INTRODUCTION TO HPS/STS

COURSE DESCRIPTION

Science and technology play central roles in governing our lives and are accorded a correspondingly prominent place in civic discourse. Today, we grapple constantly with questions about how science and technology shape our society, such as how to manage information accessibility and transparency, chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, expanding energy needs, and global-scale human impacts. This course shows how these questions and many others like them can be confronted through the multidisciplinary fields of History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) and Science, Technology and Society (STS).

These disciplines combine scholarly approaches to investigating the ways in which science and technology are embedded in social and cultural practices. We will examine the various techniques historians, philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists, and policy scholars have used to understand science and technology’s impact on our world and our lives. This course provides a foundation for further study in STS, and so along with specific topics in both contemporary and historical science and technology, we well confront larger questions of how different disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives motivate critical questions about science and technology.

 

GOALS AND OUTCOMES                                               

What I hope to do in this course:
• Prompt students to consider science and technology as a social and cultural institutions
• Familiarize students with a variety of the disciplinary approaches that comprise STS
• Sharpen students’ critical thinking and writing skills

What you should be able to do by the end of the course:
• Reconstruct major issues concerning the role of science and technology in society
• Articulate well considered positions on contemporary and historical issues in STS
• Analyze the relationships between science, technology, and society in new contexts

 

ESSENTIAL RESOURCES

Books
• Cowan – A Social History of American Technology
• Fleck – The Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact
• Oreskes and Conway – Merchants of Doubt
• Traweek – Beamtimes and Lifetimes
• Sayre – Rosalind Franklin and DNA

Electronic Resources 
• Additional required and supplementary readings for each week
• Guidelines for written work

 

ASSIGNMENTS AND GRADES

20%  -  Participation and Attendance  
5%    -  Twitter Assignment         
5%    -  Museum Assignment            
10%  -  Reading Analyses
10%  -  Discussion Presentation
5%   -  Paper 1
10%  -  Paper 2
15%  -  Paper 3
20%  - Paper 4 

Participation and Attendance
The 20% of your grade constituted by participation and attendance will be based on your attendance in class, and on active, conscientious involvement in discussions and activities therein. You should come to class with a copy of that week’s reading, prepared to discuss it. Your in-class contributions will be assessed based on whether they demonstrate critical engagement with the material.

Twitter Assignment
During the second week of class, students will register Twitter accounts and engage in a dialogue with their classmates about the impact of social media on communication. On the basis of this activity, you will produce a short written reaction piece. This assignment constitutes 5% of your grade. See Assignment Guidelines handout for further details.

Museum Assignment
Following our trip to the art museum, you will complete an assignment based on the museum trip. Details will be provided in advance of the visit.

Reading Analyses
Each week, you will respond to some questions about that week’s reading to gauge your understanding of the authors’ arguments. These short (5-10 minutes) assignments will be graded √, √+, or √- and cumulatively will account for 10% of your grade.

Discussion Presentation
Each student will be responsible for leading the discussion for one day during the term. During the week you lead discussion you will develop a plan for presenting and discussing the reading, which includes a brief (~5 minute) presentation of what you found important, provocative, or noteworthy about that week’s readings, and a detailed plan for discussing them. You will meet with me on the Monday of the week you present to discuss your plan. A sign-up sheet will be distributed at the beginning of term.

Papers
This course requires you to produce four papers of no more than 1000 words apiece, each corresponding to one of the course modules. Specific prompts will be supplied no less than two weeks before the due date.

Extra Credit
Exactly one opportunity is available for extra credit. You may attend a scholarly lecture on campus and produce a 500-word reaction to it. Make every effort to produce a reaction relevant to the course themes. Completion of this assignment will earn you no more than 2% extra credit. Submissions will be evaluated according to the same criteria as other written work. 

 

COURSE SCHEDULE

 

Week 1: What Is STS/HPS?
Reading:     Fleck – The Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact

 

MODULE 1 – CONTEMPORARY ISSUES: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN CIVIC DISCOURSE

Week 2: Information, Security, and Privacy
Solove – “Why Privacy Matters Even When You Have ‘Nothing to Hide’”
Gladwell – “Small Change: Why The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted”
Cowan – Chapter 12

Week 3: Technology and Human Nature
Elliott – “The Cellular Apocalypse”
Maienschein – “Recombinant DNA, IVF, and Abortion Politics”

Week 4: Politics, Policy, and Climate Science
Oreskes and Conway – Merchants of Doubt

 

MODULE 2 – KNOWLEDGE AND POWER: PHYSICS IN THE LATE 20TH CENTURY

Week 5: Cultural Authority and the Science Wars
Sokal – “What the Social Text Affair Does and Does Not Prove” 
Collins – “The Meaning of Hoaxes”

Week 6: Science, Money, and Prestige
Anderson – “More Is Different”
Martin – “Fundamental Disputations”
Kevles – “The Death of the Superconducting Super Collider

Week 7: Understanding the Practice of Physics
Traweek – Beamtimes and Lifetimes
Latour and Woolgar – “From Order to Disorder”

 

MODULE 3 – MECHANIZING LIFE: BIOLOGY AFTER THE SYNTHESIS

Week 8: Genetic Determinism and Free Will
Cowan – Chapter 13
Lewontin ­– “The Fallacy of Biological Determinism”
Dawkins – “Genetic Determinism and Gene Selectionism”
Movie:        Gattaca

Week 9: Life and the Law 
Hughes – “Making Dollars out of DNA”
Hettinger – “Patenting Life”

Week 10: Biology and Gender
Sayre – Rosalind Franklin and DNA
Martin – “The Egg and the Sperm”

 

MODULE 4 – THE ROOTS OF THE TECHNOLOGY SOCIETY

Week 11: Scientific Management
Taylor – The Principles of Scientific Management (excerpt)
Lindstrom – “‘They All Believe They Are Undiscovered Mary Pickfords’”
Movie:        The World of Tomorrow

Week 12: Technology and Cultural Expression
Cowan – Chapters 7 and 9
Clapp – “The City and the Machine"

Week 13: The Myth of American Self Sufficiency  
Cowan – Introduction & Chapter 2