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Accepted Contribution:

That’s annoying. We will have to write some custom code: ethnography of platform powered web software production work  
Nikita Aleinikov (Université Sorbonne Paris Nord)

Short abstract:

This communication proposes an in-depth exploration of platform powered software production work. Low-code platforms facilitate fast prototyping and encourage learning by doing. This technical shift invites us to consider the rising socio-material heterogeneity in web development practices.

Long abstract:

This communication presents some findings from an ethnographic study of computer work practices within a Parisian agency specializing in low-code software development. Low-code platforms are Software-as-a-Service tools that offer a visual programming framework for rapid design and workflow creation, in the field of web development in particular. Such platforms are often presented as empowering “non-tech” people such as designers to participate in complex technical projects.

Drawing on STS and HCI frames of analysis, we propose a pragmatic approach of ad hoc socio-technical arrangements and an account of web development which embraces John Law’s definition of “heterogeneous engineering”. In some sense, the process of constant negotiation between different entities such as colleagues, customers, platform infrastructures or computer code can be seen as an incessant prototyping. Therefore, we focus particularly on the tinkering practices and forms of collective learning which result in the emergence of the so-called MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

More precisely, this communication will discuss: (1) how the digital inscriptions such as “custom code” articulate the courses of action of different actors; (2) how talking about software development informs and streamlines “doing” software development; (3) how knowledge is distributed between humans and non-humans in the environment populated by no-code/low-code tools.

Combined Format Open Panel P285
Exploring the tools and uses of prototyping: investigating how knowing by doing takes shape
  Session 1 Tuesday 16 July, 2024, -