Reconfiguring the User: using Rapid Application Development

Mackay, Hugh; Carne, Chris; Beynon-Davies, Paul and Tudhope, Doug (2000). Reconfiguring the User: using Rapid Application Development. Social Studies of Science, 30(5) pp. 737–757.



Users or consumers have become increasingly prominent in sociological work on technology - as in the social sciences generally. This paper takes up and extends arguments developed by Steve Woolgar about how producers of technology `configure the user'. Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a recent technology (or methodology) for computer system development which emphasizes extensive user involvement throughout the development process. Drawing on ethnographic research of RAD, the paper develops four arguments. First, that decoding (by users) as well as encoding (by producers) is important for understanding technology production. Second, that designers configure users but they, in turn, are configured - both from within their own organizations, and by users. Third, that the boundary between user and designer is fluid and, indeed, configured. Finally, it develops the case for an extended actor-network approach which encompasses users or consumption.

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