Living in a Technological Culture: Introduction to Science and Technology Studies Part 1
Full course description
“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
These words of Albert Einstein are more valid today than ever. The complexities of today's societies and the relationships between them are manifold and not easy to handle. Einstein's plea to look at them in a different way is exactly what this course is about. The course aims to change your perspective on the world, so that you find that ‘the stuff of the world' can be thought about in new ways that offer opportunities for interventions and passageways for improvement. After all, making a difference requires more than decisiveness: it requires thinking in new ways, thinking 'out of the box'. And that is exactly what this course aims to do by introducing you to the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS).
In the field of STS, science and technology are considered as a socio-cultural phenomenon. You will be introduced in the STS in two courses. In the course (this one) we will focus on interrelation between technology and society, while in period 2 (HUM3049: Science, Power, and the Construction of Facts), we take the next step and zoom in on the constitution and application of science and its relations with society. This implies that in both cases we will pay attention to the social, cultural, historical, political, and economic conditions that impact the development and application of science and technology.
In this first course we unpack ‘technology’. In the standard perspective technology is largely seen as a process of applied science that simply results from previous scientific advances. In our daily routines we also tend not to spend much thought on the making of science and technology, commonly do not merit its use serious reflection either. Once things have been made or discovered, our interaction with them is understood to be a straightforward matter. We pick up our mobile phone, make some funny pictures with it, listen to music, twitter some details about what we do and where we are and chat with our friends. We board an airplane, fly from point A to point B, and then we get off the airplane. Although we are surrounded by the results of scientific endeavor and technologies of various kinds, they have become almost invisible, and we take them for granted. The field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) challenges this perspective on science and technology.
We live in a technological culture. Technology and science shape society, from the shaping of mobility patterns, gender and sexual identities to the standardization of practices in health care. Mobile phones have changed what it means ‘to be alone’; organ transplantation has redefined our understanding of life; and AI is changing our ways of being creative. Thus, technologies do not merely assist us in our everyday lives; they are also powerful forces acting to reshape our activities and their meanings. There is, vice versa, a cultural influence on technology too. Therefore, it is important for understanding technology to acknowledge their socio-cultural base. Historical and comparative studies have shown how different socio-cultural circumstances yield very different forms and contents of science and technology. Science and technology are, finally, also cultures themselves.
To provide an introduction into the social studies of science, society and technology.
To provide a basis for a critical reflection on our high-tech society.
To provide different perspectives on the relation between society, science, and technology.
This course will introduce you to the Science and Technology Studies (STS) framework and lay the foundation for new insights. To teach you the STS perspective we will unpack technologies, such as human enhancement technologies and the impact of the convergence of nano-, bio-, ICT and the cognitive sciences; everyday technologies (e.g., park benches, the refrigerator, electric shaver, and bicycles) as well as recent developments in AI such as Big Data and ChatGPT. Besides a focus on the multiple ways in which technology, individuals and institutions mutually shape one another to the benefit and sometimes detriment of society, we will also pay attention to the political and moral dimensions of technologies.
- Provided via CANVAS Instructional format