Software and the social production of disorder

Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
International Symposium on Technology and Society, Proceedings, 2010, pp. 284 - 291
Issue Date:
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Software development is inherently an ordering process. When implemented in a workplace it orders the ways that people go about their work, the work they do, and the ways they interact and communicate with each other. This new mode of ordering may conflict with existing orders, existing distributions of power and knowledge, and arrangements of groups, and between groups. Ordering is almost always the subject of dispute, so software development can easily become enmeshed in the politicking between competing groups with deleterious effects. Removing all these conflicts may not be possible, as they can be an essential part of the ways relevant groups interact. Better communication, for example, may actually increase conflict, and not produce harmony. Rather than thinking of order and disorder as mutually exclusive polarities, it is more effective and realistic to think of them as constituting an 'order/disorder complex' and to expect disorder to appear alongside the ordering. This paper explores the problems of ordering and disordering through a study of changes in the Australian Customs' "Integrated Cargo System". We suggest that acceptance of some untidied mess, or openness to both dispute and unclarity, may be useful in implementing functional software. © 2010 IEEE.
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