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Designing Cultural Rosaries and Meaning Malas to Sustain Associations within the Pattern that Connects


Introduction
Challenges
Proposed 'cultural rosary' or 'meaning mala'
Framing the design challenge
Design specifics
Content and function
Complex examples of cultural rosaries
Activating' the significance of the cultural rosary
Computer-related issues
References

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Introduction

There are any number of insightful documents on what ought to be done at every level of society. These tend to be lengthy and thus highlight the challenge of memorability -- length is ultimately counter-productive. It is difficult to comprehend and retain an integrative pattern of insights -- whatever the degree of support offered by computer technology. In addition whatever is offered tends to be as much an instrument of conceptual exhaustion -- rather than offering the possibility of recreation and empowerment of the individual, hopefully to be entrained by any new thinking.

This note explores the possibility of designing 'cultural rosaries' (or 'meaning malas') to hold associations forming patterns of supportive insight. As simple physical devices, they can be used as mnemonic instruments to reinforce insights that allow the individual (or group) to reframe comprehension of any context. They offer a constant reminder of other ways of thinking -- and alternative opportunities for acting.

Part of the title derives from Gregory Bateson's insight: "The pattern which connects is a meta-pattern. It is a pattern of patterns. It is that meta-pattern which defines the vast generalization that, indeed, it is patterns which connect.". And it is in this from this perspective that he warns: "Break the pattern which connects the items of learning and you necessarily destroy all quality." (1979, pp. 8-11).

In many ways this note is an encouragement to a do-it-yourself approach to the design of such rosaries or malas. It offers pointers to historical parallels, as well as evoking possibilities to be explored.

It offers pointers to historical parallels, as well as evoking possibilities to be explored.