June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Engineers design stuff. And some of this stuff–cell phones, microwave ovens, automobiles–is part and parcel of our lives. We can hardly imagine life without technology–all products of engineering ingenuity. But is technology merely a tool or a representation of social, political, and ethical values? Do our artifacts reflect culture or help to create it?
This paper will explore the latter: that artifacts have values, an argument examined in detail by Langdon Winner, in his seminal 1986 The Whale and the Reactor. As Winner notes, the meaning of technology extends beyond simple usage; technologies play a role in reshaping that activity and hence changing its meaning. This echoes a sentiment expressed two decades earlier by Marshall McLuhan, that our tools reshape who we are as humans. The relationship is reciprocal: we shape our tools and they, in turn, shape us. If technological artifacts are indeed value-laden and shape cultural mores, this has significant repercussions for engineering educators. Our students cannot just design their stuff in a vacuum; they must consider how that particular item will reshape the persons using it.
Specifically, the paper will examine the following: • Theory • Cases • IBM and the mechanical tabulator • The Internet • Classroom integration Ethics is inherent in this topic, as each new technological invention is a triple-edged sword, with benefits, disadvantages, and unintended consequences. As budding engineers, our students must learn about designing for factors beyond simple usage.
Dyrud, M. A. (2017, June), Ethics and Artifacts Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28298
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