Living in a Crisis Moment: Empirical Research, Social Action, and Mentorship in Engineering Studies
Living in a Crisis Moment: Empirical Research, Social Action, and Mentorship in Engineering Studies
Globally Online via Zoom
June 27th - 30th, 2021
FINAL INES Workshop Program
The workshop is FREE to INES members. $56 (the price of membership) to non-members (Join/Renew and Subscribe), which includes a one-year (2021 calendar year) membership and a subscription to Engineering Studies.
Crisis lays bare the stakes of our work. As engineering studies scholars, we all recognize the conditions behind the crisis moment we live in today. The present moment was built through systemic racial violence and organized movements demanding justice; through global circulations of people and viruses and socially-patterned limits to the equitable distribution of resources; through educational systems constructed to serve particular political interests, even as others strive to create new opportunities; through slow disasters such as climate change, and built infrastructures designed to weather different storms, both environmental and political. The dynamics of power, knowledge, and materiality are familiar to many in our field. However, in learning to confront crises in our own lives and scholarly practices requires us to reckon with these dynamics in new ways. Living in a crisis moment pushes us into new and different relations with our work, and the communities we inhabit. We hope that our present situation offers us new possibilities, even as we cope with its foreclosures. For the first time in a dozen years, the International Network for Engineering Studies convenes a workshop to address the state of our field. Bringing both established and early career scholars together to share and discuss our work and our interventions, we seek to interrogate the current moment and its implications for our field. Our forms of life and scholarship have already begun to shift, and will continue to change in the coming decade. Seeking reflexivity and greater intentionality amidst this shift, we aim to draw on the insights of engineering studies itself--in its full intellectual diversity--to set new research agendas, take social action, and mentor and accept mentorship. What new forms of care have we been cultivating, what relations have we had to let go, and with what consequences? How can past moments of crisis inform our reckoning with our current moment and future we create? How can we observe the engineered world and translate knowledge into action?
INES Workshop - Living in a Crisis Moment – FINAL Program
9am-12pm MDT (11am-2pm NY / 4pm-7pm London, / 12am-3am(+1) Seoul)
2 hour 15m film / 45 minute discussion - BYOB/D*
Community Film Screening & Discussion
"Afrofuturism, Social Justice and Engineering Imaginaries in Ryan Coogler's Black Panther," (zoom)
Kathryn Neely (U Virginia) • Rosalyn Berne (U Virginia)
In light of international copyright restrictions, participants will have to find their own streaming service to watch the film itself. See IMDb Listing for Black Panther here. We will maintain a shared chat space so folks can get their popcorn, mimosa, shōchū, or soft drink, and chat with one another during film screening. Ros and Kay will comment, dialogue with one another, and invite the rest of us to join in the conversation afterwards!
(*BYOB/D = Bring Your Own Booze (alcoholic beverage) / Drink)
2pm-545 pm MDT (4pm-745p NY / 9pm-1245am(+1) London, / 5am-845am(+1) Seoul)
60 minute sessions (15 minute breaks)
Welcome and Opening
Research Papers (moderator: Atsushi)(zoom)
Jennifer Alexander (U Minnesota): "Public Infrastructure as Care, or How an Abandoned Light Rail Car Brought Real Grief and Ruptured a Real Relationship to the City"
Many have been struck by sadness at the abandonment of public structures and engineering works during the Covid era. I myself have felt profound sadness at the disuse of Minneapolis's light rail lines and buses in the last year, and I have been working to find ways to understand this reaction. We have little recognized engineering structures as carriers of both human care and emotional connection. This comment considers engineering structures as conduits of real relationship, even of love, and raises the question of human emotional connection to infrastructure. It mobilizes recent work in psychology and psychopathology to interpret infrastructure as real and reciprocal relationship.
Sarah Appelhans (U Albany): "On the “Bleeding Edge”: Reflections on Precarity in the Semiconductor Industry"
As engineers (and those who study them) we do not often think of ourselves as participants in, or contributors to global precarity. Engineers, rather, tend to frame themselves as significant players in developing the solutions to the world’s problems. My ethnographic research in the semiconductor industry (2018-2019) reveals that, on the contrary, engineers are not only a part of a supply chain that relies upon destructive mining practices and exploitative factory labor overseas but are also becoming swept up into precarity themselves in the form of high-skilled migrant labor. Furthermore, under the guise of privilege and individual choice, migrant engineers do not always recognize their exploitation as such and express little resistance to the frequent layoffs, long-distance relocations, long hours and uncertain visa status demanded by their profession. The accelerating flexibilization of supply chains has had a disastrous impact on the environment and threatens human needs for stability and stasis. Drawing upon Tsing’s notion of “salvage accumulation”, I explore the semiconductor industry as an industry that “salvages” labor from all over the world and redistributes it to global cities. I ask what forms of resistance might be possible for professional band workers, like engineers, to demand greater stability in their own careers, and work toward stable outcomes in their own zones of influence. What might it look like for engineering to shift their focus from “innovation toward progress” to “innovation toward stability”?
