The VISIpedia Approach

WHY A VISUAL ENCYCLOPEDIA?

What are the challenges?

– We do not have enough good collections of ‘’essential environmental issues & solutions’’ easy to access and expand.
– There is much more to harvest from our elders and active world changers!

– We are facing complex environmental challenges. To find new solutions and also to combine existing ones systematic thinking is essential. Understand the relationships between aspects, issues and actions could help people to understand and than contribute to positive global change.

– Most people nowadays do no have/take time to read thick books. So good information is buried in paper.
– General information has to be transmitted differently than 50 years ago – faster and more ‘attractive’ to the audience.
– Not all people take in information in the same way. But visual presentation is in the upraise, serving visual thinkers.

– Our brains do not work in a linear way. There is a need and a chance with the multimedia possibilities nowadays to create different ways of structuring information – more web like built on correlations.

PATTERN LANGUAGE

A pattern language is a collection of useful design practices, sorted in various scales and linked with each other when related. The method was developed by the US architect Christopher Alexander in the 1970ies focusing on the built environment. It has later been used in other fields like computer science and pedagogy.

The pattern language makes complex information accessible by ‘cutting’ it into smaller bits. For example there is a pattern called ‘Zen view’ explaining how to design special view from a flat. This pattern is than linked (with a reference number) to the pattern about rules for the height of a building (which of course has an influence on the view).

The ‘classic pattern consists of title, number, general description, drawings, pictures of a good or bad example and reference to other pattern that relate to it.

The scales of the design principles Christopher Alexander has captured, go from detailed instructions on the material of a building up to the level of the landscape or the city the building will be built in.

WHAT TO FOCUS ON?

As I can see now there are three scales: issues, strategies and tools.
My sense is that creating categories will help to harvest, present and use the information.
The stacking described below is a first model, that might need adaptation with possible more gradients or a different terminology.

>> ESSENTIAL ISSUES

On a Meta level there are things that are important to understand before one can think about solving things.
So this scale it is not so much about a specific way out of a problem, but more about seeing the relationship between aspects.

• An example would be climate change and the big currencies of the oceans regulating the weather. The impact of human activities changes these global dynamics.

• Another maybe on the first glimpse rather strange issue is the importance of ‘touch’ for the well being of humans. Andrew Langford, a respected teacher of mine once explained to us the dynamics in many western cultures, where young boys still learn to be tough and from a certain age on are dis-encouraged to hug parents and friends. Also when their sexual drive arises they might not be able to live it, being refused by the young women around. Again their core human need of physical touch is not fulfilled. If this happens repeatedly, pornography might get the main channel as a weak/strong replacement of loving physical connection.
>> HELPFUL STRATEGIES
Some great individuals and groups have developed approaches that combine new and old thinking, fresh and traditional ways to solve eco-social issues. They created ‘fields of solutions’ rather than ‘the solution’, offering a frame that can be used and expanded.

• Transition culture, a grassroots movement started by Rob Hokins in the UK, gathers tools for a sustainable regional development facing global warming and peak oil, aiming for resilience on energetically, economical and social level.

• Permaculture is a design strategy developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, that can be used to develop regenerative & low-maintained habitat modeled from natural ecosystems. Though mostly associated with the creation of gardens, the design principles can also be applied to other areas like organizational development.

>> HANDY TOOLS
In order to really ‘get something done’ one needs actual tools. Complex challenges ask for new ones. And there are many many new practices that support people in their world changing work – some are ways to communicate or make decisions, some are hands on building techniques using natural materials, some are new ways to exchange goods etc.

• Open Space is a new form of structuring an event, whereby all participants can make contributions. Lead by moderators people introduce their offering in the big circle, which is than organized in parallel sessions. The participants guided by a small set of rules than can explore the program in their own individual way.
• Terra Preta is a strategy to create very fertile black soil developed by indigenous people in the Amazon. Since a few years in the focus of eco-researchers people now test new ‘recipes’ to reproduce this black soil in other parts of the globe fermenting feces, charcoal, green cut and more.