Seminar at Brigham Young University – January, 19th, 2012.

Professor Charles Knudson gently invited me to present a seminar at the  Computer Science Department at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. This will happen on January, 19th, 11:00 – 11:50. This is a great opportunity to discuss some research ideas about human aspects in software engineering and to start a closer collaboration with researchers from BYU.

I will try to develop the presentation incrementally in this blog. Comments are welcome.

Let’s start with the title. My choice at the moment goes like this:

“The orders of ignorance in our research about the influence of human aspects in software engineering”

This is inspired by an article from Phillip G. Armour, published at the COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM, October 2000/Vol. 43, No. 10. Armour describes what he calls the five levels of ignorance we face in software development, and I think these levels are quite good at describing our ignorance with respect to a lot of other things, including research. These levels are (extracted from Orders Of Ignorance):

  • 0th Order Ignorance: Lack of Ignorance. I have 0OI when I (probably) know something.
  • 1st Order Ignorance: Lack of Knowledge. I have 1OI when I don’t know something. With 1OI we have the question in a well-factored form.
  • 2nd Order Ignorance: Lack of Awareness. I have 2OI when I don’t know that I don’t know something.
  • 3rd Order Ignorance: Lack of Process. I have 3OI when I don’t know a suitably efficient way to find out I don’t know that I don’t know something.
  • 4th Order Ignorance: Meta-ignorance. I have 4OI when I don’t know about the Five Orders of Ignorance.

It is very likely that our research about human aspects in software engineering has different levels of ignorance (all but the 4OI). Therefore, I think it will make an interesting seminar to talk about:

  • 0th Order Ignorance: some things I think we (probably) know: past results of our empirical studies and literature reviews.
  • 2nd and 3rd Orders Ignorance: how are we conducting our research (methods and processes) so that we can become aware of new things that we still don’t know. i.o.w., how we are trying to decrease our 2rd Order Ignorance by using replications of qualitative case study research to help formulating good research questions (1st Order Ignorance) and/or testing some previously developed questions (0th Order Ignorance)
  • 1st Order Ignorance: some things I know we don’t know: some questions that we want to investigate and hope to do this investigation through collaborative projects.

Fabio Silva.


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