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Pursuit of Pattern Languages for Societal Change

Peter Baumgartner|Tina Gruber-Muecke|Richard Sickinger (Editors)


Designing Lively Scenarios in Various Fields

Editors: Peter Baumgartner, Tina Gruber-Muecke, Richard Sickinger

Book Design, Page Layout and Editorial Staff: Ingrid Muthsam, Wolfgang Rauter




Creative Commons Licence CC-BY-ND


Edition Donau-Universität Krems

ISBN Paperback: 978-3-903150-14-0

ISBN eBook: 978-3-903150-15-7

Krems, August 2017, 2nd Edition

Every effort has been made to make this book as complete and as accurate as possible, but no warranty or fitness is implied. The information provided ist on an „as is“ basis. The authors and the editors/publishers shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damages arising from the information contained in this book. Responsibility for the information, licencing and views set out in their articles lies entirely with the authors.


by Peter Baumgartner, Tina Gruber-Muecke, Richard Sickinger

Introduction: Pattern Languages for Societal Change

This book focuses on the pattern approach established by the Austrian-born Christopher Alexander, architect, mathematician, and philosopher, and collects selected papers on work presented at, or related to the PURPLSOC World Conference held at Danube University Krems, July 3 – 5, 2015. PURPLSOC is the acronym for “In Pursuit of Pattern Languages for Societal Change”, a series of (roughly) biennial conferences on patterns in and with disparate fields such as architecture, design, media, arts, IT, management, pedagogy, social activism, social innovation and diverse grassroots movements. PURPLSOC has its origins in the PUARL Conferences held at the University of Oregon in Portland in 2009, 2011, and 2013 (in cooperation with ARUS), and is organized as the ‘World Conference on Pattern Languages’ at Danube University Krems in Austria in the summer of 2015. Both PUARL and PURPLSOC are organized in a biennial structure, therefore the whole Conference Series has reached a new level of interdisciplinary involvement and a new international format and organization. PURPLSOC is run by a Steering Committee with the help of a larger Advisory Board, which appraises and evaluates the submitted contributions for oral presentation at the Conference and for the inclusion of papers in this book (https://www.purplsoc.org/committee/). Its aim is to substantiate the broad applicability and richness of pattern related work in all fields, and, by sharing best practice examples from outside the scientific community, to further raise awareness of Christopher Alexander`s approach within the wider public. Both conferences contribute to strengthening the pattern movement at Danube University Krems where we hope to establish a university wide interdisciplinary center for Pattern Research in the near future.

The remainder of this foreword is structured as follows. In the following section, we provide a brief review of prior research on pattern languages (PL) in a global context. This review provides a starting point for PURPLSOC readers interested in the topic and wishing to study it in greater depth. We then introduce the papers included in the conference proceedings and summarize briefly how each relates to and extends the existing literature; we also offer broad conclusions based on the collection of papers as a whole. Next, we provide suggestions for future research in this area. Finally, we reflect on the process of the conference proceedings with an outlook toward encouraging and guiding potential future authors of papers on patterns and pattern languages.

Review on Prior Research on Pattern Languages

This section aims to provide the reader with a review of selected prior research on pattern and pattern languages in a global context, with a particular emphasis on the historical development.

