While I agree with Winner that all of these questions can be answered by analyzing a specific artifact and that one individual piece of history can lead to a massive amount of understanding of the culture, I believe that Winner politicized artifacts too much. I believe his article is a projection of his beliefs on to the cultures of the past. For instance, when he discussed utensils that were made into weapons by ancient societies and how that leads one to believe that there was a social unrest and class conflict in ancient societies, I believe that he took his own very modern world view of societal conflicts and projected it upon the societies of old. When a farmer used an axe to protect his family and also to cut wood to build a house, I believe this to be a farmer simply favoring flexibility and lower costs than him rising up and fighting against the members of classes above him. If anything, the political meanings that artifacts have is something that modernist historians are forcing onto them rather things that come from the artifact.
2) The debate over clean coal is a perfect example of how engineering progress should be viewed from sociological, historical, and cultural perspectives.
Right now, clean coal is one of the centerpoints of the American energy debate and therefore is a large engineering project. As America is trying to reduce its environmental footprint and become more energy-efficient while still allowing itself greater access to cheap energy, clean coal is viewed as a solution to many of America's problems. Despite this, many people are resistant to clean coal production.
To understand why clean coal is supported by many and opposed by many, one must understand the sociological, historical, and cultural impacts of clean coal in America. Sociologically, clean coal benefits many Americans, but not all to the same degree. The development of clean coal of course helps billionaires who own coal companies, but at the same time it also promises to help significantly less wealthy people. Clean coal promises to reduce energy costs and therefore reduce every American’s energy bill. People will struggle less to keep their homes heated during cold winters if clean coal is made viable by engineering developments. Additionally, clean coal will most likely create even more jobs in areas where the most recent economic downturn impovershed people. This affects engineering because extremely wealthy people want new…