Official course description, subject to change:
AbstractThe overall aim of the course is to enable students to understand and analyse relations between society and technology.
Society and technology are often considered as separate entities. Some scholars have viewed technologies as neutral instruments enabling people to act more efficiently. Others have criticised technologies for dehumanising or alienating humans from each other or from nature. Increasingly, however, it is understood that technologies are neither neutral, nor good or bad, but are inseparable from organisational, social, political and economical contexts.
Social research points to the mutual shaping of technology and society, and the transformative relationship between social organisation and technology. People design, build, and support technological systems. Technologies transform human identity, culture, politics, and imagination, as well as shape everyday work practices in global organisations.
This course introduces a range of critical approaches to technology. The course will provide an analytical toolkit to understand, study and analyse the multiple ways in which information technologies participate in our social, organisational and cultural lives.
Engaging with a diverse set of global technologies and critical themes, the course explores the relationships between society and technology.
Examples include: Technopolitics: what forms of politics are embedded within technologies, and how do technologies produce political effects, Climate Technologies: how do particular technologies mediate climate knowledges and effects, Technology, Race and Gender: how do technologies reproduce assumptions about race and gender, and what are the consequences?, and questions of how these analytical sensitivities can be applied to contemporary issues such as Surveillance or Security.
Through an analysis of these questions, the course offers a basic introduction to new perspectives on the relationship between technology, society and human practice. The course will include: A historical perspective to consider the past, present and future in our engagement with technology; critical perspectives from social studies of science and technology; and social and cultural approaches to the changing relations between humans and machines.
The course is organised through a series of thematic lectures:
- Introduction to Society and Technology: Provides a general background, and basic social science analytical tools for understanding relations between society and technology in a global perspective. Introduces Controversies as good sites of STS analysis.
- Technological Controversies (2 lectures): Builds on the introduction and exemplifies the notion of technological controversies and discusses the method and purpose of studying technological controversies. Focuses particularly on actor network theory, social construction of technology and public understanding of science.
- Technologies as Networks: Provides the analytical grounding for conceptualizing technologies beyond determinism and social construction by engaging with Actor Network Theory (ANT). Analytical tools include delegation and scripts.
- Technopolitics: Introduces students to the idea that technologies have politics by engaging a range of examples, such as, architecture, transport infrastructure, nuclear power, and fast food restaurants.
- Information Infrastructures: Introduces a sociotechnical framework for analysing the relations between social and technological change. Focus is on infrastructures as key empirical sites of investigation (transport, data, energy) as well as a mode of analysis for engaging complex and distributed phenomena.
- Climate and Technology: Focuses on the interrelationship between climate (as a knowledge domain and site of action and governance) and technologies. Examples include Climate AI, ClimateIT, as well as IOT and physical landscapes. Offers tools for analysing the climate impacts of technologies as well as the forms of knowledge and action they afford.
- Gender and Technology: Focuses on the interrelationship between users and designers, people and technology. Introduces a sensitivity towards gendered based design assumptions and categories.
- Race and Technology: As above but with a focus on race based design assumptions and categories.
- Dilemmas: This closing theme introduces an annually topical theme, which works as a case study through which the previous analytical approaches can be discussed.
Formal prerequisitesThere are no formal prerequisites for this course.
Intended learning outcomes
After the course, the student should be able to:
- Identify and compare at least two perspectives on the development and use of technology from within the course literature
- Sketch a research question within the area of social studies of technology
- Identify and make use of appropriate sources of data and empirical material for your analysis
- Select and make use of appropriate concepts and methods in a research design relating to social studies of technology
- Discuss society and technology in a global perspective
- Create and present a well documented and analytically grounded written report based on research design and question
Ordinary examExam type:
C: Submission of written work, External (7-point scale)
C11: Submission of written work