Lively minds and smart people

January 12, 1996

Darrel Ince questions the practical value of the methodologies developed by software engineering and indicates applied mathematics as an alternative paradigm. A more radical, and more satisfying, move might be to develop the insight offered by the judiciary and legislature of the United Kingdom by their categorisation of a computer program as an "original . . . literary work" for the purposes of copyright.

The categorisation does alert us to those non-verbal forms of writing, including mathematical and logical notations, which can be regarded as precursors of computer programming languages. In particular, disciplines concerned with the transformation of written texts might contribute to an understanding of the software engineering process. For instance, textual bibliography has developed an informed understanding of the relations between the conditions of production and transmission and the final product, including the possibility of revision introducing error. Translation studies aims, not at a series of prescriptions, but a better understanding of the process of translation, which may then assist translators in their practical tasks.

Were these connections to be developed, software engineering could learn from established disciplines and its theory and practice be dialectically engaged, not mutually separated.

Julian Warner

Lecturer in information management

The Queen's University of Belfast

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