For the Benefit of Humanity: Values in Micro, Meso, Macro, and Meta Levels in Engineering
The goal of this essay is to sketch a taxonomic outline of values within engineering. Any desire to understand the technology-society relationship would presumably benefit from investigating the values that inform engineering work, since that work is largely proximate to the production of technologies. More specifically, an understanding of the values constitutive of and operating within engineering at a multitude of levels can potentially aid in understanding how engineers go from thought to thing in the processes of design and manufacture. I propose a four-level hierarchy of engineering values, at the micro, meso, macro, and meta levels. Values at the micro level correspond to those values operative at the level of specific, detailed engineering tasks. Meso level values are those values operative in the process of translating functional descriptions of designs into structural descriptions – that is, at the creative level of engineering design. At the macro-level, I refer to the values operative for engineers at the economic/organizational level – that is, at the level at which engineers intersect heavily with non-technical interests. Finally, the meta level comprises overarching values that presumably inform all of engineering work.
KeywordsEngineering values Engineering design Engineering organizations Engineering profession
I thank the following students who participated in conducting interviews of engineers during the spring semester of 2014. At the time they were undergraduate Mechanical Engineering or Electrical and Computer Engineering majors at Baylor University, though now all have graduated: Zach Bitting, Andrew Hoeckel, Courtney Kimutis, Peyton Lundsford, and Alexa Wilde.
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