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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Gina S Neff
COM 539
Seattle Campus

Theories of Technology and Society

Provides an theoretical foundation for study in the area of communication technology and society by examining different contemporary theories of the social, political, and cultural implications of technological change. Takes a broad view of theories of communication innovations, tools, and technologies - including historical, critical, and comparative approaches.

Class description

Much of the contemporary literature dealing with information technologies, new media, and digital culture either overlook or oversimplify the complexity of technology as a social phenomenon. This course will provide a theoretical foundation for graduate students interested in further study in the communication technology & society. The course is also appropriate for graduate students in social sciences, design, information, or humanities who are interested in a grounding their research in theories of the social, political, and cultural contexts for and implications of technological change. This is a theory-driven, reading intensive graduate class and all graduate students are welcome. Please ask if you have any questions about the pace or expectations of the course. In this course we will cover the following: *The history of approaches to innovation and technology in communication and sociology (e.g., Harold Innis, Marshal McLuhan, and Everett Rogers), *Approaches from the social studies of science and technology (e.g., Bruno Latour, Landon Winner, Judy Wajcman, and Weibe Bijker), *Emerging theories of new information technology, social media, & the Internet (e.g., Manuel Castells, Alex Galloway, and Lev Manovich), and *Outstanding exemplars of research on the relationship between technology and society (e.g., Claude Fisher, Trevor Pinch, JoAnne Yates, Thomas Hughes, Don Slater, and Chandra Mukerji)

Student learning goals

At the end of the course, students should be able to Identify key literatures, topics, and debates in the area of technology & society from a broad multidisciplinary perspective and locate their own research interests within these debates

Use the theoretical basis of this course to ground further research, prepare for qualifying exams, and do continued coursework in the technology & society area in communication or within their home departments

Develop an extended paper on a topic of their choice related to course material.

General method of instruction

Seminar; student-led discussions.

Recommended preparation

Graduate standing required.

Class assignments and grading

Short weekly reflections on the readings; extending theoretical paper (15-30 pages) at the end of the course.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Gina S Neff
Date: 09/03/2011