Overview

I am fascinated by the complex relationship between technology and society in our contemporary lives. In our “technological culture” we often take technology for granted as an instrument that makes our lives convenient and enjoyable. But such an instrumental view often neglects the vital social, cultural and political aspects that are necessary for a given technology to be accepted or to become sustainable in society. An example will help illustrate my point:


The Strange Case of the Persistence of the QWERTY Keyboard: I typed these letters with the keyboard that came with my desktop. That keyboard has a standard arrangement that has come to be called QWERTY. This arrangement, surprisingly, has not changed for the past 150 years despite the fact that it is not the most efficient for the quickest typing. Why then have we not shifted to a more efficient form (for example the Dvorak keyboard) for data entry? The answer lies in a social dynamic of technological change that is referred to as Technological Lock-in. Several social factors create a huge inertia that prevents the transition of technology from one form to another.
qwertydvorak

QWERTY Keyboard (left) compared to Dvorak Keyboard (right)

If you are interested in learning more about the relations between society and technology, please consider attending ENGR 392 Impact of Technology on Society class I teach.

 

Specifics

I am currently pursuing three active lines of research:

  1. Infrastructure & Urban Renewal in India: I am very interested in this direction of research. I will be trying to understand the success of urban renewal efforts to ‘decongest’ infrastructures in Indian cities. I will be conducting comparative research of selected cities in India to understand how the comprehensive process of renewal will be undertaken.

  2. Policy dynamics of water supply: This research is currently funded by an FQRSC grant. I will be conducting research again in urban India to understand the dynamics of water supply change. This research will build upon work that I did for my dissertation research. 

  3. Diversity in Engineering Education: This is an area of research that I will begin in Fall 2010. I am proposing to understand how engineering education in Canada is attempting to diversify to areas that are not traditionally within the domain of engineering science. I characterize these areas broadly as “public engineering” since they are concerned with a more thoughtful and humane appreciation for society outside the professional realm. I will be examining engineering education initiatives in areas such as globalization, multiculturalism, public policy, sustainability and environmental ethics. This research will attempt to understand the predominant directions of this research, the opportunities and challenges it faces with diversification.