Models: What Do Engineers See in Them?
Developments in areas such as communications, control and switching systems, notably those moving into the public domain after the end of World War II, increasingly used complex mathematical ideas to model the way the systems behaved. However, not only was the mathematics unfamiliar to many engineers but, perhaps more significantly, the mathematics by itself often gave little or no insight into why a system behaved as it did, or how it might be designed to behave in a particular way. Rather than working directly with the mathematics, engineers developed ways of describing systems by constructing models that represented behaviour pictorially and which gave the experienced user a more immediate ‘feel’ for what was going on. It is proposed that this process is a key feature of the way engineers talk and think about the systems they design and build. Two examples from the evolving discourses in the communication and control engineering communities following World War II offer a view of this process in action. This chapter argues that the models engineers develop and use open up new ways of talking about systems that become part of the everyday language of communities of engineering practice.
KeywordsFrequency Response Boolean Algebra Process Engineer Phase Margin Boolean Expression
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