Wechseln zu: Navigation, Suche


The following is an exemplary documentation of the building block "technology as a problemsolver". You can follow this structure to document your own building block. We suggest you start your documentation with deleting this text

Technology as a problem solver!? - Basic building block in Berlin


The participants of the building block play a real life game: potable water is suddenly harmful to health. In the history of humankind, multiple causes led to this result. Usually, when solutions are proposed, they often minimize the problem without directly addressing its origin. This module addresses the social aspects of this problem, such as the human right to have access to clean water, the distribution of wealth and consequential harm, the conflict of polluters, affected people and decision-makers. It is shown that the different epochs have many similarities and differences. With the growing mechanization and the centralization of the water supply, the number of potential victims is constantly increasing.

Technology as a problem solver?! Basic building block in Berlin
The objective of this module is to show that technology is used to solve problems but new problems can arise from this type of problem solving.
Building block, e-learning, knowledge storage, basic building block in Berlin.
Water, Technology.
Learning Objectives
Brief description of the learning objectives. Please follow the 12 module learning objectives of the seminar.
Perspective acquisition, anticipation, interdisciplinary knowledge acquisition, dealing with incomplete and overly complex information, cooperation, participation, reflection on guiding principles
Forms of Learning
Creative, cooperative
Small groups prepare a game, presentation and discussion for the larger group
Group Size
2.5 hours. Note that the module can also be executed in 30 minutes.
Material and Room
A wide open space with the possibility of adding a circle of chairs.
Very good. Basic building block in Berlin.
When was the building block created?


Preparation of the moderators

About two hours to prepare the building block and about two hours to read the materials of the perspective chest, which mainly consists of articles, photos and comic books.

Preparation of the participants.

As a compulsory module in the Berlin seminar, an e-learning unit of approximately 15 minutes length can be prepared. No other preparation is required.

Material and space.

  • Structure of the perspective chest.
  • Print out the tasks or prepare the oral task.
  • Move all the tables and chairs in order to create a free and large space.


Minute 0. - Welcome and announcements

The tutor welcomes the participants, makes the weekly organizational announcements and presents the agenda of the seminar.

Minute 05. - Get to know each other.

Everyone stands forming a large circle. Who knows everyone’s names? Who knows more than X names? The participant who knows most of the names presents them slowly so that everyone else can learn them. The participant who knows the second most follows, etc. Make sure that each participant is named by another participant. In an ideal case, each person is presented by someone else.

Minute 10.- Feedback.

On the 4th seminar, the feedback module is implemented. The peer evaluation will be introduced in the following two seminars (5th and 6th semesters) (see module feedback). The available time is 25 minutes.

Minute 35 - Name games.

Everyone stands forming a large circle. All the names are repeated again using a different name game: The first letter of your name is used so that a corresponding profession is assigned to you. The description could be complex and accompanied by sounds. Some examples: for the initial letter A, an astronaut, sitting in a rake chair, slowly counters the countdown, climbs into the sky and then flies. For J; a juggler in a circus with circus music. Everyone in the circle try to find both the profession and the name of the person. The game goes in a circle so that all participants represent something. Make sure everyone participates in the game.

Minute 45 - Start of the block- Group division- Distribution of the task list.

Four groups are formed and each one of them is responsible of one of the four epochs: the Stone Age, the Middle Ages, the Present and the Future. If necessary, two more groups can be added and would study the Roman Empire and the industrialization in England. The task list for the respective epochs contains all the essential information so that no further announcements are needed. In case of doubt, the participants should define their own framework conditions. The presentation of the individual pieces takes place within the circle. During the group work phase, the moderators should check on every group and clarify certain points, if necessary. At this point, the large group is divided into smaller groups. The problem concerning the water supply is health-threatening, but not necessarily fatal. Now, each group is divided into an epoch, giving a few hints on what should be observed and what is possible.

Minute 65 - Break.

Minute 80 - Reflection on the group process.

After the break, the participants return to their small groups.

The participants receive a moderation card. On one side of the card, each participant writes what he/she liked about the group process and the result of the group work and on the other side what he/she did not like. A group discussion will follow where further questions can be developed such as: did each group member contribute to the discussion? What would have been needed to get the participants more involved? Should the same method be used in future group work?

Minute 90 - New small groups

The participants form four new groups, so that at least one new member is in every group. They are given some time to get to know each other. Afterwards, the participants sit forming a large circle. Before proceeding to the presentations, the participants’ names are presented again. The participant who knows most of the names, can present them in order. If necessary, other participants can help so that all names are presented once.

