Publication Details

This paper originally appeared as: Tibben WJ, Keeping a global technology working: a study into the social and technical dimensions of broadcast engineering in the Pacific Islands, 31st Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, 10-13 October 2001, 1, T2F - 2-7. Copyright IEEE 2001.


This paper is primarily concerned with exploring the technical and social dimensions of problem solving undertaken by technical staff in a Pacific Island radio station. Essentially, the paper addresses the question "what influence do physical and social contexts have on engineering knowledge development?". The paper notes that the concept of context is not given significant attention when looking to dominant philosophies of engineering. This stands in contrast to the importance accorded to context in development literature, particularly in. relation to technological knowledge. Using Macdonald's research into the role of information in innovation, the paper identifies a number of factors besides isolation that constrain access to problem solving information; namely, organisation size, poor commercial relationships, absence of interpersonal contacts with experts and unrealistic expectations of newly qualified engineers. This analysis points to a broader set of challenges than is often accepted in the training of engineers in small island economies: that is firstly of the sufficiency of theoretical knowledge and secondly, information being widely available and easy to transport by communication technologies.