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Title: Examining the “narrow” and “expansive” socio-technical imaginaries influencing college students’ collaborative reasoning about a design scenario
Many studies show that college engineering students’ sense of ethical and social responsibility declines over the course of their college careers (Cech, 2014; Canny & Bielefeldt, 2015; Schiff et al., 2021). One reason is that many college engineering programs and courses reinforce the social-technical dualism, which treats social and macro-ethical issues as distinct from the technical work more often associated with “real” engineering. Some programs, like the Science, Technology and Society (STS) program at [institution made confidential for review], attempt to challenge this dualism by supporting the integration of social and technical considerations within students’ design work and by asking students to grapple with the complex ethics of their work. However, this program is still embedded within a department, university, and society that subscribes to harmful ideologies such as technocracy, capitalism, and meritocracy, which value efficiency, surveillance, and control. These ideologies and their associated values constrain the imagination for what is possible in design work, for instance, by relying on technological ‘quick fixes’ to address complex social problems or by propping up large corporations as innovators, without adequately grappling with the harm that these corporations might be doing. This cultural reality creates an uphill battle for educators attempting to support engineering students’ sense of social consciousness and ethical responsibility. Thus, this study attempts to understand how engineering students’ imaginations are being constrained by societal structures and ideologies and when do they “break free” from these constraints? In this paper, we present a preliminary analysis of first-year STS students collaboratively reasoning through a simulated design scenario about a small community store facing challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic (adapted from Gupta, 2017). Using discourse and narrative analysis, we analyzed multiple focus group interviews to identify what we call “co-occurrences,” or ideas that tend to hang together in participants’ reasoning. Examining these co-occurrences provides insight into the variety of ways socio-technical imaginaries play out in students’ design thinking.  more » « less
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Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN
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National Science Foundation
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