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Living in the Arizona Testbed: Mapping the Spaces and Work of Sociotechnical Imagination and Assembly

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Technology and society co-exist, influencing each other simultaneously and iteratively, in ways that are sufficiently interdependent that it can be hard to see where one ends and the other begins. A set of sociotechnical relations exist between and across society

Technology and society co-exist, influencing each other simultaneously and iteratively, in ways that are sufficiently interdependent that it can be hard to see where one ends and the other begins. A set of sociotechnical relations exist between and across society and technologies that structure the ways that people live and work. What happens to sociotechnical relations when technologies are introduced or changed? In this dissertation, I argue that key parts of the processes that link technological and social change occur in a liminal space between the invention of new technologies and their widespread adoption and integration in society. In this space, engineers, businesses, and users of new technologies imagine, explore, develop, and test new ways of weaving together technology and society in novel sociotechnical arrangements. I call this space between invention and adoption a testbed, which I theorize as an early phase of technological deployment where outcomes are explored and tested, and sociotechnical assemblages are imagined, assembled, evaluated, and stabilized. I argue that the testbed, which is often delimited in both time and location, should be understood, interrogated, and governed appropriately to anticipate and examine the possibilities of social disruption inherent in technological change and to design the relationships between technology and society to improve sociotechnical outcomes. To understand the testbed, I engage in a case study of the Arizona public autonomous vehicle testbed, leveraging a multi-method approach that includes public observations, interviews, a survey, and content analyses. Through this work, I analyze diverse aspects of the testbed and articulate how the work of testbed actors imagines, assembles, tests, and stabilizes sociotechnical assemblages and futures. The dissertation builds on the insights gained from this investigation to evaluate the testbed and develop recommendations about assessing the space between technology invention and widespread adoption. Ultimately, this dissertation concludes that testbeds are key places where futures get made and so should be given greater attention by theorists of innovation and by societies confronting the societal and ethical challenges posed by new technologies.

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Date Created
2021

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Disconnected: investigating the social and political conditions shaping Mexico City's air quality regulatory environment

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Mexico City has an ongoing air pollution issue that negatively affects its citizens and surroundings with current structural disconnections preventing the city from improving its overall air quality. Thematic methodological analysis reveals current obstacles and barriers, as well as variables

Mexico City has an ongoing air pollution issue that negatively affects its citizens and surroundings with current structural disconnections preventing the city from improving its overall air quality. Thematic methodological analysis reveals current obstacles and barriers, as well as variables contributing to this persistent problem. A historical background reveals current programs and policies implemented to improve Mexico’s City air quality. Mexico City’s current systems, infrastructure, and policies are inadequate and ineffective. There is a lack of appropriate regulation on other modes of transportation, and the current government system fails to identify how the class disparity in the city and lack of adequate education are contributing to this ongoing problem. Education and adequate public awareness can potentially aid the fight against air pollution in the Metropolitan City.

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Date Created
2018

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Impact of social supports on persistent women engineers perspectives from the United States and India

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Lower representation of women in the engineering and computer science workforce is a global problem. In the United States, women in engineering drop out at a rate higher than their male counterparts. The male/female ratio in the engineering

Lower representation of women in the engineering and computer science workforce is a global problem. In the United States, women in engineering drop out at a rate higher than their male counterparts. The male/female ratio in the engineering workforce has remained stagnant despite growing percentages of graduates. Women dropout due to familial responsibilities and they leave to take positions in other industries. In India, women are also employed at a lower rate than men. Many studies address the reasons why women leave, but few studies address why they stay. Those that do, address the personal and organizational characteristics that enable women to persist. Little research was found regarding the social supports that further women's ability to persist in the male-dominated field of engineering. This study surveyed 173 men and women engineers in the United States and India as well as collected qualitative data. The research focused on the social supports of family, friends, a special person, supervisors, coworkers, and professional networking, to determine how they support engineering persistence in the four demographics. The participants were scored on their level of persistence and the impact of social supports was evaluated against it. All supports were significant, although not for all demographics. Social supports of family, friends and a special person were more important to the sample of engineers from India, a collectivist culture. The importance of the supervisor relationship to women in the United States was reaffirmed. Professional networking, informal or formal, was the only support significantly related to persistence across all demographics. In the qualitative data there was a strong theme; coworkers are their friends and they support them in their engineering life. As companies re-think their organizational environment and attempt to change engineering culture and long-standing attitudes, women can engage in creating strong social supports and assist in building quality professional networking opportunities. A strong web of support strengthens a woman engineer’s ability to persist during difficult times and provides them opportunities for personal and career growth. It can also be a vehicle for furthering diversity and inclusion in their organizations.

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Date Created
2016