Tag Archives: Engineering

Book : Epic Engineering. Great Canals and Barrages of Victorian India

image1Epic Engineering. Great Canals and Barrages of Victorian India, Beechwood Melrose Publishing, 2013

Alan Robertson and Jeremy Berkoff

“In India in the early nineteenth century, young British officials in their twenties could find themselves in charge of huge projects. With little or no relevant experience, they had to learn on the job.

Proby Cautley designed and built the Ganges Canal. Over 700 miles long, it remains the biggest construction in the world built without mechanical help – using only man and animal power, wheelbarrows and shovels. In the south of India, his rival and exact contemporary Arthur Cotton built a barrage across the four-mile wide Godavari river, turning its vast delta into productive land.

The achievements of Cautley and Cotton were recognised by knighthoods and public acclaim. But they were completely different in characters and they quarrelled fiercely and publicly. This is their story.”

A review of the book in the Hindu

Book: Carol Upadhya, Reengineering India

Reengineering India. Work, Capital, and Class in an Offshore Economy, Oxford University Press, July 2016, 359 p., ISBN: 9780199461486.

9780199461486Carol Upadhya

  • It is a comprehensive anthropological study of the Indian IT industry
  • It is unique in that it draws on long-term and in-depth ethnographic research inside software organizations and based on extensive interviews with IT professionals and others connected with the industry
  • It examines the origins of software capital, the shaping of the Indian IT workforce, the new management practices and forms of work introduced in IT workspaces, and the connections between IT and the middle class in an overarching and coherent fashion.



Review Essay : A New History of India’s Railways

By Ian J. Kerr, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada

The publication of Ritika Prasad’s (2015b) Tracks of Change: Railways and Everyday Life in Colonial India marks the maturation of a trend present in the historiography of South Asian railways since the turn of the current millennium. This trend has seen some historians give much more attention to the multidimensional ways in which the railways were central to the making of modern India. Some of the new studies mentioned below are in the form of recently completed PhD theses which, I expect—because they all represent impressive examples of interesting scholarship—to emerge as good books during the next couple of years or so. As an impressive corpus of new research and writing the books, articles and theses that populate this trend deserve to be labelled a new history of India’s railways.

See more at: http://www.epw.in/journal/2016/19/review-article/chugging-unfamiliar-stations.html#sthash.nZeQMRVM.dpuf

Talk: 29/04/2016 “Motor Lorry vs. Bullock Cart: Road Transport between Modernizing Agents and Peasant Households in Central and Western India During the Great Depression”

Talk by Dr. Stefan Tetzlaff, CEIAS-CNRS, ENGIND
Motor Lorry vs. Bullock Cart: Road Transport between Modernizing Agents and Peasant Households in Central and Western India During the Great Depression”
Date: 29/04/2016
Time: 2.00 p.m.
Venue: Department of History, Ambedkar Bhavan, Savitribai Phule Pune University.

Thesis : Comparing Engineering Practices in South Asia and Australia

Vinay Domal, Comparing engineering practice in South Asia and Australia. PhD Thesis, University of Western Australia, 2010

“The thesis presents a qualitative investigation of engineering practice in South Asia and Australia in order to learn about engineering practice and the differences between an industrialised country context and a developing world context. Through a series of interviews, participant observations and focus group interviews it discloses the dynamics of how engineers relate to work, to clients, to suppliers, to managers and to each other. It also examines the perceptions and experiences of their daily work practice in two different worlds. The study introduces the concept of dimensions to call attention to the differences uncovered from detailed analysis of engineering practice in South Asia and Australia. The first dimension is the ability of an engineer to coordinate and exercise authority within their own department as well as outside the company and how this makes a difference in the engineering outcomes. Continue reading

One Valley and a Thousand: Dams, Nationalism, and Development by Daniel Klingensmith,

 By the end of the twentieth century, more then 45,000 large dams were built world wide displacing millions of people, and dramatically altering both ecosystems and social systems centered on rivers. A majority of these dams were constructed after 1945. This book seeks to explain the enormous global investment in dams since 1945 and explores their connections to political ideologies. It shows the lack of concern and awareness of policymakers and electorates about the human tragedies. It also sheds light on the disappointing performace of many river valley projects. The author traces the history of the politics and the political culture that influenced economic and technical decisions in the creation of particular dams in India and the United States. In doing so, he contributes to a broader discussion on the politcal significance of dams worldwide, and of the connections between development and nationalism. Continue reading