Christopher Alexander’s interest in patterns and pattern languages originates in his book “Notes on the synthesis of form” (1964) which aims at developing an analytical design process based on mathematics and deductive logic. In the preface of the paperback edition (1971) Alexander distances himself from this idea but remains fascinated by the power of the diagram, or pattern, which he defines as “an abstract pattern of physical relationships which resolves a small system of interacting and conflicting forces, and is independent of all other forces, and of all other possible diagrams”. Developing this central idea leads to his renowned book „A Pattern Language” (Alexander, 1977) in which Alexander subsequently defines 253 invariant spatial patterns associated with the stability of human-environmental systems in both towns and buildings. Each pattern sits at the center of a network of associated patterns forming a unique pattern language. For Alexander this creates “a fundamental view of the world. It says that when you build a thing you cannot merely build that thing in isolation, but must also repair the world around it, and within it, so that the larger world at that one place becomes more coherent, and more whole; and the thing which you make takes its place in the web of nature, as you make it.” (Alexander, 1977) In “The Timeless Way of Building” (Alexander, 1979), a philosophical introduction and examination of the pattern language concept, Alexander introduces the concept of the „quality without a name” or “being alive” as the central quality of built environment. Ten years after the book was published, Alexander’s idea of pattern language for architecture (Pattern Language 1.0) was adopted in the field of software design (Beck & Cunningham, 1987; Gamma, et al., 1995) (Pattern Language 2.0). Since the 1990s, an increasing number of fields pertaining to human action have adopted the methods of pattern language (Pattern Language 3.0) (Coplien & Harrison, 2004; Manns & Rising, 2005; Manns & Rising, 2015; Hoover & Oshineye, 2009). Pattern Writing Techniques have emerged as a research field (e.g. elements of pattern writing for software design, social relationships, and other fields) (Iba, 2014). For Alexander developing and implementing patterns and pattern languages does not only relate to conveying information and solutions but goes further: “However, that is not all that pattern languages are supposed to do: The pattern language that we began creating in the 1970s had other essential features. First, it has a moral component. Second, it has the aim of creating coherence, morphological coherence in the things which are made with it. And third, it is generative: it allows people to create coherence, morally sound objects, and encourages and enables this process because of its emphasis on the coherence of the created whole.” (Alexander, 1999). Building on his work on patterns and pattern language Alexander went on to develop a morphogenetic understanding of the formation of the built environment in his four-volume work “The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe“ (Alexander, 2003).

Papers in the Conference Proceedings

We turn now to the 13 papers accepted for the Conference Proceedings. In each case, we provide a brief synopsis of the paper, together with comments on the linkage and contribution of the paper to the literature discussed above. Concerning the contents of this book, we are proud to remark that the selected papers cover a broad range of topics, including

1.the study of the work of Noam Chomsky, Christopher Alexander and Heinrich Lausberg in the context of framing educational patterns, as in the paper by Aspalter and Bauer.

2.an approach to easing the labor-intensive application of abstract patterns to concrete use cases, as in the paper by Falkenthal et al.

3.pattern language generations and the proposal for a 4th generation pattern language, as in the paper by Finidori et al.

4.the use of pattern language for learning from recurrent design patterns of nature derived from diverse living examples found in great repositories of natural design patterns, as in the paper by Henshaw.

5.a pattern language for dementia which consists of 40 patterns, categorized into three different groups: words for those living with dementia, words for caring families, and words for everyone., as in the paper by Iba et al.

6.a set of 24 behavioral properties that capture “wholeness” in a lively human activity, found through the investigation of pattern languages of human action, as in the paper by Iba et al.

7.an overview of the frontiers of pattern languages, based on the studies of Takashi Iba over the past 10 years, as in the paper by Iba.

8.a cooking language, a new approach to cooking, derived from the idea of pattern languages, as in the paper by Isaku et al.

9.the study of patterns and societal change, developing the theoretical relation between potential attributes of changemakers and Alexander’s concept of liveliness with pedagogical approaches, as in the paper by Nakamura and Iba.

10.a pattern language for coastal communities for surviving an earthquake with an accompanying tsunami, as in the paper by Neis and Wright.

11.the possibility of implementing Alexander’s System A, of generating beauty and life in the world, at the large scale of a city, as in the paper by Porta et al.

12.the contention that the relationship between Alexander’s System A and System B can be understood as complementary, and not as a contradiction, demonstrated through the case of Unrecognized Bedouin Villages that are located in the Negev drylands of Israel, as in the paper by Rosner-Manor and Rofè.

13.the utilization of a key attribute of patterns, combined with storytelling, to ensure emotional engagement and therefore a high rate of implementation of patterns, as in the paper by Sickinger.

Some broad conclusions can be proposed based on the research contributions of the papers in this book and the prior literature.

»Each paper in the conference proceedings shows that consequences emerge from a complex set of processes over a significant period of time, involving a wide range of actors and institutions.

