Studying online

There are now 2 possible online modes for units:

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Unit Overview


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.

6 points
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 elective

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.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) seminar attendance, participation and reflective journal; (2) critical response paper; and (3) group project. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
To be advised
Unit rules
completion of 48 points including ENSC1001 Global Challenges in Engineering (formerly ENSC1001 Engineering Challenges in a Global World).
or a Level 1 unit from the Bachelor of Arts
GENG3399 General Engineering Special Unit, GENG3001 Engineering and Social Justice
Contact hours
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.