Society and Technology
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: Social and Technical Quantification (how do standards and classifications order our worlds and what are the implications of quantification for understanding how technologies are formed?), 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 around discussions of several themes:
- 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.
- Information Infrastructures: Introduces a sociotechnical framework for analysing the relations between social and technological change. Focus is on central historical transformations including the industrial and information revolutions and their global reach. Analytical keywords might include: sociotechnical systems, human and nonhuman actors, hybrids of society and technology.
- Technological Controversies: 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.
- Technology and Classification: Focuses on the social and organisational implications of standards and quantification in making technologies and organisations work at a local as well as global scale. Offers tools for analysing the social and organisational implications of standards and quantification, including boundary-objects, obligatory passage points, centers of calculation, politics of standards and classifications.
- Gender, Race and Technology: Focuses on analyses of the interrelationship between users and designers, people and technology. Introduces new awarenesses of gendered and race based design assumptions and categories. Introduces the trope of the cyborg.
- 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
Lectures that focus on reading and discussing issues central to topics of society and technology in a global perspective are combined with sessions run by teaching assistants, in which students are actively engaged in exercises relating to themes.
Preparations include finding, presenting and giving mutual feedback on empirical material. The first half of the course includes an individually prepared half-term synopsis and a group-based oral presentation of central concepts from the course. Students will also be assigned to give group based feedback on the presentations. These activities are mandatory requirements for taking the exam.
In the second half of the course, students plan and carry out a study of a relevant topic covered by the syllabus. This project work is conducted individually and involves making a research plan that includes sketching a research question, finding and analysing relevant materials and writing a final report.
Mandatory activitiesThe first half of the course includes an individually prepared half-term synopsis and a group-based oral presentation of central concepts from the course. Students will also be assigned to give group based feedback on the presentations. These activities are mandatory requirements for taking the exam.
The student will receive the grade NA (not approved) at the ordinary exam, if the mandatory activities are not approved and the student will use an exam attempt.
A compendium containing all the readings for the course will be available for purchase in the ITU atrium towards the end of August.
It will not be necessary to purchase any additional books.
Student Activity BudgetEstimated distribution of learning activities for the typical student
- Preparation for lectures and exercises: 44%
- Lectures: 7%
- Exercises: 14%
- Assignments: 10%
- Project work, supervision included: 5%
- Exam with preparation: 20%
Ordinary examExam type:
C: Submission of written work, External (7-point scale)
C11: Submission of written work
Time and dateOrdinary Exam - submission Mon, 21 Dec 2020, 08:00 - 14:00
Reexam - submission Wed, 10 Feb 2021, 08:00 - 14:00