Vanderburg, Willem H. 1944–
Vanderburg, Willem H. 1944–
PERSONAL: Born August 3, 1944, in the Netherlands; immigrated to Canada; became naturalized citizen; married Rita Endhoven, July 11, 1970; children: Esther, David. Education: University of Waterloo, B.A.Sc., 1966, M.A.Sc., 1968, Ph.D., 1973.
ADDRESSES: Home—120 Neville Park Blvd., Toronto, Ontario M4E 3P8, Canada. Office—University of Toronto, Department of Civil Engineering, 35 Saint George St., Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A4, Canada. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer. University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, professor of civil engineering, environmental studies, and sociology, 1978–, director, Center for Technology and Social Development, 1986–. Ontario Audio Library Services, vice president, 1983–90; Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Ontario Division, director, 1991–95; McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, John W. Hodgins Memorial lecturer, 1992; Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Hennebach visiting professor, 1997–98; P.A.L. Reading Services, president.
MEMBER: National Association for Science, Technology, and Society, Society for Philosophy and Technology, Jacques Ellul Society, Société pour la Philosophie de la Technique.
AWARDS, HONORS: NATO postdoctoral fellowship; Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering Teaching Award, 1985–86; named among top twenty-five leading researchers in Canada, Canadian Foundation for Innovation, 2002.
(Editor) Perspectives on Our Age: Jacques Ellul Speaks on His Life and Work, Seabury Press (New York, NY), 1981, 2nd edition, House of Anansi Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
The Growth of Minds and Cultures: A Unified Theory of the Structure of Human Experience, University of Toronto Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1985.
The Labyrinth of Technology, University of Toronto Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.
(With Namir Khan) Healthy Cities: An Annotated Bibliography, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2001.
(With Namir Khan) Sustainable Energy: An Annotated Bibliography, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2001.
(With Namir Khan) Sustainable Production: An Annotated Bibliography, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2001.
(With Namir Khan and Nina Nakajima) Healthy Work: An Annotated Bibliography, Scarecrow Press (Lanham, MD), 2005.
Living in the Labyrinth of Technology, University of Toronto Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2005.
Editor-in-chief, Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society, 2000–.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A project on the meaning of Christianity in modern technological society.
SIDELIGHTS: Willem H. Vanderburg told CA: "When I was completing a doctoral thesis in engineering in the early 1970s, I became increasingly convinced that I was ill prepared to teach engineering in a world profoundly shaped by the interactions between technology, society, and the biosphere, since my professional 'world' was full of technology and little else. I decided to continue my study of technology via the social sciences and humanities with the French thinker Jacques Ellul, with the support of a NATO postdoctoral fellowship. The intellectual 'worlds' I then entered were full of people, communities, and ecosystems, but little or no technology. No wonder our industrial civilization was not making much headway in confronting its difficulties. With the kind of intellectual and professional division of labor developed in the twentieth century, we were lost before we started.
"My response to this situation was to embark on an intellectual journey to discover where we had taken science and technology and where these creations were taking us. I began by writing The Growth of Minds and Cultures: A Unified Theory of the Structure of Human Experience to better understand how people made sense of and lived in the world before science and technology began to change all this. Next, in The Labyrinth of Technology, I examined how modern technology functions, and how this simultaneously produces our spectacular successes and our equally spectacular failings. I sought to uncover the deep structural roots of our difficulties and to develop a new kind of intellectual and professional division of labor based on what I call preventative approaches. The Canada Foundation for Innovation recognized it as one of twenty-five important Canadian innovations in 2002. We were about to begin plans to advise the province of Ontario on how to restructure all professional education in order to create a new kind of technological and economic growth with a superior ratio of desired to undesired effects, when a newly elected government ended all that. A somewhat similar federal initiative to redirect the teaching and research culture of the Canadian university was also stillborn.
"On the positive side, I had time to complete Living in the Labyrinth of Technology, which is a narrative of our journey with science and technology during the last 200 years. What is absolutely essential is not only to understand how people have changed technology but how technology has simultaneously changed people. As we transformed our social and physical surroundings, the experiences from which subsequent generations 'grew' their minds and cultures were an integral part of how we not only changed our moorings in the earth through the borrowing of matter and energy but also our moorings in the heavens. We again created what cultural anthropologists call myths, on which we built new religious forms, including the secular political religions that ravaged the twentieth century. In all this, the mentorship of Jacques Ellul was invaluable. I sought to bring his intellectual gift to many by helping to create an Ideas programme for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which became the book Perspectives on Our Age: Jacques Ellul Speaks on His Life and Work. In my search for solutions, I compiled many potential components for annotated bibliographies dealing with materials, energy, work, and the urban habitat. All these writings are my small part in helping to create a more livable, just, and sustainable world.
"When I became editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society, I sought to make it a vehicle for bringing together people who are thinking deeply about our journey with science and technology, where it is taking us, and how we ought to change this journey if we are to have a future worth living. Having gradually lost my sight (becoming legally blind as a teenager), I have also been very involved in integrating people with disabilities into our colleges, universities, and communities. A project that I am still working on is a reflection on the meaning Christianity has for a civilization dominated by a scientific and technical rationality."