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ENGR101/HUM 200 Technology and Society. October 4, 2005. Agenda. What is an engineer? What impact do engineers have on society? Technology and society or engineering and society? Politics of artifacts. What is an Engineer?. Who is an Engineer?. An Engineer is…. Someone who does research

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ENGR101/HUM 200 Technology and Society


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    1. ENGR101/HUM 200Technology and Society October 4, 2005

    2. Agenda • What is an engineer? • What impact do engineers have on society? • Technology and society or engineering and society? • Politics of artifacts

    3. What is an Engineer?

    4. Who is an Engineer?

    5. An Engineer is… • Someone who does research • Someone who develops a functional prototype process, structure, or device • Someone who designs a working process, structure, or device based on real world constraints • Someone who establishes production and testing facilities for mass production

    6. Engineers also… • Work as construction engineers (counterpart to production engineer) • Work as facilities/operations engineers • Find or create a market for a product (sales engineering) • Work in management, consulting, teaching

    7. Impact of Engineering From who does the engineering, and what kind of tasks they do, to what kind of influence do they have…

    8. “Do Artifacts Have Politics?” • How is the “goodness” of a technology measured? • Contributions to efficiency and productivity • And also… • Positive and negative environmental side effects • Really just another measure of “cost” • Manner in which they facilitate or re-establish certain power structures

    9. “It’s not the technology; it’s how it’s used” • A “thing” can’t have politics • Technology is neither inherently good nor bad • People have politics, and people use the technology to achieve certain ends • The social or economic system in which the technology exists is more important

    10. Corrective to Technological Determinism • Technologies are shaped by social forces • Technologies are shaped by economic forces • But, do technological things matter in and of themselves??

    11. Artifacts Can Have Political Properties First: Invention, design, or arrangement is a way of settling an issue in a community Second: Inherently political technologies that are created to reinforce specific political relationship

    12. Inventions as Extension of Social Order • Example: Overpasses on the Long Island parkways • Over 200 of them • As little as nine feet of clearance • Built to discourage the presence of buses on the parkways • Buses are public transportation: class issues • Builder (Robert Moses) also blocked extension of the LIR • Jones Beach access

    13. Bridges then…

    14. And now.

    15. The Hutchinson Parkway

    16. Example: Broad boulevards of Paris. • Built by Napolean • Prevent street fighting • Example: UT Austin student union public space • Example: Soviet architecture. • Large plazas • Broad boulevards • Huge scale of blocks, government buildings

    17. Inherently Political Technologies • Technologies that require specific social infrastructure to be effective (or even to work) • Technologies that are “highly compatible with” certain social infrastructures (Social infrastructure vs. physical infrastructure?)

    18. How Do We Measure “Good?” Or “Better?” • Economic costs and benefits: • jobs created, income generated, etc. • Environmental impacts • pollutants distributed, cancers created • Risks to public health and safety • exposure to natural disaster impact, “unsafe at any speed” • “Consequences for the form and quality of human associations”

    19. Myth of Efficiency as Motivator • Innovation has many “muses” • McCormick factory example. Inferior quality at higher cost. Why did the factory owner take this path? • Not all designing for social uses is intentional

    20. Massive Change • “It’s not about the world of design, it’s about the design of the world”

    21. Choices are Made, or, We Make Choices • Importance of introductory stages of a technology • Every decision is based on assumptions -- often unexamined assumptions • Centralized vs. decentralized technologies

    22. Next class • Read “The Machine Stops” • Read The Diamond Age • Introduction of Design Assignment