In recent years, the social importance of technology and the technogenic nature of social problems have highlighted the need for engineers’ active participation in the democratic deliberative process. But, as noted by civil engineer and author Samuel Florman, “At a time when we need engineers who are leaders, and leaders who understand engineering, we are not producing either” (1996, p. xiv). Engineering educators and accreditation boards seek to remediate this problem by introducing new skills into the curriculum, including awareness of the “non-technical implications of engineering practice” (European Network for Accreditation of Engineering ducation, 2008), “broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context” (American Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, 2012), and engineering’s “interactions . . . with the economic, social, health, safety, legal, and cultural aspects of society” Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board, 2008).

Such curricular inclusions prepare engineers to participate as experts and engaged citizens in public debate about technology-related issues. The pedagogical question is how to provide engineering students with the skills to communicate effectively with the general public, beyond the rhetorical culture of engineering. The project uses the trope of failure to explore the rhetorical culture of engineering. In particular, we examine how the Failure Reports of the international development organization Engineers without Borders, while presented as transgressive discourse, affirm and reinforce the dominant discourse of engineering.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

When Errors Occur
Failure Reports/Public Failures

Deborah Dysart Gale   Concordia University, Montreal

Peter Grogono   Concordia University, Montreal

In recent years, the social importance of technology and the technogenic nature of social problems have highlighted the need for engineers’ active participation in the democratic deliberative process. But, as noted by civil engineer and author Samuel Florman, “At a time when we need engineers who are leaders, and leaders who understand engineering, we are not producing either” (1996, p. xiv). Engineering educators and accreditation boards seek to remediate this problem by introducing new skills into the curriculum, including awareness of the “non-technical implications of engineering practice” (European Network for Accreditation of Engineering ducation, 2008), “broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context” (American Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, 2012), and engineering’s “interactions . . . with the economic, social, health, safety, legal, and cultural aspects of society” Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board, 2008).

Such curricular inclusions prepare engineers to participate as experts and engaged citizens in public debate about technology-related issues. The pedagogical question is how to provide engineering students with the skills to communicate effectively with the general public, beyond the rhetorical culture of engineering. The project uses the trope of failure to explore the rhetorical culture of engineering. In particular, we examine how the Failure Reports of the international development organization Engineers without Borders, while presented as transgressive discourse, affirm and reinforce the dominant discourse of engineering.

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