From the very earliest days of electronic computing, flowcharts have been used to represent the conceptual structure of complex software systems. In much of the literature on software development, the flowchart serves as the central design document around which systems analysts, computer programmers, and end users communicate, negotiate, and represent complexity. And yet the meaning of any particular flowchart was often highly contested, and the apparent specificity of such design documents rarely reflected reality. Flowcharts were rarely “true, ” but they were nevertheless useful. In the latest issue of the journal Information & Culture, I explore the “Multiple Meanings of the Flowchart”.

For those of you without access to the Project Muse academic database, you can find an earlier draft version of the paper for free online here.