Humans in the Loop: People at the Heart of Systems Development

Sharp, Helen (2024). Humans in the Loop: People at the Heart of Systems Development. In: Werthner, Hannes; Ghezzi, Carlo; Kramer, Jeff; Nida-Rümelin, Julian; Nuseibeh, Bashar; Prem, Erich and Stanger, Allison eds. Introduction to Digital Humanism: A Textbook. Springer, Cham, pp. 359–371.



Despite increased automation in the process, people are (still) at the heart of software systems development. This chapter adopts a sociotechnical perspective and explores three areas that characterize the role of humans in software systems development: people as creators, people as users, and people in partnership with systems. Software is created by specialist developers such as software engineers and non-specialists such as “makers.” Software developers build communities and operate within several cultures (e.g., professional, company, and national), all of which affect both the development process and the resulting product. Software is used by people. Users also operate within communities and cultures which influence product use, and how systems are used feeds back into future systems development. People and systems are interdependent: they work in partnership to achieve a wide range of goals. However, software both supports what people want to do and shapes what can be done.

Plain Language Summary

People are at the heart of systems development. They take various roles in connection with software and systems development: creators, users and partners. People and software are inter-dependent and we have more influence over systems evolution than we might think!

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions