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Do we control our technologies, or do our technologies control us? This course will explore different philosophies of technological progress, particularly the constructivist and determinist theories, by examining major technological systems that shaped modern society, such as the telegraph system, the electric grid, radio and television broadcasting, and the internet. Each of these innovations entailed the construction of a complex network designed to serve a mix of public and business interests, and each resulted in wide-ranging and often unforeseen changes to people’s lives. Guided by pertinent readings in the history and philosophy of technology, we will look critically at the forms and consequences of technological change, seeking answers to a series of complex and important questions: Is the course of technological progress an inevitable byproduct of scientific and engineering advances, or is it contingent on social and political circumstances and choices? Does technological change reinforce the social and political status quo or challenge it? Are technological and social progress synonymous, or is there a tension between the two? One of the goals of the course will be to provide students with a more informed and critical perspective on the technological upheavals that continue to shape society today.
Format: seminar; hybrid
Grading: no pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
attendance and participation, team assignments, two in-class exams, one 15-page seminar paper
Anthropology and Sociology majors
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit: