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To be or to become? An enquiry into the changing nature of requirements in open source health IT

Curto-Millet, Daniel (2014) To be or to become? An enquiry into the changing nature of requirements in open source health IT. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis develops a contemporary problematisation of software requirements. It departs from traditional conceptions of requirements as simple, tamed objects with deterministic force over socio-technical actors and based on assumptions of stability. Such views can lead to a narrow, ultimately unfruitful understanding of the significance of requirements and denied wider consequences of their modes of articulation. Instead, the thesis builds on perspectives where requirements are complex and interactive actors. The thesis uses openEHR—an open source health IT project aiming to build interoperable Electronic Health Records (EHRs)—as a case study. Studying open source practice offers a good opportunity to consider the nature of requirements because there is an ongoing debate about requirements’ role and influence on development activities and project organisation. The analysis uses Deleuzian concepts of assemblage, multiplicity and becoming. These themes align with a larger body of work influenced by STS and process oriented theorisations, which see the world as dynamic and performative. The philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari in particular provides a counter-balance to any assumed stability in the world. The thesis presents a new account of the nature of requirements, one that reflects their complex entanglement within software development and open source in particular. Requirements are not insipid descriptive statements that abstract and simplify the world deterministically. They have an intricate existence which serves to hold the potential in the assemblage to become many things. In particular, requirements insinuate themselves into a project’s identity, guide a project through territories—some to be explored, some to be disregarded—and demand specific ways to be recognised, engaged, and cared for. The thesis argues that requirements are more virtual than originally thought, having a subtle, not necessarily visible influence on their assemblages and the way socio-technical actors can potentially relate to the project itself.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Daniel Adrian Curto-Millet
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Sets: Departments > Management
Supervisor: Cornford, Tony

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