Ethnographically informed analysis for software engineers

S Viller, Ian Sommerville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


It is increasingly recognized that human, social, and political factors have a significant impact on software systems design. To address this, ethnographic studies of work have been used to inform the systems design process, especially in cooperative work settings where systems support several users working together. Based on our experience of these studies, we have investigated the integration of social analysis into the systems design process by developing an integrated approach to social and object-oriented analysis. New methods are unlikely to be adopted in industry unless they can be integrated with existing practice. Our approach, called Coherence, addresses this issue by helping identify use cases, generating initial use case models, and by using the Unified Modelling Language (UML) to represent social aspects of work that may have an impact on the design of computer-based systems. Coherence is the fusion of two well-established strands of research on ethnographically informed design and viewpoint-oriented requirements engineering. This paper introduces Coherence, and focuses on the support provided for social analysis. We have identified three social viewpoints, namely a distributed coordination viewpoint, a plans and procedures viewpoint and an awareness of work viewpoint. Coherence is illustrated using a case study based on an air traffic control system. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-196
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Journal of Human-Computer Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2000


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