Thomas DePree (U New Mexico): "The Technopolitics of Cleaning Up Abandoned Uranium Mines on Native American Lands in the U.S. Southwest"
During the second half of the twentieth century, northwestern New Mexico served as the primary production site for one of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals. From 1948 to 1970 the “Grants uranium district” provided almost half of the total uranium ore accumulated by the United States federal government for the production of nuclear weapons, in addition to becoming a source for commercial nuclear energy from the 1960s to the 1990s. By the twenty-first century, after a prolonged period of economic decline that began in the late 1970s, all uranium mining and milling in New Mexico had ceased, leaving a legacy of environmental health impacts. What was once referred to as “The Uranium Capital of the World” now encompasses hundreds of abandoned uranium mines and seven massive uranium mill tailings piles, which are associated with airborne and soil contamination as well as groundwater plumes of uranium and other contaminants. Designated as an ecological “sacrifice zone,” the former Grants uranium district constitutes egregious cases of environmental injustice and environmental racism, as well as deeper impositions of settler colonialism. The legacy of uranium mining disproportionately impacts Native American communities, in addition to environmental health impacts on Hispano and Anglo settlers. Drawing from over two years of multi-locale ethnographic research, and leveraging Gabrielle Hecht’s concept of “technopolitical regimes” (2009), this paper offers a multicultural and multi-stakeholder analysis of how diverse forms of expertise become entangled in the politics and technology of cleaning up abandoned uranium mines.
Ryan Hearty (Johns Hopkins): "Monitoring Water Quality and Pollution in the US, 1948-1977"
This chapter (and paper presentation) follows a group of experts who created regional and national monitoring systems for the detection of pollution and maintenance of water quality in rivers across the United States. In the early 1950s, Edward Cleary, a sanitary engineer with the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission based in Cincinnati, Ohio, designed a ground-based monitoring system along the Ohio River and its tributaries by drawing upon private and public resources and personnel, such as factory employees, municipal treatment plant operators, and officials with the US Geological Survey. By 1960, Cleary, aided by recent advances in chemical instrumentation and electronics, as well as preexisting telegraph networks, developed a set of “robots” to continuously monitor water quality in the region. While Cleary refined this automated monitoring system, an ecologist, Ruth Patrick of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, promoted an alternative method to monitor streams, using an instrument called the diatometer that measured the response of diatoms, a group of single-celled planktonic algae, to a variety of pollutants. Federal officials at the Robert A. Taft Sanitary Engineering Center were aware of Cleary’s monitoring system and Patrick’s ecological method as they finalized plans for a national water quality network in the early 1960s, a brief moment of opportunity for integrating Cleary’s physical and chemical approach with the biological data afforded by Patrick and her team at the Academy. This chapter examines tensions between different forms of expertise in the water pollution field, notably engineers and biologists, and the factors that enabled Cleary, far more than Patrick, to shape the national network. Cleary drew upon advances in chemical instrumentation, electronics, and computing and was perceived to be more sensitive to cost and labor than Patrick, who struggled to find qualified technicians at a time when many universities and biological research institutions shifted their focus to molecular biology and downsized their programs in taxonomy and natural history. The chapter ends by examining the legacy of these monitoring systems and their failure to perform as their designers expected.
3:30pm (MDT)(moderator: Jessica)(zoom)(parallel session)
Workshop: "The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on knowledge production in academia"
Magdalena Gil (Pontificia Univ. Católica de Chile)
The pandemic has generated plenty of discussion and evidence about its consequences on different groups and professions. Some studies have focus on its impact on research production looking at developed countries (Myers et al., 2020). Less has been done about academia in developing countries, despite good reasons to sustain that the pandemic could be especially detrimental for researchers in Latin America due to the intensity and length of the pandemic in this region. The pandemic has been incredibly hard for Latin American countries, leading mortality rankings across the world. We surveyed 4.264 academics in Chile (2.603) and Colombia (1.661) from July to August 2020 to understand the impact on knowledge production in one of the countries with leading research institutions in Latin America Chile and Colombia closed their primary and secondary schools the same day (March 16); Chilean schools will remain closed up to the end of the year while some Colombians schools are opening during September. As in developed countries, Universities conducted almost all their classes online. We look and measure the impact of the pandemic on research time, article production, and perceptions of productivity. We analyze the data according to gender, and family structure, and then compare professors on STEM disciplines (not including medical sciences), with Social Sciences, Humanities and Medical Sciences. We found STEM professors report higher productivity both before and after the pandemic, but the impact on active research time has been higher than in non-STEM disciplines.
