STS 402
Cold War Technocultures
Last Offered Fall 2018
Division II
Cross-listed SOC 363
This course is not offered in the current catalog

Class Details

In this seminar students will pursue sociohistorical analyses of Cold War American culture(s) by attending to key points of intersection between politics, aesthetics, and major technoscientific developments during this period. Part I will focus principally on the emergence of the computer and its role in shaping American infrastructure and styles of thought aimed at Soviet “containment.” We will trace the historical threads connecting MIT’s “Whirlwind” computer project and the SAGE continental air defense system; nuclear wargaming at the RAND Corporation and the aesthetics of “thinking the unthinkable”; the science of cybernetics and the prospect of automation; and ultimately the role of computation, intermedia, and systems logic in perpetrating the atrocities of the Vietnam War. Part II will take up the Cold War space race–from Luna 2, Sputnik I, and Yuri Gagarin to Projects Mercury, Gemini, and the Apollo moon landing. Within this context we will also consider the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth report; plans backed by NASA for the industrialization and colonization of outer space; and the place of science-fiction as a Cold War aesthetic (print, televisual, cinematic). Part III, finally, will explore key moments of conflict, resistance, appropriation, and unintended consequences of Cold War technoscientific developments, among them antipsychiatry and environmentalism; Project Cybersyn, an infrastructural casualty of the U.S./CIA-backed Chilean coup of 1973; the New Left, the American counterculture, new social movements, and the countercultural roots of new media and neoliberalism.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 15
Class#: 1113
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: two 5-page book review essays, weekly 1-page papers, midterm essay exam, final essay exam
Prerequisites: STS 101 or instructor consent; prior coursework in Anthropology and Sociology and/or History
Enrollment Preferences: Anthropology and Sociology majors, Science and Technology Studies concentrators
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
SOC 363 Division II STS 402 Division II
Attributes: STS Senior Seminars

Class Grid

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