“It’s the Seeing and Feeling”: How Embodied and Conceptual Knowledges Relate in Pipeline Engineering Work

Sarah Maslen, Jan Hayes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines the relationship between conceptual and embodied reasoning in engineering work. In the last decade across multiple research projects on pipeline engineering, we have observed only a few times when engineers have expressed embodied or sensory aspects of their practice, as if the activity itself is disembodied. Yet, they also often speak about the importance of field experience. In this paper, we look at engineers’ accounts of the value of field experience showing how it works on their sense of what the technology that they are designing looks, feels, and sounds like in practice, and so what this means for construction and operation, and the management of risk. We show how office-based pipeline engineering work is an exercise in embodied imagination that humanizes the socio-technical system as it manifests in the technical artifacts that they work with. Engineers take the role of the other to reason through the practicability of their designs and risk acceptability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalQualitative Sociology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2022

Cite this