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In-vitro Fertilization (IVF) as a Sociotechnical System: Using Actor-network Theory (ANT) for Teaching Undergraduate Engineers About the Ethics of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

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Paper Authors


Rosalyn W. Berne University of Virginia

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Rosalyn W. Berne, PhD is Associate Professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Virginia in the program of Science, Technology and Society (STS) within the department of Engineering and Society. She received advanced degrees from the University of Virginia, in Communication Studies, and in Religious Studies with a focus on Bioethics. Rosalyn explores the intersecting realms of emerging technologies, science, fiction and myth, and the links between the human and non-human worlds. Her academic research and writing span considerations of ethics in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and reproductive technology, with two academic books, numerous conference papers and journal articles published under her name. She has also written in the genre of science fiction, and published award-winning books in the body-mind-spirit genre about her encounters with horses. She has taught courses in Nanotechnology Ethics and Policy; Gender Issues and Ethics in the New Reproductive Technologies; Religion and Technology; STS & Engineering Practice; The Engineer, Ethics, and Professional Responsibility; STS and the Frankenstein Myth. Rosalyn regularly incorporates mindfulness practices into her engineering school courses.

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While reproductive technologies have enabled many otherwise infertile couples to conceive, and contributed to the untold joy and satisfaction that comes with creating a family, the use of these technologies has also introduced into the process of being conceived and born, multiple and complex nodes of ethical concern. This paper describes an engineering school elective course on the ethics of reproductive technologies. And how, as a result of guest lectures by one of the leading embryologists in the United States, and class visits to his IVF lab, the students came to appreciate the moral agency of both human and non-human technological "actants" involved in the socio-technical network that surrounds assisted reproductive technology (ART). Thusly, the author advocates for inclusion of the Actor Network Theory (ANT) in engineering ethics pedagogy.

Berne, R. W. (2018, June), In-vitro Fertilization (IVF) as a Sociotechnical System: Using Actor-network Theory (ANT) for Teaching Undergraduate Engineers About the Ethics of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30639

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