|STS 5206 – Main Themes in the History of Science and Technology
Meets Tues from 7:00 PM to 9:45PM at VT – Falls Church (Summer I/II)
Instructor: Shannon A. Brown (202) 685-4388
Course Overview and Objective:
In this seminar course, we will examine important works of scholarship on modern technology history. The readings will focus on the United States and Europe since the early nineteenth century. The books and articles selected for review during this term are representative of the rich body of technology history scholarship and, during the semester, we will be covering a wide range of historical topics. The readings have been selected to give you a sense of the diverse analytical and narrative approaches that have been used by historians to explore technology.
The objective of the course is to familiarize STS graduate students with a set of core readings on the history of technology. Many of the books on the required reading list for this class appear on the doctoral exam preparation list. By the end of the term, students should have an awareness of some of the key themes and debates that define the history of technology field.
Students will be required to submit one paper for credit during this term.
Your paper will be an expository essay that examines the historical significance of a specific technology. This paper should make reference to three or four books or articles; include a summary of the arguments made by the authors; express your views on the significance of the technology in question; and include a conclusion that features possible avenues of research on the history of the technology you selected. Among the questions you should consider: Why does this technology appeal to you? What has been said about it to date? What is its history? What kind of influence does it have on individuals or human institutions? How can this influence be determined? The point of this exercise is to start your thinking about historical methodology, i.e. sources, approach, and interpretation. We will discuss these papers in class. Time permitting, be prepared to make a brief presentation on your work.
In addition to this paper requirement, each student is responsible for preparing a single 3x5” notecard with comments and observations about the weekly reading. The card should include at least 2 discussion questions and call out “ah hah” moments that resulted from a review of the reading.
All students will be responsible for keeping up with the course reading. Your participation grades will be based on informal reading presentations (assigned to individuals the week prior) and open discussion.
30% attendance and participation
45% expository review essay (7-9 pages)
25% in-class reviews and weekly note card submissions
Required Books (in order of use):
Barry Katz, Technology and Culture: A Historical Romance
Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization
Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America
Ruth Schwartz Cowan, More Work for Mother
David A. Hounshell, From the American System to Mass Production, 1800-1932
David E. Nye, American Technological Sublime
John M. Staudenmaier, S.J., Technology’s Storytellers: Reweaving the Human Fabric
Daniel Headrick, Power Over Peoples
Merritt Roe Smith and Leo Marx. Does Technology Drive History: The Dilemma of Technological Determinism
Topic, Reading and Assignment Schedule
(Reading assignments are subject to change; assignments marked “TBD” will be announced in class several weeks before discussion.
Week 1 [May 22]
Introduction and Course Overview
What is “technology”?
Why study the history of technology?
Week 2 [May 29]
Katz, Technology and Culture: A Historical Romance
Week 3 [June 5]
Early Perspectives on the History of Technology
Mumford, Technics and Civilization, pp. 3-106
Week 4 [June 12]
Week 5 [June 19]
Technology and the American Imagination
Marx, The Machine in the Garden
Week 6 [June 26]
Thinking About Domestic Technology
Cowan, More Work for Mother
Week 7 [July 3]
Pinch, Trevor J. and Wiebe E. Bijker. “The Social Construction of Facts and Artefacts: Or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology Might Benefit Each Other.” Social Studies of Science 14 (August 1984): 399-441.
Winner, Langdon. “Upon Opening the Black Box and Finding it Empty: Social Constructivism and the Philosophy of Technology” in Science Technology & Human Values 18, no 3 (Summer 1993): 362-378.
Winner, Langdon. “Do Artefacts Have Politics?” Daedalus 109 (1980): 121-36.Week 8
The Technological Sublime
Nye, America Technological Sublime
Week 9 [July 17]
The Making of an Academic Discipline
Staudenmaier, Technology’s Storytellers
Week 10 [July 24]
Technology, Environment, and Imperialism
Headrick, Power Over Peoples
Week 11 [July 31]
Merritt Roe Smith and Leo Marx. Does Technology Drive History: The Dilemma of Technological Determinism. MIT Press Cambridge, 1994 (select articles, TBD)
Week 12 [August 7]
Technology in Cultural Discourse