pattern languaging towards constellational gravity-mapping and beyond


Here’s to continue sharing from the math/programming/process/spiritual-space in me that peaked for the time being in the POOL / ALGO concept paper from mid may. i feel approaching a higher level of synergy on the blueprint between the two sides…. and in the spirit of this blog – i am sharing in the middle of my own process to challenge myself in formulating it. if you can’t follow me, don’t worry… i can’t follow myself on this ;) I am not an educated mathematician nor a programmer so people who know that stuff might find parts of it obvious or weird to look at it this way. So this is me pulling stuff together across the various fields that are alive in me… i am not sure if it’s ripe already – both in me and outside. but now that i started writing i guess it wants to come out :)


I had the wonderful chance to be in Rob Hopkins (founder of the Transition movement) workshop last weekend on the Transition Town Conference in Liverpool (resources from the harvesting team here & here) when he introduced for the first time the new “ingredient-cards” (photo from Rob’s blog) he created along with his coming book “The Transition Companion“.

And on another end of the global net of emerging goodness i am hearing from the group around Tree Bressen in Oregon that their work on the Group Pattern Language has come to a stage where they have a set of 91 patterns ready that cover the various patterns they observed can occur or can be created in group-fields.

Here is an example of a Listening Card set (via @tomatlee) and in that light all “angel card sets” or other inspiration- or meaning-creation-through-intuitively-choosing-pools (see also symbols and meaning post) become interesting for this algorithmic explorations. And here more PLs-ish: Reliable Prosperity, Public Sphere Project and a whole list on the

And there are more fields that have already or are mapping their stories out in patterns – watch out for it :) and it’s a fun experiment to spend a few hours just noting down social patterns in public space as you walk through it and then cluster it afterwards!

If you haven’t heard the term ‘pattern language‘ – the architect Christopher Alexander coined it. he has meanwhile written four amazing books on the ‘The Nature Of Order‘.

Jascha Rohr‘s genius thoughts and an explorative workshop with him around a software for working with pattern language put me initially on that track.

The basic idea of a pool of content and then re-combinating these into playlists and clusters you find all over the place meanwhile. iTunes, iPhoto and the AdressBook for instance work like that.


let me start with describing the experimental process i did with my KaosPilot team earlier this year. i asked people to stand in a circle in the room and then the first person goes into the middle and calls out a few (3-5ish) other names from the team that she would like to be in group with (the purpose of that desired subgroup is irrelevant for now to describe the process). the people she names will come physically into the center of the circle and remain there for a few seconds experiencing each other as a subgroup – honoring that this is one possible subgroup out of million possible ones that could be formed with 33 people. but this one is special because one person called this specific subgroup in – so there was real social intelligence and meaning involved in the choosing. then this subgroup melts back into the whole group-circle and the next person goes in the middle to call in their preferred subgroup.

while that physical process is going on i am also collecting these subgroups in a little program i wrote (in Processing). it looks like this…

… and i can just drag a subgroup of people into the little circle and press enter to save the names of these people in a subgroup. if everyone creates one subgroup that gives me 33 subgroups. these then get split into around 1000 sub-subgroups to lay out all combinations of 2 or 3 that are present in a group of 4 for instance (don’t worry if you just got lost). then the algorithm counts this all through and prints a ranking of sub-subgroups. in other words, this shows the constellational gravity in the social field. in the ranking below the group of 4 for instance that appeared 4 times in different subgroups is quite stable for instance…

T16subgroupRanking shorter

(and it’s much longer than this screenshot). so, what to do with this? i don’t really know, but i am deeply intrigued by it. KNOWING how impossible it is to ever calculate the complexity of social dynamics – i find so much juice at the threshold to mathematical space. so… just looking at it for now :) an interesting question now is how to calculate optimal subgroups based on this sub-subgroup ranking! and i am about to learn that with the help of programming-friends that i am very grateful to be in touch with!

here is a quick’n’dirty quadrant-thingy of what i’d imagine the algorithms in that field needs to be able to do – Rob’s ingredient cards for instance are sensitive to the order in which they are put down while in forming groups of people the togetherness as such is relevant and not their order.

