Reverse engi­neer­ing, as both a descrip­tor and a research strat­e­gy, miss­es the things engi­neers do that do not fit into con­ven­tion­al ideas about engi­neer­ing. In the ongo­ing mix­ture of cul­ture and tech­nol­o­gy, reverse engi­neer­ing sticks too close­ly to the ide­al­ized vision of tech­ni­cal work. Because it assumes engi­neers care strict­ly about func­tion­al­i­ty and effi­cien­cy, it is not very good at telling sto­ries about acci­dents, inter­pre­ta­tions, and arbi­trary choic­es. It assumes that cul­tur­al objects or prac­tices (like movies or engi­neer­ing) can be reduced to sin­gu­lar, uni­ver­sal­ly-intel­li­gi­ble log­ics. It takes cor­po­rate spokes­peo­ple at their word when they claim that there was a straight line from con­cep­tion to execution.

On Reverse Engi­neer­ing — Anthro­pol­o­gy and Algo­rithms — Medium

Great debunk­ing of the reduc­tion­ist log­ic of reverse engi­neer­ing. Engi­neers are peo­ple too, with all that this entails.

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Kars Alfrink

Kars is a designer, researcher and educator focused on emerging technologies, social progress and the built environment.