Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reading Response #1

Brig Bagley

Reading Response #1

Engineering in the United States has a very distinct image: white collar, male, smart, technology, and innovation are all terms that often go synonymously with the term engineering. The process of engineering also has a well defined sequence of actions: see a problem or need in society or in an item, find a better solution, test the solution and throw it out into the public, repeat. To those of us in the United States, it is almost accepted that all of these terms and sequences are true for the majority of engineers and engineering in general. Few, if any, realize that engineering does not mean the same thing around the world. In fact the different views of engineers across the world differ so much that some may not even consider the other view to be engineering at all. Because of the differing perspectives of engineering, it is imperative that engineers are aware of the conflicts between cultures to be successful. In addition, engineering must not be labeled or categorized for certain types of people, backgrounds, or even defined as one distinct and particular process.

Engineering has a very bare minimum of universal ground. Although the perspectives may be different, engineers in near all countries are looking to better the world. Needless to say, nearly all professions hope to better the world. This makes engineering seem as uniform as the countries of the world. But it is true. According to the article, “The Globally Competent Engineer: Working Effectively with People Who Define Problems Differently,” by Downey and others, “engaging ways of thinking and understanding that differ from your own can refer either to ways of solving or of defining problem” (2). The very core of engineering depends on how people define problems and identify solutions to those problems. If engineers of differing cultures cannot agree on whether a problem is a problem, or determine if a solution is a solution, how can we expect any progress? Engineers must be aware of certain cultural differences to maintain common ground as well as respect the differing needs within that culture.

Society (especially in the United States) often labels every part of life and puts images on top of all aspects of the world. Women are refined and classy. Men are strong and dominant. Nurses are female assistants to doctors. Engineers are white-collar men. We as human beings are very aware of their social status and where they lie in all of these labels. We are also aware of where we fit into these patterns, and where we do not. As expected, we tend to move towards the labels that society associates with us. According to Lucena, “dominant images create expectations about how individuals in that location are supposed to act or behave” (5). Why would someone try to swim against the current? It’s much easier to go along with the direction things are going. Because of this mindset, the diversity and individuality that could benefit all of these different aspects of life is lost. To overcome this loss, it is imperative that people, (and in our case specifically, engineers), remove the social labels and barriers that confine the possibilities within the realm of engineering.

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