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Being Political In The Global: How Engineers Accommodate, Resist, And Experience Ambiguity Towards Globalization

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Global Engineering in an Interconected World

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.255.1 - 7.255.14



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Paper Authors

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Juan Lucena

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Session 2360

Being Political in the Global: How engineers accommodate, resist, and experience ambiguity towards globalization Juan C. Lucena Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University


Corporations, governments, and the engineers they hire face increasing challenges in the global economy such as mobility of capital and labor, organizational re-structuring across national boundaries, development and implementation of more efficient production and manufacturing practices, among others. Yet we know very little about how engineers understand and experience globalization, and how globalization impacts their education, hiring, daily practices, and designs. In this paper, I outline a theoretical and methodological framework to analyze the impact of globalization on the education, hiring, practices, and designs of engineers in aerospace industries in the US, Europe, and Latin America. Next, I present preliminary ethnographic data that shows how engineers in different US corporate locations view and experience organizational change as one of the features of globalization. Illustrating the differences among engineers’ experiences could help upcoming generations of engineering students and professionals understand ways in which they might experience globalization in the workplace. I conclude the paper by making recommendations to engineering educators on educational experiences that might help future engineers deal with the ambiguities that globalization brings upon the workplace.

Literature Review

Globalization and engineering in the social sciences. There is a significant need for theories and methods to help us understand the relationship between globalization and engineering practice and education. With very few exceptions (e.g., Schott 1994; Worthington 2000), social theorists of globalization have taken engineering for granted, usually as an externality that helps globalization, while scholars of science and technology studies (STS) have neglected globalization as an important dimension in the shaping of technology, including engineering practice and education. The root of the problem might be in scholars' unwillingness to cross disciplinary boundaries. As Ancarani (1995: 653) argued, “there has been relatively little contact to date between scholarship in international relations or political economy and the advances in science and technology studies.... As a result, basic analytic concepts, including ‘globalization’ and science and technology themselves, have been taken for granted and have not been problematized to a far greater degree than in more traditional areas of S&T research, such as laboratory studies or controversies.”

Furthermore there are significant conceptual and empirical problems with social theories that make implicit a possible role for engineers in globalization. For example, according to Anthony Giddens (1990), expert systems consist of repositories of technical knowledge that can be deployed across a wide range of contexts and establish an element of trust across national and

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Lucena, J. (2002, June), Being Political In The Global: How Engineers Accommodate, Resist, And Experience Ambiguity Towards Globalization Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10903

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