Minute 95 - Presentation and discussion of the group work.

One hour is available for the presentation and discussion. The moderators use a corresponding, flexible time division. Part of the group work is reserved for a final discussion. At the beginning of the presentation, it will be pointed out that some aspects of the presentation will not be historically sustainable. False and incorrect aspects are only occasionally corrected by the moderators. The aim of the building block is not to represent the correct historical course, but rather the central aspects and historical constants of the interrelationship between technology and individuals.

Steps for the presentation and discussion.

The group work is presented and discussed individually in the historical process. The course should follow this scheme:

  1. Presentation
  2. Discussion in the four new groups: What did you notice? How realistic was the situation presented? After the Stone Age: What are the references to the earlier epochs?
  3. The whole group listens to the short statements from the small groups
  4. The whole group discusses individual aspects, or introduces new aspects

After the presentation and brief discussion of the Middle Ages, it is important to discuss the similarities and differences between the first two / three scenarios in small groups and then to discuss them with the entire group.

Discussion points and questions

The following points can be discussed according to the individual scenarios and with the entire group:

  • What caused this problem? Is this problem caused by humans? What are the action plans considered?
  • What are the developed solutions? Do they only minimize the problem?
  • Are simple solutions such as collecting rainwater still being considered?
  • Who is affected by this problem? Everyone, the majority or only a few?
  • How many people are affected by the problem? A small group, a village ... all humanity?
  • Who makes the decision on how to deal with this problem? Are all parties equally involved in the decision-making process or do a few (which perhaps are not affected) make decisions for others?
  • What is the spatial extent of the problem? Is it limited to a small land, or is the whole earth affected?
  • How is social life organized? Is solidarity represented?
  • If a solution is being considered: Who has control over the solution process? Can a solution be denied? Does the solution include everyone?
  • How are conflicts presented or avoided? How do the people involved deal with these conflicts? Are conflicts with others being considered, eg when moving to other areas or importing water?
  • Why is water a basic necessity of man? How is drinking water identified as a human right?

General causes of water pollution.

  • Biological
    • Bacteria
      • Tipped sources/rivers, since some poisonous algae occur only in the season
      • Decaying animals
      • Legionella
  • Energy
    • Exxon Valdez
    • Deep Water Horizon
    • Fracking
  • Agriculture
    • Fertilizer
    • Pesticides
      • Atrazine is washed out of the soil by the Elbe river in 2006 and is still measurable in Helgoland

General solutions for all scenarios.

The possible solutions are limited and are differently developed for each epoch. In particular, from an epoch to an epoch, there is an increasing approach to technical solutions.

  • Emigrating to another land, region, or planet - the more sedentary a society is, the more likely this option is rejected.
  • Importing water via aqueducts as in the Roman empire or bottled drinking water (the present).
  • Collecting water: Rainwater, condensation
  • Physically: filtering, boiling
  • Chemical: catalysts, disinfectants
  • Medicine: symptom control in humans
  • Identify and terminate the cause
  • Stone age
    • During the stone age, societal structures were more complex and not governed by the alpha male.
    • Even chimpanzees bring water to sick / old group members. The concern for the elderly is commonly seen as a reason for man's cognitive revolution, as knowledge has been preserved over several generations and has not had to be re-acquired every time.
    • Herbs can be used for self-medication; in fact, animals use certain plants to cure certain diseases.
  • Water pollution was not caused by humans until water was stored for a long time and led to water contamination.
    • In addition to the general solutions, selfurin, blood from animals and fruits are also considered.

