My Kingdom for a Toolsmith! The IRIDIUM System Specification Through the Lens of Actor-Network Theory
Most would agree that telecommunications systems are socially constructed. Since communication tends to involve people, it seems obvious that people should impact the creation of such systems. But it is far less obvious that the specifications for such systems should be noted for their social construction. As marvelous and technical as the system is, we must not forget the important technological artifact known as the specification that came before it. This paper tells the story of the social construction of the IRIDIUM system specification as viewed through the eyes of a popular socio-technical systems (STS) analysis tool. Actor-Network Theory (ANT) is employed to elucidate the culture of the Motorola requirements engineering process while describing some of the primary actors and their lively interactions as they strove diligently to produce the “perfect” specification. Throughout, it will become obvious that just as the kingdom was lost “for want of a nail,” so the IRIDIUM system specification was nearly lost for want of a toolsmith.