exploring the relationship between social science and software development methodologies: a blog by Pascal Belouin

As I tried to show in my previous post, the apparition of agile development methodologies could be interpreted as a sign of an evolution of the discourse surrounding software development (and, therefore, software itself) towards social topics. Below are a few aspects of agile development methods that appear particularly significant in this context.

As illustrated by the agile manifesto, We could argue that the apparition of agile development methodologies could be seen as a reaction against ‘heavy’ development methods, such as waterfall or ISO-inspired development models. Thus, the founders of this movement started acknowledging the dynamic aspect and ever-changing nature of software requirements.

This is maybe there that a particular rapprochement could be made between the ever-changing nature of Discourse as theorised by Foucault, always subject to a struggle between various institutions for the establishment of one particular truth, and the process of requirement elicitation in the framework of a software development project. Thus, it appears that the notion of meaning, which has a central role in modern (and postmodern) social and psychological theory, invites itself into computer science terrain!

Another interesting aspect of agile development methodologies is their acknowledgement of the crucial importance of communication in software design. Again, the concept of communication is a classic area of sociological inquiry; This shift from a focus on technology to a focus on users, and the acknowledgement of the importance of values in the software development process all point towards a more ‘sociological’ view of software development.

But if that is the case, cannot we dig a bit deeper in the relationship between sociology and, let’s say, software engineering? Are we witnessing an explicit recognition of the importance of values and ‘ethics’, an acknowledgement of the subjective experience of the agents involved in software development and use?
A view of the requirement elicitation process as underlying the development process as a whole, and not simply as one of the stages of development?

Well, I guess that’s what I’m going to try and make a case for…

Related posts:

  1. Research proposal: a Bourdieusian ethnographic study of agile development methodologies
  2. A short and biased history of software development methodologies
  3. Research proposal : A Foucauldian analysis of the evolution of the discourse about software development methodologies
  4. Introduction
  5. Software as Discourse

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