JDF2 José Figueiredo is a Professor in the Engineering and Management Department of IST - University of Lisbon and a member of the Engineering Management and Management Science Research Centre at IST, Lisbon (CEG-IST). He is an Electronics Engineer with an MBA in Information Management and a PhD in Industrial Engineering. He currently teaches project management and communication skills. His papers in conference proceedings, international journals and international edition book chapters have focused principally on project management and on Actor Network Theory.

 In addition to his long-standing involvement with university teaching he also set up two small companies in the information technologies sector. He has been involved in consultancy work with a number of Portuguese and international companies.

 

 As editor of the book and co-author of a chapter I have adopted a less structured approach for my contribution here as Bill has already given the background of our joint chapter.

 I’ve been involved for some years with project management, engineering design projects and the fresh influence of sociotechnical approaches in these fields. Actor-network theory (ANT) plays a very important role in the way I look at engineering practice phenomena. Sociologists created actor-network theory to understand the design of action in networks of heterogeneous actors. The motto was to “follow the actors” in order to understand how the flow of action is constructed in processes of negotiations, named translations. This original approach has been fruitful in many different areas and is still developing.

 Moreover, being an engineer concerned with project design I (and my research team) think that the ANT paradigm can provide a strong approach to the design and development of technological systems. This means an ANT engineering approach although our attitude has been different from the ANT founders and we do not subscribe exclusively to the following the actors perspective. 

 The tension that naturally rises between the social (biology) and the material (structures) are fundamental topics in ANT. As Henri Laborit (Bilology et Structure, 1985) so well explained there is an interplay on both sides of the “barrier” so that the material/social needs to be systemically integrated to gain maximum advantage in designing engineering systems, as well as achieving good usability. That means designing for value. Henri Laborit, although he had nothing to do with ANT, had already depicted such an aligned view.

 In the chapter of the book I co-authored with Bill, after attempting to apply a variety of models we ended up opting for a perspective proposed by Law (one of the seminal figures in the ANT field) in his extraordinary reflexion on the interplay of heterogeneous networks, namely heterogeneous engineering. We used data from inquiries and interviews to arrive at a representation of how things work through negotiations along heterogeneous networks of engineering practice.

The idea of this book grew from us (Bill and I) deciding to try to aggregate, and contribute to, research we knew was going on around the world in a  domain that should be better documented – Engineering Practices. The project of the making of this book was a very rewarding experience. Bill himself is an enthusiastic “negotiator” and an aggregator of intents and his activity was more than instrumental in the project. Together, but with much more contacts from Bill, we were able to put together a wonderful team. James Trevelyan was our first choice to join us as editor, and then a bunch a very interesting people joined us to make the body of the book. We started the project with a meeting in Madrid where each of us commented on the draft papers of the others and already in Madrid at this meeting, almost two years before the publication of the book, we could feel that something important was starting to grow. The project of mounting the book was quite demanding and hard work but at the same time very stimulating and rewarding.

 

 

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