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Computers in Context : The Philosophy and Practice of System Design - Bo Dahlbom

Computers in Context

The Philosophy and Practice of System Design


Published: 8th October 1993
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One of the most persistent problems in the world of computer technology and information systems is the low quality of the software being designed. When software systems are delivered too late, when they fail to meet the needs of their users, when only a fraction of their capacity is used, when their maintenance costs more than their development, when changes are impossible - then there is a frantic search for new and better engineering techniques and tools. Dahlbom and Mathiassen advocate a different approach to this problem: pausing and reflecting. Surprisingly little time in the education of systems developers is devoted to a consideration of the methods, goals and politics of computerization. Methods of software development are not neutral, the authors argue, but must be evaluated as specific frameworks for thinking about the role of technology in changing social organizations and the working lives of people. They identify three general sorts of frameworks that constrain analysis and decision-making in different ways: hard systems thinking, soft systems thinking and dialectical systems thinking. The core of this book is an examination of the notion of quality itself. The effective computer professional must transcend both quality assurance functions and quality control methods in a constant struggle to arrive at his or her own sense of what quality can and should mean in a particular situation, to resolve the inevitable creative tensions between the nature of people and that of computers, between structured systems and the process of change.

"Dahlbom and Mathiassen have written a pathbreaking book about software development in a meaningful human context. They examine key assumptions about the role of software developers, and their relationship to culture and work in a way which touches everyday practice and which can subtly transform it. It should be read by every practicing software developer." ? Rob Kling, University of California, Irvine

"I enjoyed this book. It is both more amusing and more challenging than the usual books on system design." ? Joseph A. Goguen, University of Oxford.


Part I. Systems.




Part II. Development.




Part III. Quality.




Part IV. Practice.

Computers and People.

Systems and Change.

From Philosophy to Practice.

Notes for Instructors.


Further Reading.



ISBN: 9781557864055
ISBN-10: 1557864055
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 320
Published: 8th October 1993
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 22.83 x 15.67  x 1.83
Weight (kg): 0.44
Edition Number: 1