Metapattern, a concise introduction to principles

Pieter Wisse, Information Dynamics

a new technology for new applications

Developments of basic information and communication technology on the one side, and its applications on the other, follow tightly interwoven paths. Ever more complex requirements for applications, however, now find traditional technology lacking. The fundamental difficulty lies in serving an extremely volatile, multifaceted reality. In short, our information society needs adequate tooling.

The equally fundamental solution declares time and context as principal dimensions of information. Information tools should ideally — and flexibly — support their variation.

Here, a concise introduction to the metapattern is presented. For a comprehensive description see Metapattern: context and time in information models (Addison-Wesley, 2001). Labeled KnitbITs, software is engineered by Information Dynamics for prototyping applications the metapattern way, i.e., including pervasive variability of time and context.




The metapattern views change as the rule. Recording every change at its finest discernable granularity, the integrity of every aggregation imaginable is guaranteed. The actual recording mechanism is through addition of information. It holds that both historical and future-oriented information is available as a matter of principle. The relevant 'state of information' is dynamically compiled with a point-in-time as the criterion. A sequence of time-points results in a longitudinal view of information.



double time

The metapattern extends information dynamics beyond the instance level. How information is patterned may vary, too. Variable patterns remain operationally integrated. A whole order of innovative information requirements can therefore be practically addressed. Users will find information available regardless of changes in pattern. Operational variability at the pattern level also stretches the life cycle of information systems & services. This offers advantages for development and maintenance.




Professionally applied, object orientation already offers important improvements for information processing. However, it limits a particular object instance to one, and only one, object type or class.

This contrasts with reality where for example a person exhibits behavioral differentiation. His behavior is shown to be consistent, not overall, but always in particular contexts. As with change, not an exeception but a rule must therefore be made of contextual typing.

Modeling the metapattern way, an overall information object is supplied with the set of contexts, necessary and sufficient for reflecting the real object's behavioral variety. An individual person acts specifically as for example a physical person, the employee of a particular organization, the member of a particular society, a refugee from political repression, a registered citizen, etcetera. For every context, his behavior is correspondingly differentiated.



combined effects

Pervasive, explicit recognition of time secures fundamental dynamics of information processing. And with recognition of contexts, information objects are fitted with the requisite variety of types annex behaviors. But then especially combining time and context in information processing provides the elegant, powerful solution for hitherto unmanageable requirements. It allows for limiting change to the most-detailed, contextually determined properties of an object, leaving the object in all other contexts unaffected. The granular structure makes for an optimally compact information base with improved opportunities for variety and power in practical use.



2000, web edition 2002.