Article : Historical Validity of Mullaperiyar Project by R. Seenivasan, EPW

This historical analysis of the Periyar project questions the arguments and some of the contemporary claims made about the project’s engineering and construction, and its environmental impact. Far from being an environmentally destructive project, this was a “pacifist” scheme when it was built. The article throws light on these issues by analysing historical documents.

url : http://www.epw.in/commentary/historical-validity-mullaperiyar-project.html

Books: L’École Polytechnique

Bruno Belhoste, La Formation d’une technocratie. L’École polytechnique et ses élèves de la Révolution au Second Empire, Paris, Belin, 2003

“La technocratie française est née pendant la Révolution avec l’École polytechnique. Les futurs cadres techniques de l’État y reçoivent un enseignement scientifique général d’excellence, avant de se spécialiser dans des écoles d’application. Désignés pour leurs seuls mérites, les technocrates du XIXe siècle croient aux vertus de l’éducation et de la connaissance, tout en ayant l’orgueil de caste des grands serviteurs de l’État.
C’est à l’École polytechnique qu’ils acquièrent, dans un cadre militaire, leurs compétences et leurs dispositions. L’institution incarne un idéal hérité des Lumières : en s’appliquant, les sciences théoriques assurent le progrès matériel et technique.
À partir de ces thèmes, Bruno Belhoste propose une analyse globale du système polytechnicien au XIXe siècle, de ses pouvoirs et de ses savoirs, et une étude détaillée des origines des élèves et de leurs destins. Il fournit ainsi une réponse documentée et argumentée à la question des origines de la technocratie française.”

Marc-Olivier Baruch & Vincent Guigueno (eds), Le choix des X : l’École polytechnique et les polytechniciens 1939-1945, Paris, Fayard, 2000

“Pourquoi et comment un polytechnicien poursuivant une carrière dans l’administration, l’armée ou l’entreprise devient-il un résistant ? Quelles furent à l’inverse les motivations de ceux qui, vantant l’apolitisme de la technique, choisirent de conserver des responsabilités au sein de services de l’État engagées dans la Révolution nationale et la collaboration ?
Les réponses à ces questions se trouvent moins dans une hypothétique identité polytechnicienne que dans l’analyse du parcours des élèves et anciens élèves au sein de quatre groupes : les promotions présentes à l’École pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, les ingénieurs des grands corps techniques de l’État, les officiers des armes savantes, enfin les résistants, issus de chacun de ces trois derniers groupes.
Ce livre prolonge des journées d’études animées par l’association X-Résistance. Il rassemble des textes rédigés par des historiens spécialistes de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, des documents inédits et des témoignages d’acteurs de l’époque qui rappellent que, au-delà d’éventuels déterminismes transmis par la formation polytechnicienne, l’engagement fut d’abord un choix individuel.”

See also: 

B.Belhoste, A.Dahan-Dalmedico, D.Pestre & A.Picon (eds), La France des X. Deux siècles d’histoire, Paris, Economica, 1995

Concordance des temps, Polytechnique: Une caste en démocratie?, 05/05/2012


Project: Context in Engineering

Rethinking Context in Engineering

Working title for the project group: Issues in Engineering Studies

Publisher: Springer

To be published in the Springer series: Philosophy of Engineering & Technology

Responsible editor and project coordinator: Steen Hyldgaard Christensen

Co-editors: Bernard Delahousse, Gary Downey, Andrew Jamison, Martin Meganck, Carl Mitcham

Approach: A combination of the approach used in: Christensen, Steen Hyldgaard, Delahousse, Bernard, Meganck, Martin (eds) (2009). Engineering in Context. Academica, Aarhus and the approach used in Gary Downey and Kasey Beddoe (eds.) (2010). What is Global Engineering For: The Making of International Educators. Morgan & Claypool Publishers.

Length of the volume: 600 pages

Short description of the Springer project: The aim of this project is to gain a better understanding of the contexts in which engineering activities are situated within the larger realm of human activities. In dealing with context it immediately becomes clear that context is an inherently dialectical concept, since contextualizing in itself is dependent on definitions of what is perceived to be the relevant boundaries regarding both the education and the practice of engineering. Contextualizing thus unfolds its inherent dialectics in the terrain between what “is” and “ought”. In this way the quest for a re-contextualizing of engineering education and practice put forward in this volume inevitably is a value-laden enterprise and therefore not without a certain degree of controversy. It is concerned with both what engineering “is” and what it “ought” to be. Ultimately a greater awareness and understanding of context should result in better preparation of engineers to render those contexts visible in their work, and consequently enable engineers to contribute to more socially robust and responsible endeavors. Engineering practices have to often been characterized by absence of self-criticism, and liberal arts practices by reverence for isolated critical virtuosity. To burst these boundaries in a collaborative effort is a main purpose of the project. Using ”context” and two simply stated but complex questions “What is engineering for? and, What are engineers for?”  as bridges the project sets out to juxtapose important cases of critical participation within engineering with sophisticated scholarly reflection on both opportunities and discontents.

