CT551--Technology and Society--Spring 2011
Tuesday evenings (see below for times)

The Textbooks

Course Description

Course Policies

Grading System

Course Schedule


Prof. Thomas A. Easton

Photo of Professor Easton
OFFICE: Rm. 108

OFFICE PHONE: 859-1331

HOME PHONE: 338-1074


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Easton, Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Science, Technology, and Society, McGraw-Hill, 9th ed. exp., 2010 (ISBN: 978-007738197-4).

Teich, Technology and the Future, Wadsworth, 11th ed., 2008 (ISBN 978-0495570523).

Volti, Society and Technological Change, Worth, 6th ed., 2009 (ISBN: 978-1429221214 ).

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This course deals with the ways society regards technology and technology affects society. It therefore makes very clear why a knowledge of technology must be conveyed in modern education, and prepares students to put technological issues of many kinds in context.

See "Course policies" below for details on grading.

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Because this course is rooted in the discussion of ideas, it is essential that students read and think about the assignments.

The class will meet three times in a Thomas College classroom, on Tuesday January 4, on Tuesday February 8, and on Tuesday March 22, from 6 PM to 9:30 PM. The remaining classes will meet on-line.  Brief lectures will be posted (linked to the syllabus); discussion questions will be posted on a Forum.  It is absolutely essential that students have reliable computers (at home or at work) with Internet access.

There will be six papers on assigned topics. Each will be 5 or more pages long, double-spaced, with at least half a dozen references obtained from outside research. See the Schedule below for the topics.

All papers should be prepared as Word files (.doc or .rtf) and "handed in" by uploading them to Moodle.  I also accept emailed papers.

Students who plagiarize papers will receive zeros for the work in question, with no makeup opportunities.

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A (94 - 100) A- (90 - 93)
B+ (87 - 89) B (83 - 86) B- (80 - 82)
C+ (77 - 79) C (73 - 76) C- (70 - 72)
D+ (67 - 69) D (63 - 66) D- (60 - 62)
F (below 60)

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Jan 4 The Nature of TechnologyWeek 1 lecture
(Classroom) Volti, Ch. 1: The Nature of Technology
Teich--4, Weinberg, Technology & Social Engineering
Teich--7, Edgerton, The Shock of the Old
Jan 11 The Role of Technology in SocietyWeek 2 lecture
(On-Line) Teich--1, Marx, Technology & Progress
Teich--8, Mesthene, Technology's Role
Teich--9, McDermott, Technology as Opiate
Easton, Issue #1--Science, Politics, and Public Policy
PAPER 1: Mesthene tells us that technology can change our values. Discuss how this may relate to the way politicians often ignore scientific data in favor of other factors when determining public policy.
Jan 18 Promise and PerilWeek 3 lecture
(On-Line) Teich--10, Joy, Why the Future Doesn't Need Us
Teich--11, Brown & Duguid, Response to Joy
Teich--12, Kurzweil, Promise and Peril
Easton, Issue #10--Nanotechnology
PAPER 2: Investigate 3D printing and discuss whether it is a threat or a boon. Who does it threaten? Who does it benefit? In what ways should this technology be restricted or regulated? And why?
Jan 25 Who Does Technology Benefit?Week 4 lecture
(On-Line) Volti, Ch. 2: Winners & Losers: The Differential Effects of Technological Change; What Technology Can & Cannot Do
Teich--5, Florman, Technology & Tragedy
Teich--20, Ceruzzi, Unforeseen Revolutions
Easton, Issue #9--DDT, Health, and the Environment
Feb 1 The Roots of InnovationWeek 5 lecture
(On-line) Teich--2, Pool, How Society Shapes Technology
Teich--3, Tenner, The Technology of Shoelaces
  Teich--23, Lessig, The Internet under Siege
Easton, Issue #3--Net Neutrality
PAPER 3: Discuss how society's decisions can hold back the development of a technology.
Feb 8 Where Does Technology Come From?Week 6 lecture
(Classroom) Volti, Ch. 3: The Sources of Technological Change
Volti, Ch. 4: Scientific Knowledge & Technological Advance
Easton, Issue #20--Open Access Publishing
Feb 15 How Does Technology Spread?Week 7 lecture
(On-Line) Volti, Ch. 5: The Diffusion of Technology
Teich--14, 9-11 Commission, Protecting Against Terrorism
  Teich--15, Dempsey, Civil Liberties in a Time of Crisis
Easton, Issue #16--IT, Privacy, and Public Safety
PAPER 4: Discuss why it is impossible for any nation to maintain a monopoly on a technology.  For a nation attempting to break such a monopoly, what is the role of education?
Feb 22 Technology and Failed ExpectationsWeek 8 lecture
(On-Line) Volti, Ch. 6: Technology, Energy, & Environment
Easton, Issue #4--Geoengineering vs. Global Warming
  Easton, Issue #5--Reviving Nuclear Power
Mar 1 Technology and CommunicationsWeek 9 lecture
(On-Line) Volti, Ch. 12: Printing
Volti, Ch. 13: The Electronic Media
Easton, Issue #13--SETI
PAPER 5: Printing and the electronic media have had an enormous impact on human thinking. The computer revolution may have as great an impact. What would you expect the impact of successful SETI to be?
Mar 8 Technology and Human Life Week 10 lecture
(On-Line) Volti, Ch. 7: Medical and Biological Technologies
  Volti, Ch. 8: Genetic Technologies
Teich--16, Scott, Stem Cell Research: The Great Moral Divide
Teich--19, Greeley, Implications of Advances in Neuroscience
Easton, Issue #21--Transhumanism
Mar 15 Technology and WorkWeek 11 lecture
(On-Line) Volti, 9--Work in Nonindustrial Societies
Volti, 10--Technology and Jobs
Volti, 11--Technological Change and Life on the Job
PAPER 6 (DUE NEXT WEEK!): It seems a safe bet that technology will continue to change. Given what you have learned in this course, how will the teacher's job be different in, say, fifty years?
Mar 22 Technology and WarWeek 12 lecture
(Classroom) Volti, 14--Weapons and Their Consequences
Volti, 15--How New Weapons Emerge

Page last modified December 9, 2010.