»Pattern languages do not have a simple deterministic impact on development. Like other instances of pattern languages being applied to complex social issues, outcomes are not only determined by technology. Social influences are crucially important to the trajectory of any technology-based project.

»The mutual influence between pattern languages and social processes can result in solutions that work relatively well.

»Applying Pattern languages to social change requires an understanding of local meanings, existing work practices, and institutional contexts, as well as a willingness to engage with the dynamics of socio-technical change over time.

Future Research Directions

We hope that the papers included in this book will help to point the way forward to future research efforts on pattern languages that will be both rigorous and relevant to the most pressing concerns related to societal change. Our foremost interest in the area of future research is the rapid expansion of research on pattern languages and societal change. In this section, we provide some additional dimensions for expanding future work, discuss theoretical and methodological issues and identify qualified literature for research in developing countries.

Dimensions for Expansion

We want to outline some dimensions for the possible expansion of the research provided in this book.

First, future research is needed to provide a wider geographical spread. As a second dimension it would also be good to see more research on the institutional context. An example for this could be educational institutions or nongovernmental institutions as they both are challenged with searches for educational problems for our society. A third dimension of expansion concerns the study of pattern culture and language development. Fourthly work in the area of pattern communication is needed to ensure the use and implementation of pattern languages. Fifthly the developments of pattern renewal processes are important to ensure that patterns are being improved and are up to date.

Topics for Future Work

It is impossible in this short introductory paper to provide a detailed preview of potential future research topics, since the scope of such work is very wide indeed. Instead, we will mention a few important areas for future work which have been somewhat neglected to date. Further research is needed in this domain to better understand notions of culture, and to investigate the role of patterns in society in a wider variety of regional and national contexts.

Within the educational context, on topic could be learning patterns, but also patterns of identifying non-formal and informal learning. Within the artistic context, topics could be a pattern language for films based on costumes, settings and music in films. Within the organizational context, topics could be collaboration patterns, presentation patterns and change making patterns. An interesting question could also be to analyse organisations with regard to growth and identify underlying patterns of growth.

Theoretical and Methodological Issues

We welcome the theoretical diversity which reflects the enormous variety of the topics being studied in terms of research issue, level of analysis, sectoral context, and cultural location. We would suggest, however, that there is a need for more studies to be explicitly critical, in the academic sense of that term, and to draw on appropriate critical theories to support research objectives.

With respect to methodology, much of the current literature on pattern languages uses case studies and broadly interpretive research methods. We would also like to see more action research studies and works on the methodology of pattern mining. There are surprisingly few reported in the literature on pattern languages for societal change. Action research would appear to be particularly relevant in contexts where resources are scarce, when it can be argued that outside researchers should not only go away with data for their academic papers, but should also aim to make a contribution in the research setting itself.

Connection to Other Literature

The field of pattern languages has always drawn on literature from other related fields, for example economics and organization studies. We would like to see synergies between patterns, pattern languages, and other research fields better developed in the future.


We end this introductory paper with some reflections on the process of editing the book. We believe that the selected papers are immensely important for the corresponding areas of interests and that they will be frequently quoted and consulted in the years to come. The editors would like to thank all the authors who have submitted their precious manuscripts to this conference and to ask for their understanding for our possible mistakes. Moreover, we would like to thank George Platts as the game master of the PURPLSOC 2015 conference as well as the whole audience for their active participation, great enthusiasm and spirit.

Our thanks also go to the many anonymous reviewers, who have worked so devotedly under our severe constraints. We would also like to thank all the reviewers, too many to mention by name, who responded to our requests for reviews in a professional and timely way. This book bears the name of the editors, but hidden referees would merit, in many cases, to be credited as well for so many freely given suggestions, generous improvements and detailed corrections.

We would like to thank the Department of Interactive Media and Educational Technologies at Danube University Krems for the administrative support, and in particular Ingrid Muthsam and Wolfgang Rauter who handled the high volumes of work associated with the conference proceedings.

Dear reader, we hope you enjoy this book.

