I was pleased to learn last week that the workshop that Brian Marick and I proposed for Agile 2009 has been accepted. It’s titled “Idea Factory”; since that link goes to a page behind a login barrier, I’ll just reproduce the description here.


Ever heard a programmer say “I think the code’s trying to tell us something”? A joke, right? A metaphor. There’s a social world, where people tell people things, and there’s a world of objects that, at most, exert passive pressure.

But what if we deny that the two worlds are separate? What if we treat everything as a moving mashup of objects, ideas, individuals, and groups? This workshop will present some recent perspectives from sociology on that question, and will ask participants the following: if you believed in one of those perspectives, what would you do differently on your project?


We will repeat the following N times:

  • We will summarize a theory from sociology. During the summary, the two moderators will talk to each other as a way to encourage the audience to ask clarifying questions.
  • The introduction to the next section is: “OK. Lay aside your skepticism. Assume the theory is true. What should you do differently on your project? Shout out ideas.”
  • Like a brainstorming session, our goal is not to criticize ideas but to generate them. Unlike a brainstorming session, we’ll allow discussion of an idea with the aim of understanding it better or building upon it. We’ll also allow clarifying questions about the theory itself.
  • The discussion will continue until it begins to die down. The moderators will try to cut it short a little before people are fully ready to move on. (“Always leave them wanting more.”)

The exact workshop mechanics will depend on the crowd. If the crowd is small enough and lively enough, we’ll work as a single group. If that appears infeasible or doesn’t seem to be generating enough ideas, we’ll move into small group discussions with the moderators circulating through the groups answering or asking questions and helping people generate ideas. (Because of the latter possibility, we’ll want seating in the rounds.)

It’s entirely likely we won’t exhaust our fund of theories. That’s OK. (“Always leave them wanting more…”)

Learning outcomes

  • Callon & Latour’s actor-network theory
  • Star & Greisemer’s boundary objects
  • Galison’s trading zones
  • Fujimura’s packages

Post Revisions:

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