Mental imagery and software visualization in high-performance software development teams

Petre, Marian (2010). Mental imagery and software visualization in high-performance software development teams. Journal of Visual Languages & Computing, 21(3) pp. 171–183.



This paper considers the relationship between mental imagery and software visualization in professional, high-performance software development. It presents overviews of four empirical studies of professional software developers in high-performing teams: (1) expert programmers' mental imagery, (2) how experts externalize their mental imagery as part of teamwork, (3) experts' use of commercially available visualization software, and (4) what tools experts build themselves, how they use the tools they build for themselves, and why they build tools for themselves. Through this series of studies, the paper provides insight into a relationship between how experts reason about and imagine solutions, and their use of and requirements for external representations and software visualization. In particular, it provides insight into how experts use visualization in reasoning about software design, and how their requirements for the support of design tasks differ from those for the support of other software development tasks. The paper draws on theory from other disciplines to explicate issues in this area, and it discusses implications for future work in this field.

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