Proponents of modularity suggest that the development of complex technological systems can be coordinated by pre-specifying their architecture(s), i.e., the coordination of interdependent components is embedded in clearly defined interface specifications. Such an approach, I suggest, begs a more fundamental question What are the origins of architecture(s)? This question, I believe, has largely been neglected by the extant literature.
To shed light on this question, I studied the development of ATLAS, a complex technological system that is being developed at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. My study suggests that the emergence of technological architecture(s) is characterized by an ongoing process of negotiations in which diverse actors justify and explain their design rationales. The interlaced knowledge resulting from this process provides a deeper understanding and appreciation of the requirements of the various components. As a consequence, the multiple groups are able to anticipate latent interdependencies and to interrelate with one another with care and deliberation.
Farrell Center for Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Swiss National Science Foundation