The concept of function creep

Research Article by Bert-Jaap Koops: “…Function creep is a phenomenon familiar to most scholars in the fields of Science & Technology Studies, law and technology, and Surveillance Studies, and to many other scholars interested in how technologies and information systems are used and regulated in society. It is so familiar that authors typically use the term without feeling a need to define or explain it. At most, they briefly describe the phenomenon in a few words, assuming that readers will know what they are referring to. We all know it has something to do with a gradual expansion of the functionality of some system or technology beyond what it was originally created for.

But why exactly is ‘gradual function expansion’ a concern, and why do authors label this phenomenon – pejoratively – ‘function creep’? The widespread use of the term indicates a prevalent concern with something going wrong, or at least not quite right, when a system1 acquires new uses. Apparently, function creep is something to be addressed, and therefore, an important phenomenon in our effort to understand and regulate technology. ‘Creep’ has many different connotations (e.g. slowness, invisibility, stealth, uncanniness), and the literature is not at all clear or coherent on what exactly is wrong with function creep and what should be done about it. Wherein exactly lies the ‘creepiness’ of function creep? If we do not understand the core of function creep, it will be hard to find suitable responses to address the concern that many authors voice when calling something ‘function creep’.

Surprisingly, the concept of function creep has never been analysed, at least not in any real depth. No literature is available on defining ‘function creep’ or explaining why it causes concern….(More)”.