Working in the dark

Monk, John (2003). Working in the dark. In: International Conference on Engineering Education, 22-26 Jul 2003, Valencia, Spain.


Professional engineers work as experts who influence the work of others. They rarely have direct contact with the products of an enterprise. They work with analogues such as graphs, algorithms and simulations, and engage in discussions in specialized languages, which develop alongside the technological changes they promote or oppose. The engines of linguistic development are metaphors and analogies, however there is no system for creating them. Some metaphors and analogies become so familiar that they are treated as literal terms or literal explanations and become embedded in engineering language games. The field of electrical engineering offers hosts of examples. Students wishing to practice in engineering will need to become fluent in the language games of the profession. The haphazard evolution of language games offer students little help. As with acquisition of any language, repeated rehearsal is vital and practice in playing specialised language games is a primary part of engineering education.

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