  • Middle age
    • Humans are increasingly polluting the planet: faecal, but also pre-industrial producers (tanneries, iron smelting, etc.)
    • Witch hunting and witch burning were not present in the Middle Ages, but in the early modern period (16th and 17th centuries)
    • The power of secular rulers is often underestimated
    • There was a complex system of interdependent dependencies, defined by rights and traditions
    • The Middle Age is not yet the early modern age, where rulers have the power to do whatever they want, see for instance the novel Michael Kohlhaas of Heinrich von Kleist
    • There was an asymmetry of violence and isolated standing armies
    • The church is often portrayed from one side. Here, a reference to the church as an educational institution / monastic school is necessary. It is also important to discuss how we can fix ourselves today superstitiously on technology ("Big Data and the algorithm will take care of it ")
    • Hildegard of Bingen as a “herbal healer”. (healer?)
    • In addition to the general solutions, beer and wine also consist of some options.
  • Industrialisation
    • Hygienic measures were enforced by the upper middle class as they were directly affected by the lack of hygiene due to the close coexistence in cities.
    • Compared to the Middle Age, there is once again a stronger centralization. Hence, the industry is not necessarily the direct cause of the water pollution, but rather the hygiene due to a close coexistence required by industrialization.
    • At the same time, the close coexistence / centralization of work and life in a narrow space enabled a democratic potential that made a closed workers' movement possible.
  • Present
    • The unsolved problem is still being discussed.
    • Commercialization of water (Berliner Wasserwerke, Nestlé)
    • One buys the water and hence wants the other to take care of the problem (service thinking)
    • Continuous man-made pollution
    • Quotation of an article from the Monde Diplomatique on water pollution in China: "The rich hop on their private jets, the middle class buys bottled mineral water and the poor have no choice but to drink the polluted water." - Would that be conceivable in Europe? Yes! ( Http://monde-diplomatique.com/artikel/!868607 )
    • Specialization in technology: only experts might solve these problems
    • “We are working on it” is a general slogan for any problem - only those who are not affected can say so simply
    • In 2015 Merkel told the G8 summit in Elmau that she wants to solve the global hunger problem by 2030 - it’s nice that she thinks there’s so much time when hungry people aren’t suffering.
    • Water is not only recognized as a basic need for human beings, but also as a human right.
    • Centralization of the water supply: In Berlin, there are only three central water pumps and six more, which are only activated during the day.
  • Future
    • Everything is possible, but everything rarely is created in these small skits: in fact, it is often a dystopia instead of a utopia
    • Conflicts are usually never explicitly shown; in this sense it is a utopia - but what’s the catch?
    • It is directly accessible to humans, eg through gene manipulation, to combat symptoms
    • Computer algorithms, big data, smart robots and nano robots can make decisions and take care of humans
    • Technology becomes a dictator
    • A constant need of technology
    • Technology is slowly becoming religion
    • A global central government takes place.

Minute 150 - Final discussion.

Individual aspects of the future scenario are first discussed. This will be followed by a discussion about the subsequent question: What are the similarities and differences of each individual scenario?


  • At first, it was mostly natural causes but, with time, man made technology become more and more the reason behind plastic problems in the oceans or hormones in potable water. This was not the case during the Stone Age.
  • With a constant grow in technology, the problems are only minimized and not completely solved.
  • Vicious circle of technology - New technology is being developed to solve the problems resulting from an old technology.
  • Who decides? Who is affected?
  • In the Stone Age these two usually fall together; with the result that there is an ever greater margin between those responsible and those affected.


  • Water is a basic necessity for human life
  • It is a human right to have access to clean water
  • Is it fulfilled? No! - How is technology so-developed today and access to clean water is still not guaranteed worldwide?
  • The basic structure of the technical solutions is still the same while technicalization is constantly growing
  • Conflicts about water are rarely addressed in the plays, but there are already major conflicts around water

Minute 165 - Blue thread.

Everyone now stands and forms a large circle.

The five poles of the TING-D constellation are shown. The participants take a stand, one at a time, in the constellation and explain their choice with two or three sentences. If one of the five poles remains completely empty, it can be discussed in the group.

The first TING-D constellation is on the following question: Is there anything I would like to say concerning today's meeting? The second TING-D constellation is on: What are the links to the previous meetings? What can I do as an individual?

Hints and Notes.

From the authors.

The compulsory module is based on a lecture “Sociology of Engineering” held in the seminar at the TU Berlin. After a revision by Sarah C, a first building block was created. Used as a mandatory building block. The play is a requirement for all groups and the only scenario used for the different epochs concern water pollution. Only a brief unit for the reflection of the group process is introduced.

Abbreviated version

The module is very flexible in terms of time; the same learning success was obtained with a 30 minute session. In this case, the small groups do not receive a task list, but are only divided into the different epochs and are asked to solve the problem of water pollution with their respective means. Preparation time should take about 5 minutes so that 20 minutes are available for presentation and discussion. Due to the time limit, the moderators may have to give a little more information here and can not elaborate the discussion with the entire group.

Materials for implementation.

Task list.

The large group is first divided into small groups and the task is only given verbally to the groups: the general problem, that is the water supply is health-threatening, but not necessarily fatal. Now, each group is divided into an epoch, give a few hints on what should be observed and discussed. For the preparation of the oral assignment, the task list can be used: