HIST – Weekly Response 4 – Industrial Revolution: Coal, Labor, Pollution, and Technologic

Please read the following:

Misa, Leonardo to the Internet – Chapter 2
Doolaard, Roll Back the Sea (excerpts)
Wiebe Bijker, “The Oosterschelde Storm Barrier,” Technology and Culture 43 (2002): 569-584
Wiebe Bijker, “American and Dutch Coastal Engineering: Differences in Risk Conception and Differences in Technological Culture,” Social Studies of Science 37 (2007): 143-151
Neil Smith, “There’s No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster,” Understanding Kartrina: Social Science Research Council, June 11, 2006. (As always, all readings are available in the Weekly Course Readings folder on Blackboard).

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Throughout Chapter 2 of his book, Leonardo to the Internet: Technology and Culture from the Renaissance to the Internet, Thomas Misa issues several sweeping yet profound statements. One such statement, found on p. 40, describes the Dutch Cargo Fluyt ship as “an artifact shaped by commerce.” Shortly thereafter in the same chapter, Misa issues another statement: “If the Dutch did not exactly invent capitalism, they created the first society where the principles of commerce and capitalism pervaded the culture.” (p. 43) While this is indeed the case, it is interesting to note that Dutch society exhibits a number of unique, generalized traits which include an unusually high degree of cultural tolerance as well as the ability to politically and socially cohere around specific issues that impact societal survival. This ability is highlighted in A. Den Doolaard’s striking account of the effort to reclaim Walcheren Island from the sea during and after WWII, as well as in Wieber Bijker’s description of the development and execution of the Delta Plan. In addition, Neil Smith offers some strategies for societies to potentially cope with the steadily increasing incidences of severe weather patterns in a world where the division between what is a natural disaster and what is a human caused disaster has become very thin. Based on the assigned readings and the in-class lectures, please address the following points in a well-written, 300-400 word essay (feel free to exceed that amount if you have more to say — the sky is the limit):

1. Identify at least three technologies developed by the Dutch that allowed them to establish a highly successful economy with little to no natural resources for trade.

2. In his essay on the Oosterschelde Storm Surge Barrier, Wieber Bijker uses the term “Delta School.” What is the Delta School and what role did it play in the construction of the barrier?

3. In both Bijker’s essay on the Oosterschelde Barrier and Doolaard’s novel, numerous examples of tacit knowledge are on display. Identify at least one (1) example of tacit knowledge from each source (two [2] examples total) and explain how the examples you chose are representative of tacit knowledge.

4. Bijker and Neil Smith identify approaches to coastal flooding defense that differ from the approach currently practiced by the U.S. government. As the intensity and frequency of coastal flooding increases, do you think that the U.S. should adopt any of the approaches outlined by Bijker and Smith? If so, which ones?

5. Choose to answer either A or B below:

A. Opinion question — no right or wrong answer: In Doolaard’s novel, Roll Back the Sea, the character of Andre van Hummel states that he can only engage in the practice of engineering if it is involved in construction, not destruction (see in particular page 427). As we saw in Renaissance Italy, many engineers, including Leonardo da Vinci, engaged in practices to develop weapons of war in order to maintain employment. Consider the following questions: 1) What do you believe should be the primary goal of the discipline of engineering? 2) As an aspiring engineer, what types of projects or employment do you wish to eventually be engaged with?

B. Opinion question — no right or wrong answer: In Bijker’s essay on the storm barrier, he documents how the adoption and successful execution of the Delta Plan was made possible in part by an immense expression of political and social will by the citizens of The Netherlands. Identify at least two (2) major technological engineering undertakings from around the globe that you believe must have required similar expressions of political and national will.

In this essay, as in all essays for this course, use examples from the readings and class lectures to support your arguments. Do not forget to include at least 2 (two) direct quotes from the readings under consideration. When quoting text, always include the author’s name and page number where you found the quote. For example: Misa, p. 41; or Bijker, p. 570.

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