3:30pm (MDT) (moderator: Beth)(zoom-2nd track)(parallel session)
Caitlin Wylie, Sean Ferguson, Kay Neeley (U Virginia): "Caring for community by caring for data? A social action workshop"
In this participatory workshop, participants will enact and reflect on data-driven community action projects. The workshop convenors will begin by telling the story of an ongoing movement to create and use an open civic data portal in Charlottesville, VA. As participant observers in this movement, we reflect on the values expressed by open-data advocates, elected officials, city government staff, and community activists as they converge over datasets to try to make our city better. This story raises crucial epistemic issues, including problematic beliefs in data determinism, data solutionism, and data objectivity. Here we will focus on the methodological problems that scholars and activists encounter when trying to transform Big Data into Big Social Progress. Participants in this workshop will approach a dataset together, as a way of thinking through our methods as scholars and as activists. Together, we will define sociotechnical problems with regards to this dataset, propose methods for investigating those problems, and – crucially – reflect on our decisions at each step. How do the problematic beliefs we ascribe to Charlottesville stakeholders appear in our own understandings to data? How should we, as scholars in Engineering Studies, translate our concerns and ideas to diverse stakeholders? How do we build collaborations that care for data in meaningful and socially just ways? We hope that this workshop will produce a list of guidelines for how to both study and support data-driven projects and data-driven stakeholders to pursue social good.
4:45pm (MDT) (moderator: Konstantinos)(zoom)
Donna Riley & Ellen Foster (Purdue): "The Coffee Care Colletive: Visioning Engineering Studies as It Could be Otherwise"
As the COVID pandemic progresses, this moment has further brought to people’s attention the structural issues of academic capitalism, academic racism, and other inequities that have long been reproducing within higher education in the United States. For some, this situation presents unreasonable expectations, vulnerability, and precarity tied to labor issues entangled with inequities tied to gender, race, disability, and so on. This moment highlights how broken the system really is, and how the current late capitalist framing of academia is sustaining a toxic productivity-oriented framing. We may have found ourselves in scrappy survival mode, trying to exist day by day, week by week and thus with negligible amounts of energy to plan how the world could be otherwise. In this session we seek to hold a collective and reflexive space for visioning alternative narratives (Brown & Imarisha, eds. 2015) and diverse formats for creating a sustainable and more equitable future. Drawing on the authority of our experience, we will explore a set of emotive prompts leading to questions of collective interest for conversation, e.g., Where do you feel anguish, angst, numbness, where do you feel joy in our present moment, or when anticipating where we might go? Drawing on the authority of our experience, we will explore a set of emotive prompts leading to questions of collective interest for conversation, e.g., Where do you feel anguish, angst, numbness, where do you feel joy in our present moment, or when anticipating where we might go? Possible example questions we anticipate the group might explore: What do we want to keep, what do we want to let go of? How can engineering studies inform futures of engineering work and engineering formation? What is engineering studies for now? Brown, A. M. Walidah Imarisha, eds. 2015. Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice.
6-10:15 am MDT (8am-1215pm NY / 1pm-515pm London / 9pm-115am Seoul)
50 & 75 minute sessions (10 minute breaks)
6 am (MDT) (moderator: Jessica)(zoom)(parallel session)
Jessica Smith (Colorado Sch Mines; moderator), Amy Slaton (Drexel), Dean Nieusma (Colorado Sch Mines): "Roundtable with panel: The 'Us' Who Cannot Say 'We': Non-Engineers and (Former) Engineers' Participation in Engineering Studies"
Engineering studies is a vibrant interdisciplinary field of scholarship, yet our disciplinary backgrounds matter for our participation. A striking number of engineering studies scholars and students carry or are pursuing graduate degrees in the humanities and social sciences after having studied or worked in engineering and applied science themselves, but many do not. This moderated roundtable featuring Dean Nieusma and Amy Slaton will explore the question of what is at stake in our different (inter)disciplinary training. For example, how does an engineering undergraduate degree -- or lack thereof -- come to matter in the kinds of critique in which we engage? In how our work is taken up and by whom? In the authority ascribed to us and our work? In our career trajectories? In the “we”s invoked in our research, mentoring, and social action? In the kinds of questions we ask -- and avoid asking? The intent of this roundtable is to collegially, self-reflexively, and perhaps humorously take account of who participates in engineering studies and how.
