A collaboration with engineering students from the University of Washington School of Human Centered Design and Engineering.
From a description by Dr. David Ribes, course co-instructor:
How are we supposed to understand society if we don’t also focus on our technologies of communication (from mail to phones), of archiving (from paper to databases), or collaboration (from whiteboards to wikis)? How are engineers to build technologies without considering their human users, their place in our ways of life, or the downstream consequences for the planet? How are humanists to make sense of literature without considering the shifting media of the book and eReader? By parsing the world into social things and technical things, we have created the two headed monster of the social and the technical —two perspectives on what is a single beast.
In the viewscreen of a camera, a photographer can choose to frame only the people, or only the things, but in a sociotechnical perspective the frame must include both. What results is the ability to make sense of a whole lot more, and an insistence that we must attend to humans and things in similar ways. A sociotechnical perspective is not utopian or dystopic: ‘sociotechnical' does not imply that something is good, bad or even balanced. Instead, it argues that in order to make that judgement one must inspect people, technology and their interactions. The comic artists in this volume — undergraduate and graduate students in the Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE) department at the University of Washington — have portrayed worlds that are hopeful and others that are fearful, technologies that are sometimes in tune with how we’d like to live, and at other times at odds. In both cases, they reveal through comedy and tragedy the complex, entangled and evolving sociotechnical world we inhabit.