CPSC 689/602--Spring 1997
Computer-Supported Cooperative Work


Paper Report

Title: Analyzing Distributed Cognition of Software Teams: A Case Study of Team Programming During Perfective Software Maintenance
Authors: Flor, N.V., and Hutchins E.L.
Citation: Joenemann-Belliveau, J., Moher, T.G. and Robertson, S.P. (Eds.), Empirical Studies of Programmers: Fourth Workshop. Ablex, 1991, pp. 36-64.
Reprinted in: Baecker, R.M. Readings in Groupware and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, San Francisco, 1993, pp. 272-286.


Software development can be viewed as a highly social activity involving frequent interactions between programmers and their development tools. However, studying the entire system as a whole has been a complex undertaking. This paper proposes a new approach for studying programmers based on distributed cognitive theory.

The method of analysis involves charting the progress of goal required external structures, which are source code fragments in this study of perfective software maintenance. Two professional programmers were asked to add a whisper command to a real-time multi-player adventure game called Gold. Video cameras recorded the interactions between the programmers and their artifacts.

The changes made to the software revealed several insights. These were:

Using this analysis, the authors discovered several system level properties. These included: the reuse of system knowledge, the sharing of goals and plans, efficient communication, and shared memory for old plans.


Report prepared by: Dion Goh            Email: diong@cs.tamu.edu
Discussion date: 2/12/97            Report date: 2/13/97