6 am (MDT) (moderator: Atsushi)(zoom-2nd track)(parallel session)
Atsushi Akera (Rensselaer): "Interview-Based Projects and Interview Techniques within Engineering Studies" (workshop with possible precirculated papers and/or materials)
Interview techniques, developed in a variety of fields ranging from anthropology and interpretive sociology to marketing and educational research, have increasingly become an important technique within engineering studies and engineering education research. Given the interdisciplinary orientation of our community, we thought this workshop would offer a valuable opportunity for participants to share the techniques they use and the traditions they draw on. Convened in a workshop format, this session will have no pre-assigned papers, but we invite all workshop participants to bring stories, materials, and findings related to the following:
1. Managing large-scale projects and constructing small, manageable projects
2. Building a research team
3. Designing interview questions
4. How to manage informed consent procedures
5. The impact of COVID
6. Subject selection
7. Access strategies
8. Transcriptions and approvals
9. Coding techniques and their value
10. Writing up your results
7am (MDT) (moderator: Jessica)(zoom)
Gary Downey (Va Tech): "What is a Demo Account of an Engineering Studies Project? How Do I Produce One?"
Engineering studies expands critical scholarship by adding attention to knowledge expression and knowledge travel alongside dominant commitments to knowledge production. The academic article or book tends to limit scholarship to research alone. The "demo account" expands the practices of publishable scholarship to match its actual scope. The experimental book Making & Doing: Activating STS through Knowledge Expression and Travel (co-edited with Teun Zuiderent-Jerak, MIT Press, August 2021, print and open access) offers ten "demo accounts" of STS projects that actively entwine knowledge expression and travel with knowledge production. Each demo account presents and critically assesses how its specific project practices express STS knowledge and work to attach it in empirical arenas beyond the boundaries of the field. This short workshop invites participants to experiment with framing demo accounts in engineering studies, for potential publication in Engineering Studies. The demo accounts in this book (a) express knowledge through STS-inspired techniques, devices, infrastructures, and selves – collected under the name "STS sensibilities"; (b) identify one or more frictions to which they respond – places where dominant images lose their smoothness and become multiple; (c) produce travel by attaching STS sensibilities in empirical arenas; (d) accept the scholar's visibility in attaching STS sensibilities (writing in first person!); and (e) account for reflexive learning on the part of the scholars involved. By reporting boundaries and limitations, all eschew intellectual virtuosity in favor of inviting collaboration. Might the demo account help engineering studies scholars collaborate in translating our knowledge into action precisely by critically reflecting on how specific project practices participate in the dynamics of power, knowledge, and materiality?
8 am (MDT) (moderator: Atsushi)(zoom)(parallel session)
Kay Neeley, Sean Ferguson, Caitlin Wylie (U Virginia): "The Study of Humanistic Education for Engineers as a Focus and Mission in Engineering Studies: A Mentoring Session"
In some senses, humanistic education for engineers has always been in crisis. The series of reports commissioned by ASEE between 1918 and 1968 that focused on the role of the liberal arts in engineering education reflected a combined sense of danger and opportunity that was echoed in the period when the reforms associated with ABET Engineering Criteria 2000 were being implemented. Among other things, this history demonstrates a recurring pattern in which we see ourselves on the precipice of transformational change that has yet to occur in a meaningful way. But there are dimensions of the current crisis that are new in engineering education, not the least of which is the increasing fragmentation of scholarly communities within engineering education, especially those concerned with different dimensions of humanistic education for engineers. This fragmentation seems to be increasing despite calls for interdisciplinarity and poses a challenge for both practitioners of engineering education and those who study it. This mentoring session will focus on ways of appropriating a particular dimension of the past: recurring themes in humanistic education for engineers. In addition to orienting researchers who are new to this subfield, we will locate it within engineering studies and review methodological approaches for managing the complexity of the intellectual and organizational domain that is humanistic education for engineers—complexity that intensifies when we consider education designed to develop the “global engineer.”
