By Pablo Schyfter
Engineering Life has launched a new website—‘Doing Engineering’—that presents different perspectives on engineering in a novel and playful way. The website is based on one of our workshops and like that workshop, tries to find diverse and enlightening ways to approach and answer the question, ‘what is engineering?’
The workshop, in retrospect
‘Doing Engineering’ was the first of Engineering Life’s experimental interdisciplinary workshops. Our project focuses on the interaction of synthetic biology and engineering in their many different forms. As a result, we dedicated our first workshop to exploring just what constitutes ‘engineering.’ We invited synthetic biologists, engineers, social scientists, policy-makers, philosophers and historians for a day of presentations, conversations and reflections.
‘Doing Engineering’ involved three dialogues, two roundtable discussions and three final reflections. The dialogues and discussions focused the basics of what engineering involves and what being an engineer entails, the engagement of synthetic biology with engineering, and the particular challenges faced by those trying to engineering with living things. The reflections were prepared by three participants as the day progressed, and each provided a distinctive perspective on what we accomplished through our dialogues and discussions.
However, the day began with each person introducing himself or herself. In the spirit of experimentation, we asked each participants to provide us with an image that for them captures what engineering is. As part of introducing ourselves, we explained why we chose that particular image. The images and the thoughts expressed differed from each other in many ways and captured how complex and diverse our understandings of engineering are. We found them so interesting that we decided to share them with a broader audience.
‘Doing Engineering,’ the website
The ‘Doing Engineering’ website offers visitors the chance to explore what images our participants chose and what they said about them. It offers a unique way to approach the question, ‘what is engineering?’ It also allows visitors to chart their own path through our participants’ thoughts.
The home page of the website presents our participants’ images, as interpreted by illustrator Sara Julia Campbell. Upon clicking any of our participants’ images, a visitor is taken to a page which presents selections from what that particular participant told us about engineering. If clicked, each of those quotations reveals three quotations by other participants that capture similar ideas or offer a contradictory viewpoint. That is, each quotation reveals thoughts that expand, enlighten or challenge it. These thoughts by others also serve as links to different pages, each with those others’ image and thoughts. These labyrinthine links let visitors decide how to wander through our many thoughts on engineering.
We offer people ideas, rather than tell them what to think. There is no single view of engineering that we advocate or hold to be better than the others. The ‘Doing Engineering’ website is a tool for people to explore engineering and with which to develop their own conclusions and opinions.
Join our exploration
Visit ‘Doing Engineering’ and join us in our exploration of synthetic biology and engineering! Navigate your way through the images and ideas that we collected and discover new ways to think about professions that shape our world and our societies in countless ways.