ENGL 290
Technologies of Friendship Fall 2022
Division I
Cross-listed STS 290 / ENGL 290

Class Details

Contemporary friendships–whether among roommates, near neighbors, or friends living thousands of miles apart–are highly mediated. We communicate and signal our attachment through Zoom windows, apps, and social media platforms, and we create ambiguous relationships with people whom we “follow” or “friend” without having met in person. Sometimes we text as much as we talk even with intimate friends, and carrying on in-person friendships has been complicated in myriad ways by the Covid-19 pandemic. But friendships have always been mediated, and in this tutorial we will examine how writers across centuries have described the tools and technologies of friendship: some perhaps quaint or sentimental (for example the written letter) and others creepy or invasive (for example Apple’s “Find My” app or social media’s “suggestions”). We will ask common and important questions, such as “Can one have too many friends?”; “Are long-distance friendships sustainable?”; and “What health risks do we take for friendship, and what other risks do technologies of friendship carry?” Readings will include works of fiction and journalism, and scholarship from psychology, the history of technology, and science and technology studies. The technologies we will consider include emojis, coffeehouses, memes, letters, telephones, video games, and social media.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 1142
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Students will write essays and critique their partner's essays in alternate weeks.
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: STS concentrators
Distributions: Division I
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
STS 290 Division II ENGL 290 Division I

Class Grid

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