8am (MDT) (moderator: Yunus)(zoom-2nd track)(parallel session)
Konstantinos Konstantis (U Athens) & Aristotle Tympas: "Historical and STS Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence and Engineering Design..." (town-hall meeting)
Yunus Telliel (WPI)
Konstantinos Konstantis (National & Kapodistrian U of Athens)
Aristotle Tympas (National & Kapodistrian U of Athens)
The experience with the COVID-19 pandemic has reframed the discussion about Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data and Algorithms. “The pandemic”, we read in a May 2020 issue of Wired, “is blowing up a myth” about AI, Big Data and the rest of the technologies associated with a so called ‘4th Industrial Revolution’: “We’ve been led to believe that robots and AI are replacing humans en masse,” but, “if robots steal so many jobs, why aren’t they saving us now?”. A more technical expression of the same anxiety is voiced in the MIT Technology Review: “Our weird behavior during the pandemic is messing with AI models; machine-learning models trained on normal behavior are showing cracks —forcing humans to step in to set them straight”. At the same time, within only a few weeks after the outbreak of the pandemic, an engineering literature that was rather enthusiastic about “the “effectiveness of AI and Big Data to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic” has grown so big that covering the explosively expanding range of “state-of-the-art [AI and Big Data] solutions” necessitated the publication of a review article in the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Transactions on Artificial Intelligence. According to Bruno Latour, the pandemic actually challenges us to leave behind the industrial regime that is causing climate change. “Ιt is right now”, he writes, “that we have to fight so that the economic recovery, once the crisis has passed, does not bring back the same former climatic regime against which we were battling, until now somewhat in vain.” Yet, it is unclear whether moving beyond this industrial regime, means at the same time leaving behind AI, Big Data and Algorithms. An 2020 review article in Nature, on “the role of artificial intelligence in achieving the sustainable development goals”, found that AI-based technologies “can enable the accomplishment of 134 targets across all the goals, but it may also inhibit 59 targets.” David Edgerton, a distinguished historian of technology, invited us to notice that the pandemic outbreak has brought to light critical vulnerabilities such as the crucial capacity loss for industrial production of a series of relatively low but much needed artifacts, ranging from masks to ventilators. How may the 4th Industrial Revolution and its AI, Big Data and Algorithms constituents be associated with this crucial loss? And what kind of an industrial revolution may be one that excels in integrating state-of-the-art AI, Big Data and Algorithms to production, but scores poorly when it comes to produce standard goods, indispensable in crises, environmental and biomedical?
Questions like these suggest the urgent need for an adequate, historically contextual understanding of AI, Big Data and Algorithms. In response to this need, we propose an INES 2021 Workshop Working Group to focus on the history of the integration of AI, Big Data and Algorithms into the branches of computer engineering that came to be specialized in biomedical and environmental-energy issues. Regarding biomedical engineering, it will focus on biomedical engineering for coronavirus testing/screening, which has become ubiquitous, assuming a central role in the ongoing pandemic-related transformation of the social, which also relies on AI and Big Data). Regarding energy-environmental engineering, it will focus on the pursuit of sustainability through what came to be known as ‘smart’ grids, i.e. power and communication networks that rely heavily on AI, Big Data an Algorithms.
9am-10:15am (MDT) (moderator: Jessica)(zoom)(parallel session)
Cyrus Mody (U Maastricht / ES Journal): "Engineering Studies editorial staff: who are we, what do we work on, who are we missing"
Engineering Studies is the journal of the International Network for Engineering Studies. Now in its thirteenth volume, the journal publishes three issues per year, with an aim to present critical analyses of engineers and engineering as a social practice. The journal construes “engineering” broadly, and are open to critical studies of complementary or cognate practices as well as studies that include the people and practices that are often excluded from and/or minoritized within engineering (for example, on the basis of gender, sexuality, and/or ethnicity). The journal especially welcomes studies that approach engineering (broadly construed) as it is practiced outside the Global North and/or engineering as a transnational phenomenon that connects different parts of the world and that has helped to produce global modernity.
This session is meant to introduce workshop attendees to some of the people and approaches involved with the journal. Engineering Studies is the work of many people, each contributing in different ways; the list of participants above notes some of those roles. Each of the session participants will talk for 5 minutes about their work within the journal (refereeing, editing, representing the journal in social media, etc.), their work outside the journal (teaching, research, community and academic service, editing other journals, etc.), and the connections between the two. By putting faces to names and making the workings of the journal more transparent, we hope to encourage workshop attendees to get involved with the journal (by submitting manuscripts, agreeing to review, volunteering to join the staff, etc.). We also want to spur a discussion of what and who the journal is missing. Like many journals, Engineering Studies is still far from meeting the goals of diversity and inclusion described in the paragraph above. We need the help, encouragement, and ideas of INES workshop attendees to do better!
