Katy E. Pearce
Description: This course will examine the role of information and communication technologies on beneficial outcomes
There are numerous claims from scholars, policymakers, the news media, etc. that various technologies bring or cause “good"? things – democracy, wellbeing, economic benefits, social support, empowerment, collective action, education, social capital, etc. but as scholars, we need to understand the mechanisms by which these “good"? things occur or perhaps do not.
This course will revolve around four key questions
1. What is “good"? and for whom? Who defines it?
Often the outcomes of increased technology use are jumbled together without conceptualization or operationalization. One of the purposes of this class will be to closely examine what authors mean when they describe beneficial outcomes of technology.
2. What are the mechanisms by which this occurs?
When authors argue that technology causes a particular social benefit, how does it occur? A mechanism is a specific relationship through which one thing causes another, allowing answers to questions of “why"? something happens beyond mere description. Mechanisms can be thought of as a theoretical building block. Mechanisms allow for a more nuanced examination of individual and societal level phenomena.
3. Does it really? What’s the evidence?
We will look at the analytic techniques used by authors to make their argument and evaluate them.
4. What are the unintended consequences of “good"? via technology?
For example, what happens when technology increases economic wellbeing? Does family life change? Questions like this are important to ask for empirical understanding as well as for policy implications.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading