TSH, more inclusive and responsible

UTC’s Tech­nol­o­gy and Human Sci­ences Depart­ment is chang­ing its name to Tech­nol­o­gy, Soci­eties and Human­i­ties. The Department’s pre­vi­ous name dates back to 1986, the year THS was found­ed at UTC.

Since its cre­ation in 1972, the UTC has been char­ac­terised by its desire to give an impor­tant place to human­i­ties and social sci­ences in the train­ing of its stu­dents. The con­vic­tion of the UTC’s founder-Pres­i­dent, Guy Deniélou, was that you can’t real­ly know human beings with­out know­ing the objects they build, and vice ver­sa.» Today, this has almost become com­mon­place in the engi­neer­ing train­ing land­scape. Every­one recog­nis­es the impor­tance and inter­est of the human and social sci­ences. For UTC, the dif­fer­ence must con­tin­ue to be made in the demands we make, which do not reduce the human­i­ties and social sci­ences to util­i­tar­i­an, enter­tain­ing or pro­fes­sion­al­is­ing pf knowl­edge. We need to extend and strength­en the links between tech­nol­o­gy and human­i­ties and social sci­ences. This project makes even more sense today, in the con­text of the eco­log­i­cal, infor­ma­tion and polit­i­cal crises we are expe­ri­enc­ing. This is also demon­strat­ed by the suc­cess of the ‘Human­i­ties and Tech­nol­o­gy’ course, which offers a real syn­er­gy between the human and social sci­ences and engi­neer­ing at UTC,» says Pro­fes­sor Pierre Stein­er, Direc­tor of the TSH Depart­ment and pro­fes­sor of Philosophy.

An evolving department

This change of name is in line with a new way for the depart­ment to present and give mean­ing to its edu­ca­tion­al offer­ing: ‘TSH chal­lenges’. Three have been iden­ti­fied, increas­ing­ly faced by today’s and tomorrow’s engi­neers: imag­in­ing new alter­na­tives; telling the sto­ry of a desir­able future; inclu­sion and care. «It was there­fore an oppor­tune moment to review the way we are called and how we are known inside and out­side UTC. The new name is more open and inclu­sive. It also bet­ter reflects the diver­si­ty of the hun­dred or so cours­es we offer at the UTC. «Tech­nol­o­gy» has been retained, because we are still pur­su­ing the project of under­stand­ing the ways in which tech­nol­o­gy makes pos­si­ble and trans­forms our ways of know­ing, inter­act­ing, com­mu­ni­cat­ing and organ­is­ing our­selves. «Soci­eties’ refers to social sci­ences and eco­nom­ics, but also to the respon­si­bil­i­ties that engi­neers bear today, what­ev­er the sit­u­a­tions in which they work and oper­ate,» con­tin­ues Pierre Stein­er. ‘Human­i­ties’ cov­ers our teach­ing of lan­guages, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, phi­los­o­phy, his­to­ry, lin­guis­tics and the numer­ous ways in which Human­i­ty inhab­its the Earth via tech­niques and technology».

Engineers must also be accountable

New cours­es have also been launched, such as the course on Philoso­phies of Nature and the con­tem­po­rary engi­neer, and a primer course in Polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy. Here too, the aim is to offer cours­es that enable stu­dents to under­stand the chal­lenges posed by the eco­log­i­cal cri­sis, chal­lenges that are not just sci­en­tif­ic or tech­ni­cal. «Increas­ing­ly, engi­neers and the organ­i­sa­tions that employ them are being called to account. This is one facet of what is known as ‘soci­etal respon­si­bil­i­ty’. How does the inno­va­tion to which I con­tribute serve to a world, a plan­et or a Soci­ety we see as desir­able, inclu­sive or sus­tain­able? Whom does it empow­er? What does it make invis­i­ble? What does it invite us to renounce? Engi­neers need to be able to posi­tion them­selves and lis­ten to oth­er stake­hold­ers. They can no longer hide behind effi­cien­cy cri­te­ria, imper­son­al stan­dards, or a «neu­tral­i­ty» that has nev­er been any­thing oth­er than a way of rat­i­fy­ing estab­lished order. These ques­tions of eth­i­cal and soci­etal posi­tion­ing can­not be resolved by algo­rithms, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t con­cern engi­neers. On the con­trary! These are skills that are just as impor­tant as sci­en­tif­ic and tech­ni­cal skills.

A long way from the general knowledge department

Link­ing the human­i­ties and social sci­ences with tech­nol­o­gy, tak­en in the sense of the study and design of tech­ni­cal sys­tems, is the basis of TSH. There are at least two rea­sons for this. The first is that engi­neers have to work in many sit­u­a­tions that are not just sci­en­tif­ic or tech­ni­cal. «They don’t just design, cal­cu­late, para­me­ter, mod­elize or con­trol. They also have to argue, man­age, com­mu­ni­cate, nego­ti­ate, imag­ine, com­ply with law, etc. Engi­neers don’t just inter­act with engi­neers, they also inter­act with work­ers, cit­i­zens, lit­i­ga­tors, users, etc. The sec­ond rea­son — more trans­ver­sal — is that design­ing a tech­ni­cal device also means design­ing the envi­ron­ment in which the uses of a tech­nol­o­gy-inten­sive device will take place, trans­form­ing — and this is fun­da­men­tal — the projects, the expe­ri­ence and the capac­i­ties of the users. Con­se­quent­ly, we’re not a ‘gen­er­al cul­ture’ depart­ment, a depart­ment that offers stu­dents meth­ods for get­ting into the job mar­ket, such as writ­ing CVs, or a depart­ment that puts a human­ist veneer on top of their sci­en­tif­ic and tech­ni­cal train­ing,» he con­cludes. The link between tech­nol­o­gy and the human­i­ties and social sci­ences must be built around tech­ni­cal objects. At UTC, human­i­ties and social sci­ences study tech­nol­o­gy using tech­nol­o­gy. Many of the TSH cours­es are linked to the tech­no­log­i­cal plat­forms of the UTC-Costech lab­o­ra­to­ry: the aim here is to under­stand in order to act, and to act in order to understand.

Le magazine

Avril 2024 - N°62

Faire face aux enjeux environnementaux

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