American Studies | U.S. Movements & Institutions
A201 | 10813 | Abnet, D

AMST-A201 U.S. Movements & Institutions

Instructor: Dustin Abnet

Course Description:
Few technologies have inspired such fervent dreams and nightmares as
the computer.  Since the first modern computers were announced to the
public in the 1940s, each major improvement has been accompanied by
fantastical (and sometimes horrific) predictions for its impact on
society. For some, the computer’s development heralded an end to
dehumanizing kinds of work and greater amounts of leisure time, for
others, a chance to build a truly egalitarian democracy or a more
creative and free society.  For still others, the arrival of
computers has meant exactly the opposite: more drudgery, less
equality, less freedom.  For the last seventy years, Americans have
hailed the computer as the “slave” or “enslaver” of humanity, the
bringer of utopia or oblivion. In this course, we will use a variety
of primary and secondary sources to answer the questions: How have
people interpreted the arrival of the computer? and What has been the
impact of the computer on American society and culture?  To answer
these questions, we will look at how the computer has changed the
worlds of work, leisure, politics, human identity, and gender, race,
and class relations. We will ultimately try to understand why people
have attached such powerful meaning to a technology and assess how
that technology has actually changed American society and culture.