Walking the line? The enactment of the social/technical binary in software engineering
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionEngineering Studies. 2009, 1 (2), 129|-149. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19378620902911584
This article shows how professional communication practices with customers are accounted for in software engineering. It looks at how communication and related activities are enacted and placed in relation to the so-called social/technical binary while also critically engaging with analyzing how this dualism is performed. Empirically, the article investigates how software engineering and communication with customers are framed in two settings: at one Norwegian university and in three Norwegian software companies. At the university, an effort was made to reframe software engineering as a communication-oriented rather than technically focused activity. However, faculty as well as students reproduced a technically focused framing of software engineering that externalizes communication. The framing observed in the companies was different, with less outspoken distinction between ‘technical’ and ‘social’ aspects. Rather, communication with customers was described as based and dependent on technical knowledge. However, a closer reading shows how the social/technical binary is maintained by a consistent reference to the technical in professional terms while communication is described in lay terms. Implications of this are discussed in the conclusion.