2012-04-17 Interactional identity: designers and developers making joint work meaningful and effective

Interactional identity: designers and developers making joint work meaningful and effective

Presented by Judith Brown

Date: Tuesday April 17th, 2012
Time: doors open at 6:00 pm; talk begins at 6:30 pm
Place: TheCodeFactory, 246 Queen St., Ottawa, ON, Canada

How does identity enter into software creation work?  We studied collaborating interface designers and software developers engaged in multidisciplinary software creation work on novel software projects with significant user interface design challenges. Twenty-one designers and developers in 8 organizations were interviewed to understand how each specialist viewed their interactions with their fellow team members. We also shadowed most of these designers and developers for a week as they worked. The results of our analysis showed that designers and developers construct unique identities in the process of collaborating that are satisfying personally, provide meaning to their artifact-mediated interactions, and help them to effectively accomplish the work of creating novel software. Our model of interactional identities specifies a number of aspects of joint project work in which an interactional identity is expressed, such as project tensions. We suggest these identities are constructed to bridge a gap between how designers and developers were taught to enact their roles and the demands of project-specific work. We look at specific identities such as the “movie director” designer or the “binder” developer and show how these emerged as a direct response to past and present experiences, as well as touching on 19 others.  We show how people develop more effective interactional identities after about 10 years of experience in the field.  As part of this presentation we will launch a discussion on how practitioners can be encouraged to adopt more effective identities sooner.


Judith Brown is a post doctoral fellow at Carleton University in the Human-Oriented Technology Software Research Lab. Judith recently received her PhD in Psychology/Human-Computer Interaction as a result of her field studies of collaborative work on software teams. She is currently engaged in a project for creating team room software for large displays to be used by software teams, another project to enable collaborative security work in data centres, and another to look at how large displays can enable analysis work. Judith was a professor in Computer Science and Software Engineering for 15 years and has many publications in software engineering and HCI. She has 6 years of experience as a developer in the field of telecommunications.

When and Where:

This event will take place on Tuesday, April 17th, 6:00 pm at TheCodeFactory, located at 246 Queen Street, between Bank and Kent, (on the second floor) above the Green Papaya Restaurant. The doors open at 6:00 pm for networking and the talk begins at 6:30 pm.

Note: There is no cost for attending this event and prior registration is not required. Light snacks and refreshments will be served. An informal social gathering will follow at a nearby pub.

CapCHI (www.capchi.org) is a social and professional society of people who work as user interface designers, researchers, educators, software developers, web designers, graphic designers and human factors engineers in and around Canada’s National Capital Region. Founded in 1991, CapCHI’s goal is to bring together local professionals interested in how humans and computers interact, in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.