Fact and Artifact : Reification and Drift in the History and Growth of Interactive Software Systems
We discuss the processes and forces informing artifact design and the subsequent drift in requirements and interests in the long-term growth of reified systems. We describe, following Latour, the strategies of technoscience in making artifacts into “facts” and consider their impact on human life and activity. Drawing from the history of word-processing systems in particular and interactive software systems in general, we illustrate the drift in requirements and context of use that create new needs (including possibly inappropriate ones). We draw attention to the dynamics creating such needs and raise questions regarding the appropriateness of technology-driven drift that shapes the interactive systems around us. The viewpoint is toward software design and evolution in the long-term and we promote the critical recircumscription of problem spaces in order to use technology to improve human life rather than to merely integrate and increase the functionality of existing technologies.