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Beyond Patterns: Technological Systems and The Nature of Order

Jerome Scheuring · Full Stack Fest 2017

Design patterns have been a part of the vocabulary of software design for some time. The patterns community in software development drew inspiration from the work of architect Christopher Alexander, at the UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Design.

Alexander's work throughout the early years of the 21st Century, however, has shifted its focus to more fundamental levels of architecture and aesthetics, looking beyond patterns to The Nature of Order. The renewed focus is on the properties and transformations that underlie both aesthetics and functionality.

At the same time, the scope of system design has moved broadly away from straightforward client-server technology stacks. Systems and services are now expected by end users to be accessible from innumerable points including wearable or embedded devices through mobile phones, tablets, augmented or virtual reality systems, voice assistants, conversational “chat” bots, and others only barely conceived. As designers of the new range of experiences enabled by this technology, we require new ways to describe, to communicate, and to reason about these increasingly complex systems.

This talk describes one such approach: an understanding of the craft of system design that takes its inspiration from functional programming, and from The Nature of Order as an earlier generation did from A Pattern Language.