An Exploration of the Phenomenology of Software Development


I was lucky to be in the audience last week, when Charles Tolman visited Accu Bristol to preview his Accu 2013 conference talk: “An Exploration of the Phenomenology of Software Development”.

The talk precis is entirely accurate — but maybe not so helpful. What this talk actually delivers is a highly original and thoughtful examination of what the software development revolution is and how we can make sense of it.

Charles Tolman’s central insight is that we have crossed a boundary. New tools and technologies have extended our powers. Just as machinery developed in the industrial revolution extended our physical abilities, so software developed in the information technology revolution extends our capacity for thought.

Essentially, software development is thinking, so to analyse it we need to think about thought. With this realisation we can view our industry as a continuation of the efforts of earlier thought workers — philosophers such as Descartes and Goethe.

If this all sounds a bit heavy, Charles made space for anecdotes, humourous insights and pictures of gliders. I look forward to future episodes.