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MS Thesis Defense: Dominic Carrese



2:00pm - 4:00pm ET

Jackson Conference Rm/Online

For info on how to attend via videoconference, email

"A Political Theory of Engineered Systems and a Study of Engineering and Justice Workshops"


In order to intentionally design systems that support social justice, engineering students need to learn how technical developments can support or subvert democracy. The literatures on engineering ethics and engineering for social justice suggest that such understanding would be directly supported by a political theory of engineered systems and theory-based seminars. However, a thorough review of interdisciplinary fields indicates a lack of published work that offers such conceptual or practical guidance. In response, this thesis provides a two-fold contribution: a preliminary political theory of engineered systems (or, PTES for shorthand) as well as the design, administration, and evaluation of seminar-style workshops aimed at helping Dartmouth Engineering students appreciate and act on that theory.

Specifically, the newly introduced PTES argues that engineered systems with:

  1. large spatial bounds, and/or
  2. large temporal bounds, and/or
  3. fast temporal bounds inhibit political empowerment and knowledge.

Therefore, one promising heuristic strategy for optimizing engineered systems with respect to democracy is to localize system bounds spatially and temporally. To inform this strategy, "Transition Design" and "Cradle to Cradle" frameworks can help scaffold such shifts toward more local systems.

Regarding evaluation of the workshops, which serve to instantiate and deliver the theory, a pretest-posttest nonequivalent group design was used to split 32 Dartmouth undergraduate engineering students equally between a control and workshop group. Between pre- and post- surveys, the workshop group participated in a three-hour, five-person semi-structured, theory-driven conversation over dinner or lunch, while the control group had no suggested activity. As measured by surveys and interviews, we find that:

  1. workshops produced a statistically significant immediate increase in students' knowledge, attitude, and empowerment scores regarding their capability to think and act politically;
  2. students still lack important attitudes, knowledges, and institutional supports that are important to continue building; and
  3. key attributes of the learning experience that boost scores and create value for students include that the workshops use a booklet and are content-centric, dialogue-based, peer-led, small in cohort size, and long in engagement duration.

Thesis Committee

  • Elizabeth Murnane (Chair)
  • Rafe Steinhauer
  • Klaus Keller
  • Russell Muirhead


For more information, contact Theresa Fuller at