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Keywords:

  • evolution;
  • hermeneutics;
  • information system architecture;
  • paradigm;
  • philosophy of science;
  • replicator;
  • scientific knowledge;
  • software evolution;
  • software system

Abstract

The SPE taxonomy of evolving software systems, first proposed by Lehman in 1980, is re-examined in this work. The primary concepts of software evolution are related to generic theories of evolution, particularly Dawkins' concept of a replicator, to the hermeneutic tradition in philosophy and to Kuhn's concept of paradigm. These concepts provide the foundations that are needed for understanding the phenomenon of software evolution and for refining the definitions of the SPE categories. In particular, this work argues that a software system should be defined as of type P if its controlling stakeholders have made a strategic decision that the system must comply with a single paradigm in its representation of domain knowledge. The proposed refinement of SPE is expected to provide a more productive basis for developing testable hypotheses and models about possible differences in the evolution of E- and P-type systems than is provided by the original scheme. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.