Industrial Hermeneutics

I work for a company that sells enterprise software that collects and interprets measurements. Our staff must understand the software that we instrument and as we grow that software is of increasing complexity. Every day I ask how I might help them understand something outside of their experience.

I am drawn to the study of people and their interaction with the software they write because the problem is complex enough to be interesting and still simple enough to be tractable.

To the degree I understand hermeneutics I believe it studies the process of understanding texts.

author ⇒ text ⇒ reader ⇒ meaning

I have described my work here as a Test Signal that is similar to that we might see as data collected from a customer's system.

customer ⇒ system ⇒ simulation ⇒ data ⇒ advice

To that end I write models that represent aspects of large systems that are of commercial interest. I insert my model as the simulation in the above information flow.

I enjoy this work because the behavior I specify always surprises me. I ask, what did I say that made the program do this?

I also ask, if people really build systems that work this way are they steering the world in a direction that anyone wants it to go?

Ethnographers suggest designers imagine personas for the systems they build. I have done this for wiki during its first year. See Personas

My software gives my colleagues something concrete to study when they are imagining how their software will be used. I call it the Personatron.

Today I build software where modeled people interact with modeled systems producing data that can be analyzed. There are plenty of opportunities for me to make mistakes and draw wrong conclusions. I don't believe I am at any more risk than any forward thinking intellectual.