Thursday, 1 September 2011

The development 'life cycle' metaphor

"Life is the state of ceaseless change and functional activity peculiar to organized matter."
(Fowler and Fowler, 1929)

What is a life cycle for a high tech development and why is the concept so pervasive?

Implicit within the definition of a life is the idea of a beginning and an ending, birth and death, the span of a life, or in the case of technology, the duration of a project or product. The idea of a ‘life cycle’ is a relatively modern concept. Its published use commences in the mid 1800s when the idea of ‘cycles’ with connotations of lunar, diurnal, mechanical, of recurring events and events recurring in a chronological cycle. Some of the earliest references to ‘life cycle’ use it to refer to the entirety of a biological life described scientifically in which case life cycle depicts an entire biological life (birth, maturation, death) as an abstract sequence of events and transformations. From the early 1900s it is used next in sociology to characterise a person's life history. Its use then shifts to businesses from the 1950s and then on to manufacturing, product development, and marketing when it begins to encompass the relationship between the customer, products, the firm and activities within the firm. (OED, 2010).

Fowler, H. W. & Fowler, F. G. (1929) The concise Oxford dictionary of current English, Oxford, At the Clarendon press.
Oed (2010) life cycle, n. DRAFT REVISION Mar. 2009 ed., Oxford University Press.