Accepted Paper:

Error-driven development? On confluences between agile development methods, the character of software and errors as actors  


Roman Tischberger (Augsburg University)

Paper short abstract:

The contribution focuses on the question how practices of social organisation with Scrum, an 'agile' software development method, emerge from basic principles of software. Both, software and Scrum, try to set structures in order to avoid errors, which can be seen as actors, disrupting communication.

Paper long abstract:

Methods of agile software development, here in the example of Scrum, are widely established to organise social processes in everyday software labour. Software and methods of agile development are, at a first glance, two diverse things. While software can be understood as a complex technological text to enable different ways of controlling computers, Scrum identifies itself more as a mindset in project management, supported by different rules and roles.

However, both share an important commonality by offering explicit structures to regulate each their theoretical openness and try to tame contingency. In that point of view, developing software comes in iterative cycles of thinking, coding and testing - always following principles of logic and thereby the absence of errors. Scrum offers a toolset, putting communication and organisational workflows into ritualised meetings, and assigns specific duties to involved persons.

The character of software and the organisation of its development are furthermore highly entangled: in avoiding errors. Both phenomenons try to establish a working, error-free communication, in human-computer as well as in human-human interactions. Therefore, errors can be seen as non-human actors, which force human actors to re-do and improve their actions. Finally, errors are supposed to be hedged by structuring social organisation of developing, so software and its modes of development follow strategies of avoiding communicational conflicts.

The paper bases on a six-month fieldwork in a software company in Germany. One research focus lay on the social construction of software, organised by agile methods like Scrum, from the perspective of cultural anthropology.

Panel C20
Software & organisation