The social (dis)organisation of software: Failure and disorder in information society

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Anthropology (The), 2014, 25 (2), pp. 190 - 206
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Software is a mode of ordering social, workplace, and individual activity. However, despite years of research by software engineers into requirements engineering (that is the gathering and evaluation of what is required from software by users) new software is renowned both for its failure rates and for the disruptions it causes. This article explores the interaction of new software, or new implementations of software, with the ongoing politics and dynamics of the 'workspace'. In so doing it criticises common ideas that in information or network societies the technological infrastructure is robust and stable, that knowledge flow is positive and beneficial and that networks strengthen social resilience and rationality. The article is illustrated with observations of a software installation, together with interviews with those affected at various levels of different organisations in Australia and demonstrates that instability and disorder is inherently tied to processes of ordering by computers. © 2014 Australian Anthropological Society.
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