pattern v process

A process colleague wrote:

I need to ask a very basic question: What do YOU or others mean by "process" in contrast to "pattern"? I have not heard the distinction made before and now I'm surrounded by it. Of course I am familiar with "pattern" when used in "pattern language" but "process"? As in "process arts"? Or is roughly equivalent to what I might call "method" as in a particular "type of method". If you could take a minute or two to define or send me to a link, I'd be so grateful.

I responded:


I cannot speak directly to what other may mean by "process" but, briefly (short of the full dissertation), it marks a radical shift from a static Cartesian "Controlling Mind Mastering Knowledge" worldview. "Process" (beginning long before Whitehead, for instance in Heraclitus' notion of "soul") is rooted in a dynamic co-creative configuring of meaning which pauses to draw conclusions but sees them as always incomplete, much like recent physics will not factually distinguish between wave and particle. Process presupposed the limits of perspective, encourages epistemological humility, and embraces multiplicity and complexity by avoiding the pretense of certainty and other forms of literalism. As a myth(ology) it is a meaning-full fiction, like "soul", through which one may fully receive the poetic creativity of every day experience as it is "in process."

For our purposes, the distinction applies to seeing group interaction as a co-creative continuum (emergent design/discovery related to depth of understanding) rather than only in terms of discrete functionalism ("how can this chunk of matter/time/space be used most efficiently to produce what I want with the given human resources"). "Patterns" refers to the experience and description (rather than the "fact") of "archetypal" forms appearing in many contexts and categorized according to their similarity so that their difference and combination may be characterized and better understood in dynamic motion (process). Patterns are often revealed in telling stories about (fictionalizing) a group process, and speaking in terms of genre, which comes through French from Latin genus, generis, meaning "type," "sort," or "kind."

Directly applied to our project (developing a PLGP - pattern language for group process) we most often use "process" as a noun which refers to a specific configuration of patterns manifesting as a complex/system of group-based behavioral choices. "Process" may refer to a particular happening in historical time (past, present, or future) and place, or to the abstract configuration of choices (complex) which may be initiated and experienced by a group at some unspecified time and in any place. Voting is a pattern when voting for Representative of District 7 is a process, and also when democracy is a process. Democracy is a pattern when Governance is the process in question.

Thus, the distinction between pattern and process is an exercise in scope (vantage point) and perspective, as much of what we discuss as "a process" may be looked at in terms of its patterns and as a pattern itself. Also the "patterns" we write are almost always described in terms of the processes in which they appear and in words which are inherently processual. This discovery of the impossibility of ultimate classification (as either a process or a pattern) potentially keeps us humble and fluid in our understanding. It does not, as some loudly bemoan, lead to relativism, unless the patterns and processes are misused through being interpreted as literal things, rather than images and perspectives.

An example of practicing this "scope and perspective":
Scope: individual
Gathering In Person (pattern) seemed pretty helpful from my pov for moving the PLGP along. Using it and other patterns: Eating Together, Separating Into Sub-Groups, Selecting a Core Issue for Development through Debate, Telling Stories/Co-creating a Mythology, etc. we created a process.
Scope: group
We created a process, the description of which may retain a certain amount of abstraction but requires specific details, perhaps a Workshop Continuing Development of a PLGP.  I called the process we made  "Co-creating a pattern language for group process" on invitations. If our process were formalized through describing our approach, inviting/generating critique, iteration in various other applications, refinement, etc., and especially if we named our version something specific, then we would have a Method, perhaps The Pattern Language Development Process (PLDP). 
Scope: culture
From the perspective of a mind attempting to view the coming together of the process arts as a whole field, as a pattern what we are doing is reducible to "Forming a Language" and our process (adding specifics) might be "Building the Process Arts Community".

As our area of interest and is "Group Process," in a mythological system (in this case communitarian) consciously predisposed to certain kinds of group process (co-creative) over others (authority-based/directive), then our patterns will skew in the direction of forming processes which reinforce that mythology/belief system. This does not mean other basic forms of group process are not patterns (giving/following orders, establishing a chain of command and spheres of control, delineating supply lines and product delivery schema, etc.) just that they will not be included in our subset and PLGP unless framed in a way that supports our agenda.

Please let me know any areas you feel I have been unclear or provided unhelpful examples.


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see where we are also listing similar practices

  --Michel Bauwens (Not signed in).....Sun Jan 31 00:53:33 -0800 2010

The Bohm Dialogue, especially Collective Reflection has significance for me in terms of artistic critique and dialogue.

If one wanted to connect this to Jungian thought I'd relate to that.

  --Srule Brachman (Not signed in).....Mon May 21 17:09:16 +0000 2012





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