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From Artefacts to Knowledge-Facts. On the Scientification of Designing through IT Artefacts using the Example of CAD, CAM, and CAE in Mechanical Engineering


One special feature of the dynamics of knowledge in engineering sciences is that knowledge is gained in design processes through artefacts, and that this knowledge is made manifest in artefacts. A key function goes to IT tools, which are employed for the genesis of knowledge in engineering sciences, and which make available the knowledge gained. This subproject of the research group aims to scrutinize the epistemic efficacy of IT artefacts in design processes and their resulting consequences for knowledge dynamics in engineering sciences. IT artefacts are not only important means in knowledge acquisition, knowledge coordination, and knowledge integration. Through their developmental framework, they are also constitutive in knowledge genesis.

This approach allows two levels of investigation. On the one hand, the research will concentrate on IT artefacts as knowledge manifestations, in which knowledge condenses and which embody knowledge. On the other hand, the investigation will focus on the role of IT artefacts as knowledge tools and their related epistemic practices. The perspective of usage is employed to explain how the epistemic preconditions of tools merge into developmental processes and to explain how new knowledge in engineering sciences is gained with their help. This theoretical-conceptual analysis will be developed in accordance with empirical case studies. They are taken from the field of mechanical engineering using the example of automotive engineering / brake system and aim at revealing and critically investigating the employment of CAD (computer-aided design), CAE (computer-aided engineering), and CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) from an epistemological perspective.

Not least due to the widespread opinion that knowledge in engineering sciences merely employs knowledge provided by other disciplines, a profound understanding of the dynamics of knowledge in engineering sciences remains an important desideratum for research. The project tackles this deficit in two ways: First, it shows the epistemological characteristics of this area, and hence it provides an important building block for a general philosophy of engineering sciences, which still needs to be developed. Second, the results promise indications for dealing with the world-making potential of IT artefacts. By illuminating the underlying processes, the preconditions of design can already be revealed in its developmental phase. Its critical analysis will contribute significantly to increasing the lack of reflexivity in engineering sciences.

Project members:

Prof. Dr. phil. Dipl.-Ing. Sabine Ammon, Department Work Studies,Technology, and Participation, TU Berlin

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