Mapping the Landscape of Patterns Across Domains – Vol. 1: Overview of Survey Results

Launched in February 2018 by the BCSSS Research Group Systems Science and Pattern Literacy, the Survey Mapping the Landscape of Patterns across Domains generated 140 responses.

In general terms, respondents come from a variety of disciplines: systems science, systems thinking, business consulting, computer science and information technologies, design, architecture, permaculture, activism, group facilitation and more. Many have selected a wide range of knowledge disciplines, both in theory and praxis, which shows an overall inclination to trans-disciplinary approaches.

We are sharing here the full, unfiltered answers to open key questions about patterns, their uses, and their relationship to systems, with a minimum of interpretation and processing except some loose clustering under broad themes for ease of overview for our readers. This advanced report only scratches the surface of the richness of what our respondents shared, in particular as far as practical aspects are concerned. A more detailed analysis of open questions can be found in Mapping the Landscape of Patterns Across Domains – Vol 2: Linguistic and Semantic Analysis. Our data is at the disposal of those who would like to have a shot at analyzing it, provided that such analysis is shared with us.


Overall, the variety of responses highlight the cross-cutting, and somewhat fundamental nature of the concept of pattern, in the eyes of our respondents, and the ubiquitous and versatile nature of patterns. This can be seen on this Textual Arc Animation, which shows the relationships between the terms used while each response is ‚read‘.

The synthesis of the responses led us to propose a definition of patterns that we feel is workable in a variety of contexts, and that we will refine as our research progresses:

  • an arrangement  > at different scales, part/whole, more or less ordered, more or less generative
  • of elements > of different orders, more or less abstract, nested or not
  • repeated or repeatable in space/time > similarity or difference, stability or contingency
  • that is cognized or recognized > observable, anticipable, identifiable, recognizable, mobilizable
  • as manifestation of ‘reality’ or features of a system at work
  • that helps inquiry, meaning-making and design
  • and the crossing of boundaries of different kinds
  • key in the understanding and orientation of systems behavior and outcomes.

For more information on the Systems Science and Pattern Literacy Research and to contact us, please visit the BCSSS Research Group Systems Science and Pattern Literacy page.

Helene Finidori & Maria Lenzi

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