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The discursive constitution of software development

Cornut, Francis (2009) The discursive constitution of software development. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The successful development of software continues to be of central interest, both as an academic topic and in professional practice. Consequently, several software development approaches and methodologies have been developed and promoted over the past decades. However, despite the attention given to the subject and the methodical support available, software development and how it should be practiced continue to be controversial. This thesis examines how beliefs about software development come to be socially established as legitimate, and how they come to constitute software development practices in an organization. It is argued that the emergence of a dominant way of conceiving of and practicing software development is the outcome of power relations that permeate the discursive practices of organizational actors. The theoretical framework of this study is guided by Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of symbolic violence and organizational discourse theory. As a research method, ethnographic research techniques are utilized as part of a case study to gain deep insights into the standardization of software development practices. The research site is the IT division of a large financial services organization and is composed of ten units distributed across eight countries. The tumultuous development of a knowledge management programme intended to institutionalize a standard software development process across the organization’s units provides the case for this research. This thesis answers the call for studies providing detailed accounts of the sociopolitical process by which technically oriented practices are transferred and standardized within organizations. It is submitted that a discourse theoretical approach informed by Bourdieu’s thinking enables us to conceptualize this process in a more meaningful, and theoretically rigorous, manner. In providing this theoretical approach, the thesis seeks to contribute to current research on technology and innovation management, and to offer guidance on some issues concerning the management of the software development process.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2009 Francis Cornut
Library of Congress subject classification: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA76 Computer software
Sets: Departments > Information Systems and Innovation Group
Supervisor: Avgerou, Chrisanthi

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