Provisional structure of the volume containing 30 chapters (600 pages).


General Introduction

Section 1 (Introduction + 6 chapters): Contextualizing Engineering

Section 2 (Introduction + 6 chapters): Institutional Contexts of Engineering Education

Section 3 (Introduction + 6 chapters): Context in Engineering Curricula

Section 4 (Introduction + 6 chapters): Context in Engineering Design

Section 5 (Introduction + 6 chapters): Ethics and Values in Engineering

Author Biographies


Short description of the main content of the five sections

Section 1: Contextualizing Engineering

The issue of context in engineering is no doubt one of the most central and controversial topics in the studies of engineering and technology. On the one hand, context is an old issue if one views engineering as an activity adapting technical objects and projects to particular material and social conditions. On the other hand, it is a current issue if one considers the context to be at the heart of contemporary philosophical, historical and social reflections upon technology. Whatever the viewpoint, any attempt to characterize engineering as a core activity of the ‘technology-in-society’ must, as far as possible, choose a position on what can be termed ‘the question of context’. Section 1 is thus meant to serve as a philosophical, historical, and social reflection of the various meanings of “Context” in engineering and technology.

Section 2: Institutional Contexts of Engineering Education

Engineering education takes place at different levels, in different types of institutions embedded in different national systems of higher education. Systems of higher education are not stable entities but are exposed to structural change over time due to institutional and structural dynamics. Examples of typical structural dynamics are academic drift in engineering colleges and vocational drift in universities. Such dynamics work to transform educational systems and to blur the boundaries between the different types of institutions. The aim of this section is to investigate the historical record of a number of ideal typical institutions of engineering education in the United States, Europa, and China and the historical transformation they have gone through. As ideal typical cases The United Kingdom, France, Germany and China represent four historical reference models of higher education – the Oxbridge, the Napoleonic, the Humboldtian, and the Marxist. These reference models constitute the historical initial conditions for the shaping of engineering education and the different status and roles attributed to engineers in the four countries. In section 2 these issues will be scrutinized.

Section 3: Context in Engineering Curricula

The importance of incorporating contextual issues and developing socio-technical competencies in engineering education has been widely acknowledged in the engineering education community in Australia, Europe and the United States. High quality engineering design requires understanding of how the engineered artifact interacts with individuals, society, and  the environment, both natural and manmade. In the US, the ABET EC 2000 criteria (www.abet.org) for accrediting engineering programs incorporate context in two out of eleven program outcomes (a-k) under criterion 3. The two context-related outcomes to be achieved by first-cycle engineering students are (c) “an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability”, and (h) “the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, and societal context”. In the European EUR-ACE accreditation framework (Document A1-en Final 17 November, 2005), context is incorporated as one outcome out of five under the heading “Transferable Skills”.First-cycle engineering students are expected to “demonstrate awareness of the health, safety and legal issues and responsibilities of engineering practice, the impact of engineering solutions in a societal and environmental context, and commit to professional ethics, responsibilities and norms of engineering practice”. The aim of this section is to investigate whether and if so to what extent, confronted with which obstacles and how socio-technical integration has been tackled and implemented in a number of exemplary engineering education institutions and their curricula.

Section 4: Context in Engineering Design

Engineering design may be seen as the core of engineering. In this section, we will focus on the major structural differences between science and engineering. When embarking on a com­parison of science and engineering from a general perspective, the initial problem one faces is: what to compare? It may be argued that, at a general level, scholars of modern technology of whatever philosophical bent they may be seem to agree that technology can be distinguished from science in three closely related areas: 1. Centre and purpose of activity, 2. Normative foundation, 3. Epistemo­logical breadth and complexity. As engineering design is embedded in a larger context – a “social world” – both at a micro, meso and macro level, the design process can be conceived as a social process as well. A complete design is not in the hands of a single individual. To proceed, engineers have to take into consideration legal restrictions and standards, performance requirements set by customers, they have to negotiate with others in the company etc. Different worlds intersect generating work, which is fundamentally social and process. No overriding instrumental strategy is at hand to reconcile and synthesize the diverse design interests. At the beginning of the design process the performance requirements set by the customer is the basis of the layout of performance specifications, but even these requirements are subject to change. It is impossible to uphold these specifications within an ongoing process of modification, clarification, negotiation and joint interpretation. In this way specifications, which seem clear at the outset are challenged by the very design process. The design process is thus a process of discovery to uncover ambiguities, confusions and contradictions. The aim of this section is to scrutinize engineering design methodology, knowledge components and the role of context in the engineering design process ranging from small scale design of technical devices to large scale socio-technical system design.

