When Mental Walls Lead to Physical Walls: The US-Mexico Border Wall, Art, and Public Conversations about the Social Responsibility of Engineering

Madison May Macias, Peter Pohorily, Jorge Morales Guerrero, Darshan M.A. Karwat


The fact that engineering is involved in highly political issues—from climate change caused by fossil fuel extraction to how we understand truth itself because of deepfakes—makes it imperative that we find new ways to highlight the crucial role that engineers and engineering play in shaping society, and new ways to hold engineers and engineering accountable.  We have designed, built, and installed an interactive art installation called When Mental Walls Lead to Physical Walls to generate public conversation about the social responsibility of engineers and engineering, using the US-Mexico border wall as a case study.  We find that the politically charged nature of the topic might make it difficult for attendees to speak directly to ideas of social responsibility.  At the same time, the installation provides opportunities for attendees to question, critique, and reflect on the effectiveness and impacts of the design of the border wall and the motivations engineers might have in working on this project.  With proper planning and execution, the installation can be used as a research tool to understand how diverse audiences—from engineering students to those who may not have any experience in engineering—understand the role of engineering in society.



engineering; border wall; US-Mexico border wall; social responsibility; infrastructure; immigration

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17351/ests2020.379

Copyright (c) 2020 Madison May Macias, Peter Pohorily, Jorge Morales Guerrero, Darshan M.A. Karwat

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