ENSC2601 A Critical Theory of Technological Development

6 points
Not available in 2018UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • The area of knowledge for this unit is Mathematical and Physical Sciences
  • Category A broadening unit for Bachelor of Arts students where relevant according to the broadening requirements for each student
  • Level 2 elective
This unit is intended to help students develop critical perspectives towards technology in general and engineering practices in particular. It locates the achievements and failures of technological rationality as it has been deployed within European modernity, both historically and in its current phase of neoliberal globalisation. The unit also explores alternative ways of relating to technology that are non-capitalist, non-oppressive and ecologically sustainable. The unit is cross-disciplinary in its approach—this meeting of otherwise disparate world-views, values, theoretical paradigms and political identifications is a key component of the unit. It starts by examining the relationship between technology and society, through sociological studies of technological determinism and social construction, and through a critical reading of engineering texts, where practitioners reveal, sometimes through silence, the ethical and political commitments that underlie their practices. It then takes up a historical study of the Industrial Revolution and its effects on the relationship between technology, labour, industry, society and the natural world. Students reflect on notions of rights, justice, freedom and sustainability in human and non-human arenas, and in relation to existing corporate practices of 'social responsibility'. The unit then examines contemporary global and local engineering practice from a variety of critical perspectives of gender, race and class. Finally, it considers alternative models which take social justice and environmental sustainability not as marketing cant, but as requirements fundamental to technological practices.
Students are able to (1) demonstrate the historical context of engineering in relation to the Industrial Revolution; (2) demonstrate the application of critical theory to engineering practice/theory and demonstrate an ability to think critically and reflexively not only about engineering practices in the abstract, but about their own work in this; (3) challenge current 'common sense' views of engineering practice; (4) assess different views of the relationship between science, technology and society; (5) differentiate between rights, justice, freedom and ethics and illustrate their relation to engineering practice; (6) identify the role of labour in engineering practice; (7) critique neoliberalism, globalisation and the role of engineering; (8) compare and critique local and global technological practices; (9) compare and contrast environmentalism and environmental justice; (10) synthesise data from different sources; (11) work together with other students to develop a consistent argument and represent multiple viewpoints in a coherent report and presentation; (12) demonstrate the ability to write clearly and concisely with adequate grammar; and (13) demonstrate good presentation skills, as well as good debating/negotiating skills.
Typically this unit is assessed in the following ways: (1) seminar attendance, participation and reflective journal; (2) critical response paper; and (3) group project. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit except in the case of a bachelor's pass degree student who has obtained a mark of 45 to 49 overall and is currently enrolled in this unit, and it is the only remaining unit that the student must pass in order to complete their course.
Unit rules
completion of 48 points including ENSC1001 Global Challenges in Engineering (formerly ENSC1001 Engineering Challenges in a Global World);
a Level 1 unit from the Bachelor of Arts
GENG3399 General Engineering Special Unit, GENG3001 Engineering and Social Justice
Contact hours
Unit Outline
This unit is recognised by the University as a service learning unit. Service learning refers specifically to community engagement activities that are embedded in units of study, being structured and assessed as formal educational experiences.
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  • Books and other material wherever listed may be subject to change. Book lists relating to 'Preliminary reading', 'Recommended reading' and 'Textbooks' are, in most cases, available at the University Co-operative Bookshop (from early January) and appropriate administrative offices for students to consult. Where texts are listed in the unit description above, an asterisk (*) indicates that the book is available in paperback.