9am-10:15am (MDT) (moderator: Konstantinos)(zoom-2nd track)(parallel session)
Caitlin Wylie (U Virginia) and Coleen Carrigan (California Polytechnic State U, San Luis Obispo): "Where does Engineering Studies belong? A peer mentoring discussion"
Scholars who contribute knowledge about engineering belong to a variety of disciplines and institutional homes. Sometimes interdisciplinarity can be a struggle. For example, must engineering studies serve engineering by somehow improving research, education, and professional practices? Or is our field’s knowledge valuable in its own right, particularly in our capacities to explain and mitigate structural matrices of domination exacerbated in times of crisis? Our collaborations with engineering can uplift engineering studies and its scholars, such as when engineering schools or funders support our research with the intention to improve engineering. It can also create issues of legitimacy and autonomy, such as when engineers see us as at their service. Which discipline do you identify with? Which discipline are you accountable to and why? How should we negotiate these multiscalar power dynamics in our careers? These questions reflect discussions about where engineering itself belongs. Should it be isolated in technical universities, as in many countries outside the U.S.? Should it be a liberal arts degree, as demonstrated by Smith College and other leaders? Should its practitioners be distributed throughout other fields in a university, as we are in history, education, philosophy, and various social sciences? What effects might result from these kinds of institutional transformations? Led by two social scientists, one in an engineering school in an R1 university and another at a polytechnic university, we invite participants to share experiences and advice about defining, enacting, and communicating our disciplinary identities.
4:30pm-8:00pm MDT (6:30pm-10pm NY / 11:30pm-3am London / 7:30am-11am(+1) Seoul; 6:30am-10am(+1) Perth)
50 & 80 minute sessions (10 minute breaks)
4:30pm-5:50 (MDT) (moderator: Beth)(zoom)
Beth Reddy (Colorado Sch Mines): "How We Build"(workshop:80min)
Stephen Secules (Florida International U)
Annie Patrick (Va Tech)
Kristin Moore (U at Buffalo)
Logan Williams (U Maryland)
Amy Bix (Iowa State)
Emily York (James Madison)
James Holley, Jr (Wayne State)
Juan Lucena (Colorado Sch of Mines)
Jane Lehr (Cal Poly)
Engineering Studies directs our attention to sets of professional practices that have been productively critiqued for practices of inclusion and exclusion, particularly along gendered and racialized lines. The spaces that many of us occupy professionally as researchers, collaborators, teachers, and writers may not be the same ones we study, but they often exhibit analogous discriminatory and even violent effects. We are committed to doing our work, and to doing it in ways that minimize harm to our colleagues, collaborators, interlocutors, and mentees. But what models do we have to do so? What matters and what works? This is a practical workshop for sharing tools and techniques for doing research, maintaining collaboration, teaching classes, mentoring, and writing in ways that support our goals.
6 pm (MDT) Research Papers (moderator: Beth)(zoom)
James Trevelyan (Univ. Western Australia): "South Asia, Texting, and Impacts on the Social Culture of the Engineering Workplace"
While the literature on engineering practice is gradually improving our understanding of workplace performances, little has been written on the ways in which the social culture in which engineers and their enterprises are immersed influences practice. Text communication has become a significant part of our social culture and one could argue that this represents a significant cultural shift in recent decades. Research on early-career engineers helps to demonstrate that face-to-face interactions are much more effective than text communication in organising collaborative performances on which effective engineering practice has historically depended. However, early-career engineers seem to place a high reliance on text communication and subsequently encounter frustration when they find that messages have not been read or interpreted as expected. The influence of social culture in South Asian enterprises is more evident. Currently there are four significant engineering practice weaknesses observable from research: 1) Lack of understanding by engineers on value creation, a possible cause for weak productivity growth particularly evident since 2007. 2) Disappointing project delivery performances by engineers, particularly on large capital expansion projects. 3) A persistent productivity gap between high-income and low-income countries. 4) The misplaced expectations, values and work habits that limit the workplace performances of many early-career engineers. Observations from South Asia demonstrate how social culture influence practice outcomes, and in particular, how some local engineers are able to create cultural ‘islands’ to achieve much greater value generation. Having demonstrated that social culture does influence engineering practice, this paper outlines a future research agenda for linguists and sociologists interested in studying engineers, research that could significantly improve engineering performances in all countries.
