Sidoli, Nathan Camillo
Spring, 2021
Office hours: Thursday, 4th and 5th

Office: 11-1409
x71-8371
[email protected]

Announcements

I will put announcements about the class in this space. Please check here periodically as the term progresses.

Science, Technology and Society

Course Description

Science and technology are essential components of modern society. Indeed, one could argue that the development of science and proliferation of technology are the defining characteristics of modern society. Certainly, very nearly the only value that all countries currently share is an interest in increasing scientific knowledge and improving technological development. In order to effectively communicate and work in today’s globalized world, it is essential for students to understand how science and technology have shaped modern society, and how society, in turn, has shaped science and technology.

Science and technology are essential components of modern society. In this course, we will explore various aspects of the relationship between science, technology and society. Science, Technology and Society Studies (STSS) addresses the question of the role of techno-science in our modern societies from an interdisciplinary matrix of historical, philosophical, sociological, and cultural viewpoints.

We will begin with some lectures on theoretical ideas and approaches that have been used to study scientific practice and the development of technology. We will then study the development of large independent technological systems that have been characteristic of 20th century technology. This will be followed by lectures on information technology and biotechnology, two very current fields that are having a pervasive influence on the way we live

In order to develop a picture of current developments in science and technology, each class I will also spend 10-20 minutes talking about the latest science and technology news from around the world.

Required Texts

Many of the class readings come from An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies by Sergio Sismondo, (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.) This book is available in the SILS reading library, 11-B1, and all of the assigned readings can be downloaded from the class website.

Web Sources for Science and Technology News

  • The British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) Science and Environment page, and Technology page.
  • The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Technology Review.
  • Science News: Magazine of the Society for Science and the Public.
  • Science Daily: Your Source for the latest Research News.
  • For a look at recent work in many areas see the TED talks: Ideas worth spreading. (A collection of talks given each early at the TED conference, where leaders in science, industry and the arts meet every year to discuss their ideas)
  • Grading

    Attendence

    30%

    Midterm exam (take-home)

    35%

    Final exam (take-home)

    35%

    General Format

    The class meets once a week for a lecture. Students are expected to attend the lectures, and write a midterm and final exam.

    Exams

    The exams will be in-class exams, to be taken on the class Moodle site. You will have 1.5 hours to work on the exams. There will be three sections: multiple choice (or connections), short answers (1-2 sentences), full descriptions (2-3 paragraphs).

    Discussion Topics, Readings and Assignments

    Week 1: Apr 6

    General introduction to Science, Technology and Society Studies (STSS)

  • Reading: Sergio Sismondo, Thomas Kuhn’s revolution in science studies (An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies, chap. 2).
  • Introduction to science and technology studies

    Week 2: Apr 13

    The social role of scientists

  • Reading: Steven Shapin’s article (Seed Magazine), The state of the scientist.
  • The social role of technoscientists

    Week 3: Apr 20

    What is technology?

  • Reading: Sergio Sismondo, Two questions concerning technology (An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies, chap. 9).
  • Introduction to thinking about technology

    Week 4: Apr 27

    The social construction of scientific knowledge and actor-network theory

  • Reading: Sergio Sismondo, The strong program of sociology of knowledge and Actor-network theory (An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies, chaps. 5 and 6).
  • Social constructivist theories of technoscience

    Holiday: May 4

    No Class

  • No reading.
  • Week 5: May 11

    Large technological systems
    Selections from two movies, Manufactured Landscapes and Unser Täglich Brot (Our Daily Bread, 『いのちの食べ方』).

  • Reading: Thomas Hughes, Technology as systems, controls, and information (Human-Built World, chap. 4).
  • Large technological systems

    Week 6: May 18

    The use and abuse of petroleum, I
    First half of the documentary Crude

  • Reading: New York Times article on the global supply chain (following the Tohoku earthquake).
  • Energy and civilization

    Week 7: May 25

    The use and abuse of petroleum, II
    Second half of the documentary Crude

  • No reading.
  • Week 8: Jun 1 (Midterm exam)

    Midterm exam: In-class exam (Moodle).

  • No reading.
  • Week 9: Jun 8

    A brief history of computing in the 20th century

  • Reading: William Aspry, Computer science and the computer revolution (from the Cambridge History of Science, vol. 5).
  • Early history of computers

    Week 10: Jun 15

    Information technology

  • Reading: Paul Ceruzzi, Inventing personal computing.
  • Personal computing

    Week 11: Jun 22

    A brief history of biology in the 20th century

  • Reading: Richard Burian and Doris Zallen, Genes (from the Cambridge History of Science, vol. 6).
  • A brief history of biology in the 20th century

    Week 12: Jun 29

    Biotechnology

  • Reading: Robert Bud, History of biotechnology (from the Cambridge History of Science, vol. 6).
  • A history of biotechnology

    Week 13: Jul 6

    Studying human sexuality: Biological or social?

  • Reading: Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, The ape in the mirror and On Mona Lisa’s mind (from Sex at Dawn).
  • Studying human sexuality

    Week 14: Jul 13

    Democracy and technoscience in the modern world

  • No reading Reading: Sergio Sismondo, The public understanding of science, and Expertise and public participation (An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies, 15 and 16).
  • Democracy and technical expertise

    Week 15: Jul 20 (Final exam)

    Final exam: In-class exam (Moodle).

  • No reading.