Ok, time for another book review. This time it is "Everyday Engineering -- An Ethnography of Design and Innovation" edited by Dominique Vinck (MIT Press). First of all, I find the study of practice to be one of the most exciting forms of research in design. So, this book has a promising title and the introduction also lives up to my expectations--it does aim at studying and describing practice without being prescriptive.
The book is written by a group of French engineering researchers and sociologists. The idea of the book is wonderful, it sets out to explore the complexity of 'real' engineering practice in relation to the 'simplistic' form of understanding that dominates engineering education and textbook based prescriptive models and methods.
The book also delivers, at least here and there, and is an interesting read. For instance, I liked the first chapter about the experience of a young and newly graduated engineer in his first job at CERN. The story is quite well told and shows how the young engineer slowly starts to understand that the complexity of his task is not an inherent quality of the engineering task itself but a consequence of social and organizational aspect, and in the end all about communication. There are also some other chapters that in a similar way reveals a kind of practice complexity that is not a result of the engineering task but of the surrounding situational organizational environment.