Section 5: Ethics and Values in Engineering

Project Start:  Beginning of May 2012

Duration: 2 years, ending 1 December 2014

Kick-off workshop at MIT 4 and 5 May 2012: a 2 days kick-off workshop will be held Friday 4 and Saturday 5 May 2012 in the Conference room at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge in the United States. This has been arranged by Larry Bucciarelli. STS at MIT has offered to host a reception for our gathering on Friday evening. Wine, beer, cheese and crackers will be supplied by the program. 10 faculty members from within MIT will be invited to attend this event. The purpose of the workshop is:

  1. to get to know each other
  2. to give a presentation of the project by the editors
  3. to present publishing editor at Springer Ties Nijssen and project facilities Springer can offer
  4. to create a team spirit
  5. to fine tune the structure of the volume
  6. to discuss in groups interpretations of section titles regarding scope and content of sections
  7. to create an overview of possible chapter titles and their distributions across the seven sections
  8. to agree on deadlines
  9. to listen to a limited number of presentations

Workshop expenditures, travel, meals and accommodation: As there would be no project funding all cost are to be funded by participants via their institutions

Project communication, template and standards (including the system of referencing) for the chapters:

  1. Web site
  2. List of e-mail addresses
  3. Template to be used in the writing of chapters.

Deadlines and milestones:

  1. Delivery of titles, abstracts and names of authors and possible co-authors for and of chapters
  2. Writing of the Preface of the volume by the editors immediately after the kick off workshop
  3. Delivery of individual author biographies for the author biography of the volume at the beginning of the project
  4. Appointment of authors and co-authors of section introductions
  5. Delivery of proofread first drafts of chapters
  6. Review of chapters
  7. Delivery of revised chapters according to the recommendations given in the reviews
  8. Proofreading and copy-editing of chapters by native English speaking participants
  9. Indexing of chapters by the authors
  10. Delivery of final versions of chapters in each section to the authors of section introductions
  11. Writing the General Introduction by the editors and the respective section introductions
  12. Submission to Springer

Target groups:

  1. Scholars of engineering studies and STS
  2. Engineering educators at all levels
  3. Instructors, researchers and practitioners in engineering
  4. Policy makers, accreditation agencies, professional engineering societies
  5. Engineering students

List of participants:

Byron Newberry, Baylor University, Texas (Byron­_Newberry@baylor.edu)

Wayne Ambler, University of Colorado, Boulder (wayne.ambler@colorado.edu)

Jen Schneider, Colorado School of Mines (jen.schneider@mines.edu)

Juan Lucena, Colorado School of Mines (jlucena@mines.edu)

Carl Mitcham, Colorado School of Mines (cmitcham@mines.edu)

Louis L. Bucciarelli, MIT (llbjr@MIT.EDU)

Bruce Seely, Michigan Technological University, United States (bseely@mtu.edu)

Joe Pitt, Virginia Tech (jcpitt@vt.edu)

Matt Wisnioski, Virginia tech (mwisnios@vt.edu)

Gary Downey, Virginia Tech (downeyg@vt.edu)

Michael Dyrenfurth, Purdue University (mdyrenfu@purdue.edu)

Brent Jesiek, Purdue University (bjesiek@purdue.edu)

Erik Fisher, Arizona State University (efisher1@asu.edu)

Joe Herkert, Arizona State University (joseph.herkert@asu.edu)

Javier Cañavate, Technical University of Catalonia, Spain (francisco.javier.canavate@upc.edu)

José Manuel Lis, Technical University of Catalonia, Spain (manuel-jose.lis@upc.edu)

Martin Meganck, KaHo, Sint-Lieven, Belgium (martin.meganck@kahosl.be)

Bernard Delahousse, IUT “A” Lille, France (bdelahousse@free.fr)

Steen Hyldgaard Christensen, Aarhus University, Denmark (steenhc@hih.au.dk)

