Connections and Flows: Water, Energy and Digital Information in the Global South

Certain technologies are central to the challenges and opportunities facing societies in the Global South in the 21st century.  Few are more ubiquitous in this respect than those which have to do with the engineering of products, services and infrastructure for water, for energy and for digitally-composed and distributed ideas, images, sounds and information.  Water, energy and digital information all may be thought of as entities themselves, but also as connectors and channels for flows—intentional and unintentional-- with tremendous impact on both people and place. The BIARI “Connections and Flows: Water, Energy and Digital Information in the Global South” will explore new and emerging concepts in engineering design and development, as well as new ways to prepare and develop practitioners working in this field, or in adjacent areas of endeavor. 

Taking engineering as the point of departure, the Institute will consider not just the spaces of technology application, but also of implication.  In doing so, this BIARI will put theory, people and place into the mix simultaneously, as participants and faculty consider the tensions and potential synergies for innovative, sustainable engineering conceptualization, design and development at the nexus of water, energy and electronically-conveyed ideas and information. The Institute’s adapted studio format, supplemented by lectures and structured conversation, will bring young engineers, other practitioners and educators from the Global South together with highly-experienced engineering professors and designer-artists, as well as an interdisciplinary set of scholars from the humanities and the social sciences. While large-scale systems and infrastructure are indispensable grounds for many engineering designs, this Institute will focus more closely on platforms, devices, prototypes and project concepts, and will be of interest not only to young engineers and new engineering faculty, but also to engineering education policymakers, and those working in adjacent fields (agriculture, environmental studies, urban studies, etc.).

Among the questions to be considered:

  • How might engineering design and development around water and energy move beyond 20th century concepts such as appropriate technology, or the high tech-low tech dichotomy?
  • What would make for more “socially-robust” engineering design and development in the Global South?
  • What engineering innovations in the Global South—whether prompted by emergencies and disasters, or by the inventive curiosity of the rural and urban young-- have potential for providing new solutions  useful to both “societies of wealth” and communities in need?  And how can we bring those to market sooner?
  • How might engineering design and development in the Global South take advantage of an embeddedness in local cultures, societies, and intellectual traditions, but also increasing connectedness to globally-circulating technologies and engineering knowledge?
  • How might we more optimally shape North/South engineering research and development collaboration?
  • What should engineering curricula look like, ideally, in 2020?
  • Can engineering design and development help improve access and equality in societies where there are hierarchies of difference?
  • In what ways are digital technologies changing the meanings of being human, and human creative and productive practices, in the Global South now?
  • What can we learn from a critique of engineering designs and “technologies of hubris” both historically and contemporaneously?

Convening Faculty

Chris Bull
Senior Research Engineer/Senior Lecturer, School of Engineering

Geri Augusto
Visiting Associate Professor in Africana Studies

Visiting Faculty

Stephen Agong
Principal, Bondo University College

Rosalyn Berne
Associate Professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society, University of Virginia

Torkwase Dyson
Independent Artist

Nelson Narciso Filho
President, NNF Energy

Steve Hamburg
Chief Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund

Lily Hermann
Professor of Landscape Architecture, Rhode Island School of Design

Shafiqul Islam
Director of the Water Diplomacy Initiative, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Tufts University

Magaly Koch
Research Associate Professor for the Center for Remote Sensing, Boston University

Lawrence Larson
Dean of the School of Engineeri