Zachary Pirtle (NASA): "Humility through Applied Philosophy of Engineering: Experiments in Using Epistemology and Ethics in Practice"
Humility about what engineers know – and can do – is an important part of helping engineering to best serve society. In this talk, I will support this claim by drawing on my experiences as an engineering/policy practitioner as well as reviewing conceptual research about engineering. By covering three relevant vignettes, I will I show useful ways in which to combine the study of knowledge in engineering (engineering epistemology per Vincenti 1990) and the study of macro-ethics in engineering (Herkert 2005). My summary here is meant to be suggestive and illustrative of important connections, but I do not seek to be comprehensive in describing all areas in which engineering ethics and knowledge should interact.
Specifically, the area of macro-ethics that I discuss here is about how society establishes policy on what engineering projects to pursue, sometimes called policy for engineering. It thus differs from ‘micro’ ethical considerations that deal with issues facing individual engineers, such as topics in whistle-blowing and ensuring safety. I have published some work on how to improve democratic decision-making surrounding technology, supporting both general reflections on engineers’ obligations to democracy (Pirtle and Szajnfarber 2017) as well as encouraging participatory technology assessment deliberations among citizens as part of efforts to inform national policies on human exploration (Betrand, Pirtle et al 2018, Pirtle and Tomblin 2018).
These reflections on the goals for engineering deeply depend on claims about the nature and depth of engineering knowledge and what engineers do (Pirtle 2010, 2013). There is always uncertainty surrounding engineering activities – every complex system has some degree of risk, and the potential cost and schedule of an engineering project can serve as major opportunity costs, where pursuit of a project precludes other potentially beneficial works.
I will explore potentially fruitful connections between engineering epistemology and macro-ethics by discussing three vignettes that I have dealt with in my professional life:
• Uncertainty in cost and schedule of major aerospace programs, as seen in both management conversations and in facilitated public deliberations;
• Participating in management discussions about the importance of funding research and development (R&D) to enable future systems, and the proper way for innovation to occur; and
• Participating in policy discussions about acceptable levels of risk in human and robotic space flight.
I will show how the ability to support a macro-ethical deliberation on these topics requires close scrutiny on the nature of engineering knowledge, specifically focusing on three types of uncertainty: 1) Uncertainty about functions and performance of engineered artifacts, including emergence and how human users engage with them; 2) uncertainty on the role of social and ethical value commitments alongside cognitive values (Douglas 2009); and 3) Uncertainty about the creation of engineering knowledge, including efforts to reduce uncertainty via increased development, testing and performance as well as issues of R&D innovation policy.
Proper consideration of such uncertainties and knowledge can encourage humility in macro-ethical decisionmaking about engineering, but can also encourage increased confidence in areas where engineers are capable of making progress.
Brandiff Caron (Concordia): "Scaling Design Justice Principles to Small, Low-budget Engineering Design Projects"
Organizations such as MASS LBP (https://www.masslbp.com) have made great strides in popularizing inclusive, deliberative processes in the development of technology policies at various levels of governance in Canada. The organization regularly works with public sector projects to arrange citizens' assemblies, consensus conferences, reference panels, etc. These practices have proven effective at providing practical mechanisms that allow for the realization of various principles of design justice (https://designjustice.org/read-the-principles). Most obviously: centering the voices of those who are directly impacted by the design process, prioritizing design's impact on the community over the intentions of the designer, sustainable, community-led/controlled outcomes, and more.
This presentation will explore how these considerations of design justice may be scaled to smaller, lower budget engineering design projects such as undergraduate capstone projects or smaller entrepreneurial start-ups. Given the amount of time, money, and people needed to effectively engage with a properly representative segment of the publics designers work with, many smaller scale projects simply do not have the resources they necessary. Yet, most still recognize the need to engage with such issues.
We will explore design just principles and ask how (or if) they may be achieved with limited resources. Do analogous case studies provide useful information? Do market analyses tell us anything important? What type of informal surveying practices may simulate direct, democratic engagement? Can surveying popular media give us an accurate idea about the publics' concerns? Etc.
