This paper addresses the persistent problem that engineering education positions the engineering profession in neutral terms, placing moral weight not on the work of engineers but on the ad hoc uses of technical outcomes. We call this the “neutrality problem.” The problem plays out in common assumptions that, for instance, cars are only as violent as their users choose them to be, absolving engineers of moral responsibility for any socio-technical outcomes. The neutrality problem is not new; it has a long history of being challenged by critically engaged engineering educators. Based on interview data from undergraduate engineering students, we build on the work of these critical educators to argue for more nuanced understandings of how violence—at both interpersonal and structural levels—is conceived by activists and scholars. This work will help educators construct pathways for non-neutral engineering education.
Michael Lachney is a PhD candidate in Science and Technology Studies at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His research is at the intersection of STEM education and critical pedagogy. Michael’s work has appeared in Learning, Media and Technology, Computational Culture: A Journal of Software Studies, and the International Journal for Research in Mathematics Education.
David A. Banks is an interdisciplinary researcher, an organizing committee member for Theorizing the Web and an editor of The Society Pages' technology & society blog Cyborgology. His work has also been featured in Real Life, The New Inquiry, Tikkun Magazine, The Baffler Blog, and McSweeney's Internet Tendency.
David’s work focuses on the intersections of digital networks, urban form, and structures of power. He holds a PhD in Science and Technology Studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic institute and a B.A. in Urban Studies from New College of Florida. His Erdös Number is 4.
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