Bridging The Gap

Kevin Jones writes, the need to allow social networks to evolve rather than being built to an architectural construct of seemingly appropriate, but actually limiting and ultimately network-ecosystem-impoverishing behavior norms is crucial but beyond our current capability. It’s a problem that is so complex in its multidimensional complexity that it needs to be made simpler.

Christopher Alexander explains how a physical space is designed and then evolves to be useful and comfortable in his book The Timeless Way of Building (a highly recommended read, although personally I find some of the mysticism around the “quality without a name” a bit drawn out).

Some of the components are

  • a collection of condensed architectural best practices (”patterns”) to be used in various situations
  • articulating via “pattern language” a flexible plan tailored to a particular environment
  • planning large structures in a hierarchy of scale: parts of rooms, rooms, single building, collections of buildings, cities
  • explicitly “repairing” the design as people start to use the space in ways that were not foreseen
  • creating without ego, to allow a “living” space to emerge for the people who live there

I think similar processes would work for online spaces, but there are some impediments:

  • whereas architectural patterns of use have thousands of years of experience to draw on, online interactions have only been occurring for decades. It will take time to learn how people best interact online.
  • it is only recently that a catalytic number of non-tech people have come to see computers and connectivity as a useful part of their everyday lives
  • the “building materials” of online spaces at different scales — computers, programming toolsets, interoperation standards — are still rough, in flux, and often embroiled in market competition

We’ll get there, but it will take time. :)

Comment (1)

  1. bopuc wrote::

    When thoughts collide

    I received today my copy of Christopher Alexander’s “The Timeless Way of Building” and floated down through the two first chapters as though carried by a gently nimble stream of clear water. More peaceful pondering on that later. I ordered…

    Thursday, March 4, 2004 at 20:51 #