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T29. Software Development and Culture: Learning to Play Together

Robert Biddle, Carleton University

Robert Biddle is Professor of Human Computer Interaction at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada: he is on the graduate faculty of both Computer Science and Psychology. He has degrees in Applied Analysis and Computer Science from the University of Waterloo and the University of Canterbury, and has diplomas in both childhood and adult education. His two main research areas are Software Design and Human-Computer Interaction. His current active research projects are in human issues in software development, novel approaches to computer security, and in the design of interactive media such as videogames, wikis, and end-user development environments.

Software development means collaboration, and increasingly this collaboration must cross boundaries of organizational and national culture. Projects in multi-cultural settings involve countless challenges, including not only collaboration, but also everything from existing project planning and management, and even simple communication. Moreover, software development methods might need to be transformed to work at all. The aim of this tutorial is introduce models of culture, and to explore the impact of cultural differences on software development processes and methods, especially novel approaches such as agile development. The tutorial will be organized around two collaborative games to illustrate culture in the software development workplace. The first game, 'Wheel of Culture', involves building and comparing balance wheels that show how organizations vary in their cultural values. The second game, 'Cultural Monopoly' is a novel board game designed by us for small groups to explore the effects of cultural difference on a development project.


This tutorial is designed to meet the needs and challenges of software developers working in culturally diverse settings, as well as anyone implementing software methodologies in different cultures. The emphasis of the tutorial is in understanding the role and impact of cultural differences on software processes and methods. The tutorial should facilitate the development of participants' skills to improve effective cross-cultural communication and collaboration in software projects. This tutorial will provide a broad cultural literacy that enhances software projects conducted in multi- cultural settings and facilitate the adoption of new software development practices in different cultures. We will contribute to the understanding of the function of cultures and diversity in a software development environment.


Highly interactive, primarily through game-play, especially a custom version of "monopoly" to simulate the software development process.

Audience: Practitioners, Managers, Educators
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