Melissa Shuey (Rensselaer / Va Tech): "Student perspectives: How COVID-19 Affected Student Experiences in the Spring 2020 Semester"
This presentation looks at the impact of COVID-19 and the associated shift to online learning on the overall engineering student experience during the spring 2020 semester. This research is a subset of a larger, NSF funded project that examines how engineering educators have been responding to the rise of new educational technologies. The student experience is vital to understand how the ecosystem is responding to the emergence of new technologies and COVID-19 presented us with a unique chance to observe the adaptation in an accelerated form. 22 interviews were conducted during the summer of 2020 to capture the student experiences with the forced shift to online learning. The general method employed consisted of semi-structured interviews conducted using snowball sampling, with a subject selection matrix used to ensure broad demographic representation of subjects. We also utilized a novel interview method that relies on the “code switching” that the interviewer was able to invoke during the interview to develop rapport. In our previous work, we found that student experiences are affected by the interactions they have with their peers, professors, and administrators. Our key finding that will be addressed here was that many students struggled to maintain these relationships and therefore struggled to find motivation to complete their schoolwork. We also found that students actively facilitated virtual collaboration using institute-provided and non-academic resources in an attempt to replicate the conditions of an in-person learning environment.
7 pm (MDT) (moderator:Beth)(zoom)(parallel session)
Anna Geltzer (Notre Dame), Eunjeong Ma (Pohang U S&T), Jongmin Lee (U S&T Korea), Soyo Lee (Korea National U of Arts, Korea): "Teaching and Learning 'Sense-Ability' in Classrooms, during Crisis and Beyond"
How can education help humanity to survive during difficult times? When facing learners in the classroom and through distance learning, we, educators of engineering and of arts, strive to develop a sense of belonging toward a community of learning. What other senses and “sense-abilities,” of learners and of ours, can we nurture from these teaching and learning experiences? So much of engineering education has been focused on acquiring technical knowledge and skills. But the problems that confront engineers in their work go far beyond efficiency and optimization. The social sciences and liberal arts are therefore becoming a crucial component of engineering education, in helping engineers contextualize their work. We instructors are essentially asking our fellow learners to develop new, less intuitive but well-informed, abilities to sense our place, time, and to contextualize nature and artifacts in them. Social, historical, and political dimensions of technoscience are brought into engineering design in studio-like classroom settings. In visual arts education likewise, instructors focus on acquiring synaesthetic sensitivity in visual elements through studio practice and critique. In return, educators experience the sense of community and learn empathy. Teaching writing and presentations in virtual settings allowed instructors to gain abilities to communicate through new technologies with the students of different learning styles from diverse backgrounds. Acquiring sensitivity regarding the promises and risks of making education open and digital seems more important than ever. In the end, we learn together how to grow “sense-ability” toward becoming citizens and experts of the “new old world.”
7pm (MDT) (moderator: Atsushi)(zoom-2nd track)(parallel session)
Samantha Brunhaver, (Arizona State U), Russell Korte (George Washington U), Alexandra Coso Strong (Florida International U): "Critical Reframings of Early Career Engineering Practice: Special Issue Author Panel & Community Working Group Session"
Kacey Beddoes, San Jose State U
Natascha Buswell, U of California
Chris Gerwitz, Virginia Tech
Brent Jesiek, Purdue University
Benjamin Lutz, California Polytechnic Institute – San Luis Obispo
Swetha Nittala, Stanford U
Marie Paretti, Va Tech
The proposed session builds on an upcoming (2021) special issue of Engineering Studies which critically reexamines early career engineering practice. Four author teams have reframed the challenges faced by early-career engineers when starting their first degreed positions, moving away from prevailing narratives focused on engineering graduates’ presumed technical incompetence toward those that instead emphasize their inadequate socialization to the structural and relational dynamics embedded in their jobs. Each team uses qualitative interviews of working early-career engineers to study these dynamics from a different perspective, among them: (1) boundary-spanning across different roles, activities, and boundary types, (2) intersectional privilege and its differential effects on resource, task, and reward structures, (3) engineering identity development as shaped and constrained by structural agency, and (4) organizational learning as related to the social and cultural aspects of one’s work. Short panel presentations will precede a working group session of INES community members interested in considering how modern engineering practice limits and empowers early-career engineers, how engineering education and practice might be reimagined or transformed, and what research is necessary to advance this agenda. The special issue builds on a 2018 National Science Foundation-sponsored Research on Engineering Practice Workshop, attended by 27 academics, industry practitioners, and government officials and focused on advancing research on engineering practice as it relates to improving engineering education. Discussions in the proposed session are anticipated to build on and augment the research needs that emerged from this workshop, the final report from which we will share at the event.
The Program UnCommittee
Atsushi Akera (Rensselaer)
Beth Reddy (Colorado School of Mines)
Jessica Smith (Colorado School of Mines)
Konstantinos Konstantis (Univ. of Athens)