The Semiotics of Software Architecture

The more I read of Yuri Lotman’s Semiotics of Cinema, the more convinced I get that this is something that has great relevance for software development—specifically for the social aspects of the architectures of systems, something that’s most often overlooked in software projects.

Advocates of careful planning of software architectures often emphasize the importance of this for the success of projects. Although I don’t deny that there are projects that need detailed up-front planning of the architecture, I belong to those who are of the opinion that the architecture should emerge during the course of the project. Note that this doesn’t mean ignoring architecture.

Software architecture advocates, however, seldom speak about the social aspects, such as how the architecture can support discussions about the system, as well as between members of the development team, as between the team and the stakeholders. The architecture must be habitable; it must be a meaningful model of the problem domain; it must constitute a universe where every element conveys as much information about its role in the interactions with the other elements, in as small means as possible—where they are signs charged with information.

Previously, I’ve been thinking about metaphorical abstraction, but I think those ideas would be better expressed using the vocabulary of semiotics.

(Currently, I’m doing most of my blogging in Swedish, as I’m reading the Swedish translation of Lotman’s book. This is a translation of a post in my Swedish weblog. It’s strange how it’s harder to translate than to write down the same ideas from scratch.)

The above was posted to my personal weblog on October 4, 2003. My name is Peter Lindberg and I am a thirtysomething software developer and dad living in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, you’ll find posts in English and Swedish about whatever happens to interest me for the moment.


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