Formal Methods and Social Context in Software Development
Goguen, Joseph A.
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Formal methods have not been accepted to the extent for which many computing scientists hoped. This paper explores some reasons for that fact, and proposes some ways to make progress. One major problem has been that formal methods have not taken sufficient account of the social context of computer systems. For example, social context causes a continuous evolution of requirements for large complex systems. This implies that designs, specifications and code must also evolve with requirements, and that traceability is important. We discuss a traceability technique called hyper-requirements. To better understand social context, we discuss ethnomethodology, a branch of sociology, and situated abstract data types, which help bridge the gap between the technical and the social. These attempt to provide a scientific basis for requirements capture. Some case studies are briefly described. We distinguish between small, large and huge grain formal methods, arguing that small grain methods do not scale up. This motivates our discussions of software composition and a new paradigm of "Domain Specific Formal Methods."
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