems approach, ecological epistemology, hierarchy theory, and interactive value? This 30-minute presentation at Purplsoc 2017 last October aimed to provide a broader context to a social change community focused on works of Christopher Alexander.

“Multiparadigm Inquiry Generating Service Systems Thinking” | David Ing | Jan. 19, 2018 | Coevolving Innovations at

Web video on Youtube:

Research paper on the Coevolving Commons at

Purplsoc 2017 Ing

#pattern-language, #systems-thinking, #wicked-problems