Corporate executives, politicians, and school board leaders agree—Americans must innovate. Innovation experts fuel this demand with books and services that instruct aspiring innovators in best practices, personal habits, and workplace cultures for fostering innovation. But critics have begun to question the unceasing promotion of innovation, pointing out its gadget-centric shallowness, the lack of diversity among innovators, and the unequal distribution of innovation's burdens and rewards. Meanwhile, reformers work to make the training of innovators more inclusive and the outcomes of innovation more responsible. This book offers an overdue critical exploration of today's global imperative to innovate by bringing together innovation's champions, critics, and reformers in conversation.
The book presents an overview of innovator training, exploring the history, motivations, and philosophies of programs in private industry, universities, and government; offers a primer on critical innovation studies, with essays that historicize, contextualize, and problematize the drive to create innovators; and considers initiatives that seek to reform and reshape what it means to be an innovator.
Errol Arkilic, Catherine Ashcraft, Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, W. Bernard Carlson, Lisa D. Cook, Humera Fasihuddin, Maryann Feldman, Erik Fisher, Benoît Godin, Jenn Gustetic, David Guston, Eric S. Hintz, Marie Stettler Kleine, Dutch MacDonald, Mickey McManus, Sebastian Pfotenhauer, Natalie Rusk, Andrew L. Russell, Lucinda M. Sanders, Brenda Trinidad, Lee Vinsel, Matthew Wisnioski
In the late 1960s an eclectic group of engineers joined the antiwar and civil rights activists of the time in agitating for change. The engineers were fighting to remake their profession, challenging their fellow engineers to embrace a more humane vision of technology. In Engineers for Change, Matthew Wisnioski offers an account of this conflict within engineering, linking it to deep-seated assumptions about technology and American life.
The postwar period in America saw a near-utopian belief in technology's beneficence. Beginning in the mid-1960s, however, society—influenced by the antitechnology writings of such thinkers as Jacques Ellul and Lewis Mumford—began to view technology in a more negative light. Engineers themselves were seen as conformist organization men propping up the military-industrial complex. A dissident minority of engineers offered critiques of their profession that appropriated concepts from technology's critics. These dissidents were criticized in turn by conservatives who regarded them as countercultural Luddites. And yet, as Wisnioski shows, the radical minority spurred the professional elite to promote a new understanding of technology as a rapidly accelerating force that our institutions are ill-equipped to handle. The negative consequences of technology spring from its very nature—and not from engineering's failures. “Sociotechnologists” were recruited to help society adjust to its technology. Wisnioski argues that in responding to the challenges posed by critics within their profession, engineers in the 1960s helped shape our dominant contemporary understanding of technological change as the driver of history.