Peter Baumgartner


Tina Gruber-Muecke


Richard Sickinger



Alexander, C. (1964). Notes on the synthesis of form. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Alexander, C., Ishikawa, S., & Silverstein, M. (1977). A pattern language: towns, buildings, construction. New York: Oxford University Press.

Alexander, C. (1979) The Timeless Way of Building, Oxford University Press.

Alexander, C. (1999). The Origins of Pattern Theory: The Future of the Theory, and the Generation of a Living World. IEEE Software, 16(5), 71–82. doi:10.1109/52.795104. Lecture at the 1996 ACM Conference on Object-Oriented Programs, Systems, Languages and Applications (OOPSLA)

Alexander, C. (2003). The nature of order: an essay on the art of building and the nature of the universe (Vols. 1–4). Berkeley, California: Center for Environmental Structure.

Beck, K. and Cunningham, W. (1987) ‘Using Pattern Languages for Object-oriented Programs’, OOPSLA-87 Workshop on the Specification and Design for Object-Oriented Programming.

Coplien, J. (1999) “A Pattern Language for Writers’ Workshops,” in Harrison, N., Foote, B., Rohnert, H. (eds), Pattern Languages of Program Design 4, Addison-Welsey Professional.

Coplien, J.O., Harrison, N.B. (2004) Organizational Patterns of Agile Software Development, Prentice Hall.

DeLano, D.E. (1998) ‘Patterns mining,’ in Rising, L. (Ed.): The Patterns Handbook: Techniques, Strategies, and Applications, Cambridge University Press.

Gamma, E., Helm, R., Johnson, R. and Vlissides, J. (1994) Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software, Addison-Wesley.

Hoover, D. and Oshineye, A. (2009) Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman, O’Reilly Media.

Iba, T., (2014) A Journey on the Way to Pattern Writing: Designing the Pattern Writing Sheet. PLoP 2014 proceedings.

Manns, M.L. and Rising, L. (2005), Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas, Addison-Wesley.

Manns, M.L. and Rising, L. (2015) More Fearless Change: Strategies for Making Your Ideas Happen, Addison-Wesley Professional.


From Noam Chomsky and Christopher Alexander to Heinrich Lausberg: Rhetorical Framing for Pattern Analysis

Aspalter, Christian | Bauer, Reinhard

Leveraging Pattern Applications via Pattern Refinement

Falkenthal, Michael | Barzen, Johanna | Breitenbücher, Uwe | Fehling, Christoph | Leymann, Frank | Hadjakos, Aristotelis | Hentschel, Frank | Schulze, Heizo

Towards a Fourth Generation Pattern Language: Patterns as Epistemic Threads for Systemic Orientation

Finidori, Helene | Borghini, Sayfan G. | Henfrey, Thomas

Guiding Patterns of Naturally Occurring Design: Elements

Henshaw, Jessie Lydia

Words for a Journey: A Pattern Language for Living Well with Dementia

Iba, Takashi | Kaneko, Tomoki | Kamada, Arisa | Tamaki, Nao | Okada, Makoto

The Fundamental Behavioral Properties

Iba, Takashi | Kimura, Norihiko | Akado, Yuma | Honda, Takuya

Pattern Language 3.0 and Fundamental Behavioral Properties

Iba, Takashi

The Cooking Language: Applying the Theory of Patterns into Cooking

Isaku, Taichi | Kubonaga, Emi | Iba, Takashi

Fostering Changemakers with Change Making Patterns: A Conceptual Framework for Social Change and Its Educational Applications

Nakamura, Sumire | Iba, Takashi

Survival Pattern Language: A Wayfinding Escape Pattern Language for Surviving an Earthquake with an Accompanying Tsunami

Neis, Hajo | Wright, Perrin

The Production of Cities: Christopher Alexander and the problem of “System A” at large scale

Porta, Sergio | Rofè, Yodan | Vidoli, Mariapia

Combining systems A and B: Creating a Pattern Language for the Unrecognized Bedouin Villages in the Negev, Israel

Rosner-Manor, Yaara | Rofè, Yodan

Patterns that Emotionally Engage - The Application of Storytelling for the Implementation of Pattern Languages

Sickinger, Richard