STS 11
Technology and Human Values

Thanks go to Prof. Stephen Cutcliffe, who developed this course and gave me the opportunity to teach it.

Purpose & Aim
Technology engenders great wonder and great fear. Its application is sometimes explicitly connected with grand social goals and at other times pressed into the service of seemingly mundane purposes; but always technology is freighted with values, inevitably propelling its users towards unseen, unforeseen and, occasionally, all-too-predictable ends. It is the aim of this course to explore the shape of the technological systems we live in, to uncover that choices and chances of technology, to mull the historical process that landed us here now, and to express "the way we look to us all." Along the way we will foster the process of critical thinking by reading and seeking out information sources and by making the effort to create concise and elegant written responses. We will also practice the fine -- and occasionally frustrating -- art of group discussion in the hope that more heads are likely to produce better ideas than one. Ultimately, the process will become personal: at the end of the course you should be better informed about the development arc and social effects of new technologies, quite possibly more firmly opinionated about the value of specific technologies, and adeptly capable of marshalling ideas and finding sources to continue the study of technology.

Sources & Texts
Our primary sources are Rudi Volti's Society and Technological Change and Albert Teich's Technology and the Future, available in the bookstore. Secondary sources are the online version of The New York Times and any others you locate and bring to class. I expect you to surf the internet, thumb through books that have caught your eye as you sat looking blankly at library shelves, and bring in any stray magazines that you have absent-mindedly filched from offices. You are required to seek variety in your secondary sources: on this point it is better that your selection is a little random than that your sources are too limited.

Assignments & Grading
You will keep a journal for written responses to class readings, articles and images of interest identified by you and short reports. This journal will be turned in three (3) times during the semester for grading. There will be two (2) exams and one (1) final. There will also be one (1) short paper (with PPT slides) written in preparation for the final and one (1) speech written in preparation for the 2nd essay. Classes will be primarily discussion-based with a few videos and other exercises. To get ready for class, read the assigned articles or chapters. Write two (2) or more discussion questions about the readings. Among your secondary sources find an article and/or image (loosely) related to the topics(s) of the readings. Write a short, thoughtful response to the article in the journal. Questions, doubts, outrage and/or admiration are entirely appropriate. After you've done the reading, thinking, and writing, type it up, print it out and come to class OR all of the above, write it up, staple it together, tape the loose ends, put it in a notebook and come to class.

Course Outline:  Topics and Readings

Part I  Thinking About Technology

Tuesday, Aug. 30

Syllabus and Introduction to the Course
In-class: Write an introductory paragraph to Volti’s book
Assignment:  Locate and post an image that “says it all” about technology

Thursday, Sept. 1

Technology’s Impact on Society
Video:  Koyaanisqatsi
Read:  Volti, Preface and Chapters 1 & 2

Tuesday, Sept. 6
Group A: Short Response

Perspectives on Technology: Progress and Significance
Discuss:  Voliti, Koyaanisqatsi and images selected by class
Read:  Preface, Introduction, Leo Marx, Weinberg in Teich (pp. xvii-xxi; 1-12; 23-30)

Thursday, Sept. 8
Group B: Short Response

Perspectives on Technology
Discuss:  Marx and Weinberg
Berry, Winner and Wajcman in Teich (pp. 35-40; 50-66; 67-79)

Tuesday, Sept. 13
Group A: Short Response

Perspectives on Technology
Discuss:  Berry, Winner and Wajcman
Read:  Mesthene, McDermott, Florman in Teich (pp.41-49; 91-102; 103-112)

Thursday, Sept. 15
Group B: Short Response

Perspectives on Technology
Discuss:  Mesthene, McDermott, Florman
Read: Volti, Chapter 3;  Pool in Teich (pp. 13-21)

Part II The Process of Technological Change

Tuesday, Sept. 20
Group A: Short Response

Sources of Technological Change
Discuss:  Volti, Chapter 3, Pool in Teich
Read Volti Chapters 4 & 5; Ceruzzi in Teich (pp. 253-264)

Thursday, Sept. 22
Group B: Short Response

Technological Diffusion
Discuss:  Volti, Chapter 4 & 5, Ceruzzi

Tuesday, Sept.  27

Review of Parts I and II

Thursday, Sept. 29

Exam 1

Part III Technology and the Environment

Tuesday, Oct. 4

Historical Overview
Read:  Muir, Pinchot, Leopold and Carson (handouts)

Thursday, Oct. 6
Group A: Short Response

Historical Overview
Discuss:  Muir, Pinchot, Leopold and Carson

Tuesday, Oct.11


Thursday, Oct. 13

Land Palimpsest
Land Use Planning Scenario
Read: Huber and Erlichs (handouts)

Tuesday, Oct. 18
Group B: Short Response

Are Environmental Regulations Too Restrictive?
Discuss:  Huber and Erlichs
Read:  Volti, Chapter 6, Karl & Trenberth in Teich (pp. 235-243)

Thursday, Oct. 20

Modeling Catastrophe:  Imaging the Future
Discuss:  Volti, Chapter 6, Karl & Trenberth
Read:  Volti, Chapter 7




Part IV  Medical and Biological Technologies

Tuesday, Oct. 25
Group A: Short Response

Overview of Medical and Biological Technologies
Discuss:  Volti, Chapter 7
Read:  R.A. Weinberg, Bush and Murray in Teich (pp. 207-231)

Thursday, Oct. 27
Group B: Short Response

Genetic Questions
Discussion:  R.A. Weinberg, Bush and Murray
Read:  (Handout, TBA)

Tuesday, Nov. 1

Medical Issues
Discuss: (Handout)
Read:  Volti, Chapters 8 & 9

Part V  Technology and the Transformation of Work

Thursday, Nov. 3
Group A: Short Response

Work in Pre-Industrial Societies; Technology and Jobs
Discussion:  Volti, Chapters 8 & 9
Read: Volti, Chapter 10 and Zuboff in Teich (pp. 304-311)

Tuesday, Nov. 8
Group B: Short Response

Technology and Work
Discuss:  Volti, Chapter 10 and Zuboff

Thursday,  Nov. 10

Review of Parts III and IV

Tuesday, Nov. 15

Exam 2
Read:  Volti, Chapters 11 & 12

Part VI Communication and Information Technologies

Thursday,  Nov. 17
Group A: Short Response

Printing, Radio and Television
Discuss:  Volti, Chapters 11 &12
Read:  Forester & Morrison, Lessig in Teich (pp.265-292)

Tuesday, Nov. 22
Group B: Short Response

Computers and the Information Society
Discuss:  Forester & Morrison, Lessig
Due: Draft 1,  Final Paper

Thursday,  Nov. 24


Part VII Shaping and Controlling Technology

Tuesday, Nov. 29

Ethical Roles
Falsifying Data Scenario
Read:  Volti, Chapters 15 & 16

Thursday,  Dec. 1
Group A: Short Response

Technology and its Creators
Discuss:  Volti, Chapters 15 & 16
Due: Final Paper

Tuesday, Dec. 6
Group B: Short Response

Shaping and Reshaping Technology
Joy, Brown & Duguid, Kurzweil in Teich (pp. 115-165)

Thursday,  Dec. 8

Review of Parts I – VII

Dec. 13-21

Exam Date TBA




You will select three technologies from the provided list.  In your paper, describe these technologies in terms of significance and progress – first, as they were imagined by their inventors/initiators; then, as they spread and gained social acceptance; and finally, as they are understood presently.