What is engineering studies for? Dominant practices and scalable scholarship

TitleWhat is engineering studies for? Dominant practices and scalable scholarship
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsDowney, G. Lee
Secondary TitleEngineering Studies
ISBN Number1937-8629
Keywordscritical participation, engineering education, engineering studies, intervention, scalable scholarship

In this article for scholars in engineering studies, I draw on the work of Antonio Gramsci to highlight scaling up as a scholarly practice and make a case that engineering studies highlight attention to what I call scalable scholarship. Scale is the moving boundary between ideas and realities, meaning and reference, the ideal and the real. Highlighting scaling up involves inquiring into what is taking place when scholars not only conduct research on engineers and engineering but also design and teach courses for engineering students, serve on official panels and advisory committees, offer presentations to engineering audiences, and help build a new discipline focused on engineering education. An invitation to deliver a keynote address to the World Congress of Chemical Engineering became a challenge to venture beyond research for STS audiences and pedagogical supplements in the curricular margins to begin contesting the dominant epistemological contents of engineering practices by integrating practices of critical self-analysis in the core of engineering curricula. In undertaking the ’Glasgow project’, I came to recognize how research practices open and close pathways for critical participation. I also learned the importance of listening to ongoing struggles, following complexity with dense simplicity, engaging diverse audiences, and accepting the necessity and implications of localizing practices. Scalable scholarship avoids the comforts of resolute pessimism, but it risks the dangers of co-optation.