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close and distant control: managing software development

Notes on Allen Higgins' doctoral studies...

Warwick Business School Doctoral Programme: My supervisor is Joe Nandhakumar, Professor of Information Systems at Warwick Business School

the practice and performance of software development work

The performance of writing software is an under-studied phenomenon in organisational studies of IS development. Key aspects of the process of software development are often glossed or treated unproblematically as ‘givens’, including; knowledge management, practices surrounding programming, collective creation and maintenance of source code, the dynamics of user programmer interactions. In this case interpretive research, in particular ethnographic methods, are indicated as these ‘unproblematic givens’ are not strictly amenable to quantitative research methods. The question posed is how to directly or vicariously access the phenomena of the software development workplace, for the purpose of theorising and generating insight into the problem of the technology object? Attempting to capture the sense and actuality of the wholeness of making software poses special challenges which appear on initial inspection to be unique to the work of software development. In the case of programming the focus of our attention is usually quite virtual, it is at times; the code (a text jointly authored collaboratively produced), an application running on a computer (an apparently more tangible object – but not always), or simply an idea or interpretation between actors (intersubjective and fragile). Software is the paradigmatic information technology artefact; read, interpreted and negotiated by and between the very many actors involved in its malleable construction (authors, readers, compilers, machines, and users).

While narrowly focused on computer programming this work relates to and is situated within a wider understanding of collaborative knowledge work. It is also hoped to contribute to a growing body of ethnographic studies attending to the performance of computer programming.

My publication and conference plan for the approaching year (restricted).

My web log at Warwick