Reflections on Emergence

I met Ward Cunningham to seek guidance on how Jami and I might create a framework for replicating cultural transformation in other school districts. One that allowed the impact of what we learned in Dayton to spread.

We knew that cultural transformation would look different in every district. But might there be elements of the journey that could help guide others?

Ward played a pivotal role introducing Christopher Alexander's model of pattern languages to the software industry. He had a tremendous impact on how software is developed today and helped lay the foundation for what was to become Agile.

I thought, perhaps, he might have insight as we sought to create a framework for cultural transformation in schools.

He agreed to help. But then he continued, "Might you be interested in learning about my new wiki?"

At the time, I didn’t realize the impact of this simple offer.

Ward created the original wiki to enable software developers to share pattern languages with each other. That platform went on to become the foundation for the single largest repository of knowledge ever created.

But he felt that this original wiki design didn't fulfill his original intention. So he re-imagined it, calling this new platform a federated wiki.

He give me a simple instruction. Note insights, label them, then find a time to reflect on them by writing a page in this new wiki.

And so I did, trying to better understanding the meaning of what I had learned in these years of working with Jami. I would recognize insights as they appeared in my thoughts and then find time to explore them, seeking to explain their essence as simply as I could.

Day after day. Page after page. Before long I had over 400 pages of concepts. As I wrote them, I began to notice how different concepts were connected to each other. So I began to link these pages together. I ended up with a complex labyrinth of interconnected ideas.

I had seen Ward use graphic tools to visualize pattern languages. I asked him if he might be able to graphically visualize these linked ideas, recognizing that some concepts were frequently referenced. They were, in a sense, anchor concepts, that might begin to allow decipherable patterns to be formed. And they did.

But they were still difficult to share, for it was too easy to get lost along all of these paths. It was then I realized that I needed to tell a story to guide others into the meaning of what I had learned.

Through a story arc I could introduce concepts that might lead the reader into a garden of concepts that was a subset of my original pages. A garden where different paths could be followed.

Hypertext was inspired in part by Jorge Borges' short story, _The Garden of Forking Paths_. It was my hope that this unusual book structure might provide you, dear reader, with the experience of hypertext even though you are reading in a traditional book format.

An experience that allowed you to create your own meaning - inspired by _your_ curiosity. Meaning formed spatially, just as hypertext enables new ways of spatial learning through an internet-enabled Web.

All of this to answer the question, "Why did my daughter think differently from me?"

Yes, perhaps Marshall McLuhan was indeed right.