Monday, April 26, 2010


Making Monday

Systems and structures have been a fundamental part of the way I understand the world for as long as I can remember. If it's not the innate product of some gene, then the genesis of my systematic perspective probably dates back to the Lego™ set I had as a child.

I received both formal and informal training in systems at school: I was influenced by the book, Gödel, Escher, Bach, and I took a course called Systems Dynamics. After all of that, I can give you the following brief definition: a system is a set of symbols and the rules by which those symbols may be manipulated.

That may sound pretty abstract, but in simple, concrete terms, a system is a game. The symbols are the pieces or the players, and the rules are ... the rules.

If you stop and think about it, practically everything in the human world is a system: all our technology, our laws, our businesses, and most kinds of social interactions involve things that can be manipulated and rules for manipulating them. 

Even things that appear to be single objects can be systems in both their structure and the sequence of operations by which they are produced.

A systematic perspective is at the core of the practical arts of the makers. Put another way, to be a maker, you must understand the relationships between the whole and the parts.

 Image: Bill Longshaw /