Seeing Like an Engineer: Water Projects and the Mediation of the Incommensurable

TitleSeeing Like an Engineer: Water Projects and the Mediation of the Incommensurable
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsReuss, M.
Secondary TitleTechnology and Culture
Abstract

The essays in this “water issue” of Technology and Culture illuminate the role of negotiation in public works. The story goes back centuries, but during the last two centuries negotiations have grown more complicated. Clashing views over planned projects are rarely confined to questions of technique, but extend to questions regarding whether those who benefit are also those who pay and what the costs, both tangible and intangible, actually are. In assessing competing visions, opposing political desires, conflicting science, and often intangible cultural benefits and costs, public works engineers attempt to mediate the incommensurable. Their scale weighs cultural preferences, economic requirements, environmental protection, and other issues. It often requires that the quantitative give way to the qualitative, and the purported objective to the subjective. Over time and in locations near and remote, negotiations have changed the very nature of public works engineering and of what people expect of engineers.

URLhttp://muse.jhu.edu/journals/technology_and_culture/v049/49.3.reuss.html