Michael Evan Goodsite, Aarhus University, Denmark (MichaelG@hih.au.dk)

Matthias Heymann, Aarhus University, Denmark (matthias.heymann@ivs.au.dk)

Anders Buch, Technical University of Denmark (ABU@ida.dk)

Andrew Jamison, Aalborg University, Denmark (andy@plan.aau.dk)

Stig Andur Pedersen, Roskilde University Center (RUC), Denmark (sap@ruc.dk)

Fernand Doridot, ICAM Lille, France (doridot (fernand.doridot@icam.fr)

Sylvain Lavelle, ICAM Lille, France (sylvain.lavelle@icam.fr)

Christelle Didier, The Catholic University of Lille, France (ChristelleD@icl-lille.fr)

Peter Kroes, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands (P.A.Kroes@tudelft.nl)

Pieter Vermaas, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands (P.E.Vermaas@tudelft.nl)

Wilhelm Bomke, Fachhochschule Regensburg, Germany (auslandsamt@fh-regensburg.de)

Mike Murphy, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland (mike.murphy@dit.ie)

William (Bill) Grimson, Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland (william.grimson@dit.ie)

Li Bocong, The Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (libocong@gucas.ac.cn)

Additional authors:

If needed additional authors may be invited after the workshop in May 2012 at MIT.

Review: Engineering Labour

Peter Meiksins and Chris Smith (eds), Engineering labour. Technical workers in comparative perspective. London, New-York: Verso, 1996.

Review by Charles Gadéa

This collective book is based on six case studies of engineers in Britain, Germany, France, USA, Sweden and Japan. It shows the importance of national differences in the training and the organization of engineering labour. In the two last chapters, Peter Meiksins and Chris Smith address the common issues that emerge from the case studies. They consider that the engineers play an ambiguous role within the enterprise as intermediate workers, engaging in complex and contradictory relationships with both employers and manual workers. These tensions, combined with local specificities, explain national configurations. Yet, at the same time, the authors stress that “there is not an infinite variety of ways of producing engineers. ”

“We know that there are underlying structural realities, but their effects are mediated in complex ways. We know institutional formation varies, but not infinitely. We know that the agencies involved in formation – the state, capital, labour, occupational associations- are common to all the societies, yet organized differently.” (p. 236)

Thus, the main question is how can we synthesize these variations into a limited number of models. According to Meiksins and Smith there are four main models which describe the ways of producing engineering workforce and define the social position of engineers. The first model is the craft model, in which engineers and technical workers are skilled workers at the top of the hierarchy of industrial workers: “the ‘engineer’ is constituted not by the possession of credentials, but by the laborious acquisition of practical experience” (p. 238). The second one, the managerial model, defines engineers as part of the managerial people and quite often they are trained in formal educational institutions that teach universal skills that can be easily transferred and adapted to different situations. In the third case, the “estate organization” is characterized by a stratified hierarchy of technical occupations, with formal school trained and rather elitist professionals on the one hand, but also a variety of other technical workers with claims to be recognized as engineers, on the other hand. The fourth and last model, the “company centred” model, is degree-based; the engineers are trained at the university, but the new staff are recruited by and promoted into the company; people are encouraged to show a sense of solidarity with the firm viewed as a whole rather than develop strong occupational identities and professional associations.

Book: Engineering Education

André Grelon, A.Karvar, I.GouzevitchLa formation des ingénieurs en perspective. Modèles de référence et réseaux de médiation, XVIIIe-XX siècles, Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2004

« L’institutionnalisation de la formation et de la pratique des ingénieurs est un processus historique de grande ampleur qui se développe parallèlement aux grandes vagues d’industrialisation en Europe et en Amérique du Nord, dès la fin du XVIIIe siècle. Elle ne cesse de s’étendre à tous les pays; elle est encore à l’œuvre aujourd’hui. Elle est souvent en corrélation avec la diffusion des “modèles” d’enseignement technique. Réunissant des contributions de chercheurs et d’universitaires venus du monde entier, le présent ouvrage offre un aperçu original des recherches comparatives sur le transfert des “modèles” d’enseignement pour ingénieurs entre différentes aires culturelles. Les articles rassemblés en trois parties – institutionnalisation de l’enseignement, médiation des acteurs et polysémie du concept de ” modèle ” – traitent des déterminants techniques et culturels, des stratégies d’expansion et des choix politiques comme des mécanismes complexes d’acculturation dans un environnement local. »