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On Audits and Airplanes: How Calculations Shape Systems

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Abstract:

From power-stations to pacemakers, modern industrial societies increasingly depend on technologies that cannot be allowed to fail. Technological risk, therefore, has become a signal feature of modernity, and its administration an obligation of modern governance. Integral to this task are the auditing and accounting practices through which we "know" the reliability of complex technologies. These frame vital societal choices about the worlds we create around us. For all this, however, reliability assessments of the most publicly-significant high-technologies - from nuclear power-plants to civil jetliners - invoke calculative practices that are both opaque to the public gaze and largely neglected by sociologists. This paper is an effort to begin the long process of redressing this neglect. It looks at a specific calculative tool - redundancy - and explores its role in the assessments of new airframes by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It explains the importance of redundancy to both design and assessment practices in aviation, but contests redundancy’s ability to accurately translate between them. It suggests that FAA reliability assessments serve a useful regulatory purpose by couching the qualitative work of engineers and regulators in an idiom of calculative objectivity, but cautions that this comes with potentially perverse consequences.
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Association:
Name: 4S Annual Meeting - Abstract and Session Submissions
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http://www.4sonline.org


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p519396_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Downer, John. "On Audits and Airplanes: How Calculations Shape Systems" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 4S Annual Meeting - Abstract and Session Submissions, Crowne Plaza Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, OH, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p519396_index.html>

APA Citation:

Downer, J. "On Audits and Airplanes: How Calculations Shape Systems" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 4S Annual Meeting - Abstract and Session Submissions, Crowne Plaza Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, OH <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p519396_index.html

Publication Type: Abstract
Abstract: From power-stations to pacemakers, modern industrial societies increasingly depend on technologies that cannot be allowed to fail. Technological risk, therefore, has become a signal feature of modernity, and its administration an obligation of modern governance. Integral to this task are the auditing and accounting practices through which we "know" the reliability of complex technologies. These frame vital societal choices about the worlds we create around us. For all this, however, reliability assessments of the most publicly-significant high-technologies - from nuclear power-plants to civil jetliners - invoke calculative practices that are both opaque to the public gaze and largely neglected by sociologists. This paper is an effort to begin the long process of redressing this neglect. It looks at a specific calculative tool - redundancy - and explores its role in the assessments of new airframes by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It explains the importance of redundancy to both design and assessment practices in aviation, but contests redundancy’s ability to accurately translate between them. It suggests that FAA reliability assessments serve a useful regulatory purpose by couching the qualitative work of engineers and regulators in an idiom of calculative objectivity, but cautions that this comes with potentially perverse consequences.


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