Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pattern Language and HCI

For many years I have been intrigued by the notion of Pattern Language as developed by Christopher Alexander. It is obvious that I am not the only one in the field of HCI and design in general who has found this particular way of structuring knowledge about design and designs interesting. There are numerous attempts by researchers and practitioners to develop pattern languages for one or the other aspect of interaction design. Personally, I have not been involved in any serious work with pattern language development or use, so I do not have a lot of hands-on experience, but I have since the first time I read about the idea in the early 1980s constantly reflected upon its fundamental assumptions, philosophical claims, and practical promises.

I am therefore very happy that Yue Pan (a phd student in HCI in my department) approached me and suggested a study on the present status of pattern language in our field. We are at the moment interviewing a number of people who have developed patterns and pattern languages and who have also written and published about their experiences. It seems as if the idea of pattern language in design has never become fully successful but at the same time the idea never goes away. There is a constant stream of new attempts to apply it in some way or another, and a constant stream of people who are again intrigued by the overall philosophy and idea.

Interviewing all these people about their experiences and expectations about pattern language is exciting. These experts are highly knowledgeable about the topic, they have concrete hands-on experiences and they have wonderful insights about the nature of pattern languages and its use. Yue and I are working on a paper where we will present our findings. Maybe we will be able to say something interesting about the status of pattern language and its potential future in our field. We'll see.

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