Algo quadrants

besides forming group this can be applied in endless situations. in my paper from may i show how it can be used in structuring websites or to explore the constellational gravity-field inprocess-tools.

another fun application would be to take a map of 1000 yoga positions [@astama ;) ] in a particular tradition and then record the different concrete playlists a yoga teacher creates from this in his day-to-day teaching (for instance the 8 postures we do today and the 7 we do tomorrow – order is very important here) and map the meaningful list fragments (@goonth) / the constellational gravity-field there :)

now… talking about conscious manipulation or to bridge large systemic interdependencies into my immediate sphere of emotional impact that i derive my actions from here and now (see my post on spheres) – or the art that can create the ‘compassion of nearness that brings this things so close to you as if an eyelid touches your cheek’ (Jay Griffiths in her beautiful speech at the Transition Conference) – what if the CURATOR utilizes constellational gravity-map to create bundles of art pieces that are likely to address the full human spectrum? this add’s this flavor and this and that other flavor’s – together it will amplify the emotional impact in you and maybe move you to action – i know this sounds so manipulative… and yes, i guess that’s what it is – but i guess this is what the ad industry is doing all the time anyway :) penetrating the consumer with various vectors of desired impact to get him buy that thing? so let’s hack these mechanism for “the good” ;-p

Emotional spectrum

i guess this whole thing is another twist to the space in me that i called realogies, parallelophors, consistency of shape (Andreas Weber), fractal fluid organism (@gavinkeech) and various expressions of the same process creatures (inspired by @jascharohr) earlier… inspired through the Social Sculpture field that i am in right now in Oxford…

so… here is an abstract to-do list to create constellational gravity maps :)

– – – [

overview/context-soaked-person in a field creates first bulk of meaningful patterns/alphabet that map out the possible bricks of what’s going on in the field (especially in movements where generic patterns occur that contextualize in locality). have the rest of the pattern-alphabet continued to be crowd-sourced and refined by the community and overview-person.

use these patterns to map stories, processes, clusters or journeys that are happening within that field. continue to refine the set of extracted patterns as you re-apply them in your field in that way.

take these pattern-lists/stories from the field and run analyzing-algorithms to scan for meaningful-list-fragments /constellational-gravity amongst the patterns either with order as a meaningful criteria or not. display these gravity/clustering-/ordering-intelligence to the community and be sensitive to the responses and swirls this creates in the social field.

curate meta-constellation-creation of impact vectors to amplify and strive for wholeness, based on 1) pure curator intuition or 2) a system of overview that allows to create holistic bundle of impact-vectors that together addresses their core from all possible angles. the full emotional spectrum for instance.

go for a beer.

– – – ]

or shorter

name patterns in your field  >  map stories from the field as playlist of patterns  >  process these playlists for meaningful list fragments

anyway… watch that space of pattern languages and what’s possible if we map fields of constellational gravity… and especially as amazing minds build meta-pattern-systems (like Gavin’s @entpm & Dylan’s @uzazu) that may allow that kind of analyzing and synergizing across completely ‘different’ fields! not to self: this is when the POOL and the ALGO part become one ;)


note from March 10, 2012: if i’d do the synergizing map again i’d add a 3rd part to POOL and ALGO: MAPPING


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Benjamin Aaron Degenhart

Currently pursuing a Masters in Computational Science and Engineering at TU Munich.

4 thoughts on “pattern languaging towards constellational gravity-mapping and beyond”

  1. I enoyed your processing…

    Two thoughts…
    1) In the circle of people, consider the type of conversations you have with each person. How is that as an organizing or sub-grouping principle (e.g. people you complain to, celebrate with, open fully with, are guarded with, buy stuff or services from, compliment, insult, party with, do formal work with, loving, enlivening, constraining…). Consider that the sum of these conversations is who you are. What algorithym will allow you to select, not on their identity, but on the relationship you have with each person, and thereby create a self portrait? Also, if elements of a pattern language are inserted in the place of people, then you have an app for working with pattern card decks.

    2) (a beginning) I have designed card decks for the 256 patterns from Christopher Alexander’s (et al) A Pattern Language, Sarah Susanka’s Patterns of Home, and am particpating in the group pattern language project. I see these as learning tools that facilitate the application of ideas…getting concepts off the pages (or screens) and into people’s lives.


    1. thanks Gertrud – i am glad you let your brain dance with me :) hugs to you too.

      hey Dan! thanks for showing up, much appreciated! where are you based? in Oregon? i’d love to talk with you f2f someday. otherwise; i am “benjaminaaron” on skype.

      i like the “self-portrait”… i guess in a pattern-meshworking-app you could create self-portraits from many many angles. your search-pathway in itself would be one of them :)


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