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Understanding Moral Imagination: Applying A Network State Framework To Cases Of Inventing For The Environment

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



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Page Numbers

6.1081.1 - 6.1081.6

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Michael Gorman

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Matthew Mehalik

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1661

Understanding Moral Imagination: Applying A Network State Framework to Cases of Inventing for the Environment

Matthew M. Mehalik, Michael E. Gorman University of Virginia


We discuss a network state framework to highlight the decision choices and actions of a group of entrepreneurs who are struggling to do well by doing good by inventing for the environment and global development. The framework helps explain the relationship of moral imagination and the ability to take action after engaging in it given the context of a practitioner’s network relationships. The framework is used as a tool to help engineering students develop skills at integrating moral imagination into their context of decision making.

I. Framework

In engineering education we desire our students to develop a skill in exercising moral imagination by having them shift perspectives when discussing real-world cases1. We are proposing that this process can be improved if we provide our students with a framework to help them structure analysis of the contextual, organizational, and network issues and constraints that make exercising moral imagination difficult in practice.

The framework we discuss consists of three network states:

1. A state in which one actor or small elite group of actors has the overall problem representation and black boxes others into specific roles whose purpose those persons only partly understand. 2. A state in which no group of actors has a comprehensive view and in which all are connected by a boundary object that each actor sees differently. In State 2 individual actors can be pursuing their own enterprises in relation to a common boundary object. Successful networks in this kind of state include active trading zones. Unsuccessful networks include ones in which the creole connecting the zones fails, forcing the network to move into another state or dissociate altogether2. 3. A state in which all participants need to share a common representation.

Networks can shift among these states, and the states also depend on where one draws the practitioner network boundaries. The states can be viewed as a continuum, based on the type of trading zone involved. In State 1 there is only the most unequal kind of trade. A State 1 network can shift into unfair State 2’s, where the trades do not take place on a level basis. As networks Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Gorman, M., & Mehalik, M. (2001, June), Understanding Moral Imagination: Applying A Network State Framework To Cases Of Inventing For The Environment Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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