Terrence E Schenold
Utilizing approaches from the history of technology, cultural studies, and literary theory, seeks to analyze the cultural and social impact of information technology. Considers how information technologies impact our relationships with others, our concept(s) of self, and the structure of the communities to which we belong. Offered: jointly with COM 302.
Full title: "Developing the Technological Imagination: Philosophical Reflections on the Cultural Impact of Information Technology"
Humans have always been technical beings. We live in and through our technology: from stone tools and woven baskets to combustion engines and computers, our society is continually altered by the existence of these technical objects. Living in a highly industrialized, networked society such as ours, one need only try to imagine life (let alone college life) without computer or Internet technologies, or any number of everyday information technologies which seamlessly mediate our daily routines; yet this is precisely what it is so difficult to do: to "think"? technology, and to see its peculiar agency in our individual experiences and in our social world. For us, this situation seems magnified by globalization and the intricate layering and interconnectedness of technical systems, complex industrial machines, and vast networks. Our needs go beyond an immediate understanding of a given technology to the development of a more reflective technological imagination in which we consider the ways technologies enable us, and shape and reshape our experience and social realities.
This course explores the possibilities of technological imagination through work in media theory/studies, philosophy of technology, and game studies. The goal is to introduce students to an array of different frameworks and points of entry to thinking about technology as a significant constituent of experience in general. These frameworks are organized themselves around topics and starting problems the authors identify in thinking about technology’s significance.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Mini-lecture and discussion, online resourcing.
Class assignments and grading
1) Weekly Reflection on Everyday Technology – each week students will write a short paper reflecting on their experiences with technology that week. These can be focused on an everyday object, such as the coffeepot or cellphone, or technologies in the news such as the Large Hadron Collider or Microsoft Xbox360’s project Kinect. The purpose of these assignments is to use the readings and attention they bring to technology to reflect on your own lived experience with technologies.
2) Weekly Reading Quizzes – each week there will also be a short quiz on the reading to keep track of participation and engagement with the themes.
3) Critical Response Paper – students will also write a short paper (4-5 pages) explicating and critically exploring the limits and potentials of a self-selected reading in the course.
4) Technical Object Paper – finally, students will be put into research clusters (of 5 people of so) organized around a particular technical object (e.g. DVD, cellphone, iPad, electric car, predator drone, computer mouse, USB flash drive, Wii, etc.) sometime in the early phase of the course. These clusters will all write their final essays on those objects using the critical ideas from the readings as well as their own group / individual research. These will then be “bound” in a PDF book and circulated to everyone in the course. The purpose of this assignment design is to encourage communal inquiry and show the benefits of the lab-like focus on a particular object of problem.