[CITASA] Coding Places: Software Practice in a South American City (MIT Press, 2012)

Yuri Takhteyev yuri at cs.stanford.edu
Wed Oct 31 10:47:34 EDT 2012

This new book, published this month by the MIT Press, may be of
interest to CITASA members. It looks ethnographically at the use
of the internet in the context of modern high tech work in Brazil.
Please see the announcement below. If anyone has any questions about
the book, I would be happy to answer!

  - yuri

Coding Places: Software Practice in a South American City
Yuri Takhteyev

The MIT Press, 2012


Software development would seem to be a quintessential example of
today’s Internet-enabled “knowledge work”—a global profession not
bound by the constraints of geography. In “Coding Places,” Yuri
Takhteyev looks at the work of software developers who inhabit two
contexts: a geographical area—in this case, greater Rio de
Janeiro—and a “world of practice,” a global system of activities
linked by shared meanings and joint practice. The work of the
Brazilian developers, Takhteyev discovers, reveals a paradox of the
world of software: it is both diffuse and sharply centralized. The
world of software revolves around a handful of places—in particular,
the San Francisco Bay area—that exercise substantial control over
both the material and cultural elements of software
production. Takhteyev shows how in this context Brazilian software
developers work to find their place in the world of software and to
bring its benefits to their city.

Takhteyev’s study closely examines Lua, an open source programming
language developed in Rio but used in such internationally popular
products as World of Warcraft and Angry Birds. He shows that Lua had
to be separated from its local origins on the periphery in order to
achieve success abroad. The developers, Portuguese speakers, used
English in much of their work on Lua. By bringing to light the work
that peripheral practitioners must do to give software its seeming
universality, Takhteyev offers a revealing perspective on the
not-so-flat world of globalization.


“By examining software development in the ‘wrong place’ of Rio de
Janeiro, Yuri Takhteyev shows us with vivid accounts and clear
narrative how individuals who work far from the geographic hubs of
their field create local connections and shape local environments
even as they embrace global culture and pursue global dreams for
themselves and their locations. The concept of a ‘wrong place’
proves an immediately beguiling and completely original approach for
understanding work in the global setting; Takhteyev’s choice of Rio,
in particular, is nothing short of brilliant.”

- Diane Bailey, School of Information, University of Texas at Austin

“Coding Places opens the black box of ‘globalization’ to show us the
pieces involved in that process—people, technical objects,
government agencies, universities, businesses—in intimate detail:
how they work, what they need to survive, what they furnish to
others, the network of their connections, conflicts, and
accommodations. We see the whole machine in operation: how the many
possible inputs generate a variety of outputs, technically and
organizationally. And we learn a way of thinking that we can apply
to the arts, science, or business, to any kind of activity with
worldwide extension and ramifications. It does all this with a depth
of vision and a clarity in telling the story seldom found in the
social sciences.”

- Howard S. Becker, author of “Outsiders” and “Art Worlds”

“Software development is no longer limited geographically but is
expanding to different regions of the world. Yuri Takhteyev has
produced an insightful work that provides a critical account of
software developers and their role in the global knowledge
economy. This is a fascinating story of knowledge workers in a
region that has the potential to become the next Silicon Valley.”

- Alladi Venkatesh, Professor and Associate Director, Center for
Research on Information Technology, University of California, Irvine

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