Software Practice in a South American City
- Co-Winner, 2013 American Sociological Association Section on Communication and Information Technologies (CITASA) Book Award.
272 pp., 6 x 9 in, 5 figures
- Published: September 21, 2012
- Published: September 21, 2012
An examination of software practice in Brazil that reveals both the globalization and the localization of software development.
Software development would seem to be a quintessential example of today's Internet-enabled “knowledge work”—a global profession not bound by the constraints of geography. In Coding Places, Yuri Takhteyev looks at the work of software developers who inhabit two contexts: a geographical area—in this case, greater Rio de Janeiro—and a “world of practice,” a global system of activities linked by shared meanings and joint practice. The work of the Brazilian developers, Takhteyev discovers, reveals a paradox of the world of software: it is both diffuse and sharply centralized. The world of software revolves around a handful of places—in particular, the San Francisco Bay area—that exercise substantial control over both the material and cultural elements of software production. Takhteyev shows how in this context Brazilian software developers work to find their place in the world of software and to bring its benefits to their city.
Takhteyev's study closely examines Lua, an open source programming language developed in Rio but used in such internationally popular products as World of Warcraft and Angry Birds. He shows that Lua had to be separated from its local origins on the periphery in order to achieve success abroad. The developers, Portuguese speakers, used English in much of their work on Lua. By bringing to light the work that peripheral practitioners must do to give software its seeming universality, Takhteyev offers a revealing perspective on the not-so-flat world of globalization.
By examining software development in the 'wrong place' of Rio de Janeiro, Yuri Takhteyev shows us with vivid accounts and clear narrative how individuals who work far from the geographic hubs of their field create local connections and shape local environments even as they embrace global culture and pursue global dreams for themselves and their locations. The concept of a 'wrong place' proves an immediately beguiling and completely original approach for understanding work in the global setting; Takhteyev's choice of Rio, in particular, is nothing short of brilliant.
Diane Bailey, School of Information, University of Texas at Austin
Coding Places opens the black box of 'globalization' to show us the pieces involved in that process—people, technical objects, government agencies, universities, businesses—in intimate detail: how they work, what they need to survive, what they furnish to others, the network of their connections, conflicts, and accommodations. We see the whole machine in operation: how the many possible inputs generate a variety of outputs, technically and organizationally. And we learn a way of thinking that we can apply to the arts, science, or business, to any kind of activity with worldwide extension and ramifications. It does all this with a depth of vision and a clarity in telling the story seldom found in the social sciences.
Howard S. Becker, author of Outsiders and Art Worlds
Software development is no longer limited geographically but is expanding to different regions of the world. Yuri Takhteyev has produced an insightful work that provides a critical account of software developers and their role in the global knowledge economy. This is a fascinating story of knowledge workers in a region that has the potential to become the next Silicon Valley.
Alladi Venkatesh, Professor and Associate Director, Center for Research on Information Technology, University of California, Irvine