Everyday Engineering

From Inside Technology

Everyday Engineering

An Ethnography of Design and Innovation

Edited by Dominique Vinck

A guide to the everyday working world of engineers, written by researchers trained in both engineering and sociology.





A guide to the everyday working world of engineers, written by researchers trained in both engineering and sociology.

Everyday Engineering was written to help future engineers understand what they are going to be doing in their everyday working lives, so that they can do their work more effectively and with a broader social vision. It will also give sociologists deeper insights into the sociotechnical world of engineering. The book consists of ethnographic studies in which the authors, all trained in both engineering and sociology, go into the field as participant-observers. The sites and types of engineering explored include mechanical design in manufacturing industries, instrument design, software debugging, environmental management within companies, and the implementation of a system for separating household waste.

The book is organized in three parts. The first part introduces the complexity of technical practices. The second part enters the social and cultural worlds of designers to grasp their practices and motivations. The third part examines the role of writing practices and graphical representation. The epilogue uses the case studies to raise a series of questions about how objects can be taken into account in sociological analyses of human organizations.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262220651 256 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 28 illus.


$25.00 X ISBN: 9780262512640 256 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 28 illus.


Dominique Vinck

Dominique Vinck is Professor at Pierre Mendès-France University and at the Polytechnic National Institute of Grenoble. He is also a member of CRISTO, a research center associated with CNRS that focuses on sociotechnical innovation and industrial organizations.


  • This collection presents multiple worlds of work in an accessible way that nonetheless emphasizes their complexity—a rarity in any academic writing, and especially difficult to achieve in ethnographic studies.

    Scott Taylor



  • This collection of participant-observation studies of engineering design and product development, woven into a whole by the sociologist Dominique Vinck, presents the fruits of a decade-long collaboration between sociologists/anthropologists and mechanical engineers at Grenoble. Here we find designing 'in the raw' analyzed in a way which brings the social and the technical dimensions of engineering practice into coherence without slighting the former nor oversimplifying the latter. Its reading should be required of all students headed out into today's world where mastery of the mix of the two is what defines professional excellence.

    Louis L. Bucciarelli, Jr.

    School of Engineering, MIT

  • What Vinck and his students show is that a great variety of things and people have to collude to create a working technology. A necessary antidote to rationalistic and linear views of design and innovation.

    Arie Rip

    Science and Technology Studies, University of Twente, The Netherlands