Entering the Clubhouse: Case Studies of Young Programmers Joining the Online Scratch Communities

Entering the Clubhouse: Case Studies of Young Programmers Joining the Online Scratch Communities

Yasmin B. Kafai, Deborah A. Fields, William Q. Burke
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/joeuc.2010101906
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Previous efforts in end-user development have focused on facilitating the mechanics of learning programming, leaving aside social and cultural factors equally important in getting youth engaged in programming. As part of a 4-month long ethnographic study, we followed two 12-year-old participants as they learned the programming software Scratch and its associated file-sharing site, scratch.mit.edu, in an after-school club and class. In our discussion, we focus on the role that agency, membership, and status played in their joining and participating in local and online communities of programmers.
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The goal of the research reported here is to identify areas where end-user development (EUD) and professional software development meet and interact. We have observed and participated in development activities in a commercial software house (referred to as company) over a period of two years. We propose a model of the activities, which we refer to as mutual development. The model consists of the 5 sub-processes, which connects EUD and professional development.


There are two levels of software development: specific and general, represented by the activities of amateur (end-user) and professional developers, respectively. When they interact in a mutually beneficial way a new opportunity for innovation emerges that extends the boundaries of what can be accomplished with in-house driven innovation (Victor & Boynton, 1998). We call this model “inside-out” and the model advocated in this chapter “outside-in.” Inside-out innovation is initiated by professional developers and technology managers, that is, technological innovation, whereas outside-in is driven by external events, a type of innovation that originates outside professional communities by end users (Fischer, 2002) and customers (von Hippel, 2005). They are amateur (non professional) developers who act on behalf of specific needs and by creating ad hoc modifications to “finished” products. The mutual dependency between technological and user-driven innovation can be exemplified by the development of Levi’s blue jeans. In 1873 Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss invented to rivet (copper nail) the pocket corners on men’s working pants to make them stronger. The two men were granted a patent on this, which is widely recognized as the invention of the blue jean. It is an example of technological innovation. Later on, in 1937 the rivets (copper nails) were removed on the back pockets (first sewn so that they were hidden, and during the Second World War removed to save metal). The hiding and removal of the rivets were in response to consumers who complained that the rivets scratched furniture and saddles. This was a user-driven innovation triggered by various external events that modified a technological invention into a more useful design (Levi Strauss & Co., 2009). It serves as a motivating example for the topic of this article, which is about mutual development: the integration of end-user development and professional software development.

Mutual development is based on a technique for participatory design (PD) known as mutual learning (Bratteteig, 1997). Mutual learning is a technique for users to learn about software design from professional developers, and developers learning the professional (workplace) language of domain-expert users. Mutual development takes this a step further in that the shared knowledge established during mutual learning serves as platform for end-user development. The goal is not only to support collaboration between developers and users (as in PD), but also to empower them with new tools and new forms of organization. This is arguable easier when there are two distinct levels of development, one for software engineers and another for end-user developers. Rich communication channels to connect them can stimulate formalizing ad hoc modifications into software artifacts, and a good process of collaborative design can transform an end-user developed solution into a commercial product feature (Mørch, Nygård, & Ludvigsen, 2009). Users will be increasingly motivated to participate in end-user development when the activity has impact beyond a local solution.

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