Sociology | Social Problems & Policies
S101 | 4804 | Rowland


We live with technology.  In a hospital, machines can literally keep
you living—that is, do the breathing and blood pumping for you—but
that is not what I mean.  How does one even imagine one’s life without
the door, a grocery store, or the pen?  Very little reflection is
necessary to come to the conclusion that we live among countless
technologies that allow us to do many things impossible in their
absence—take the ladder or can opener, for starts.  We live with
technology and yet little attention is paid to it on a daily basis, a
condition Langdon Winner refers to as “technological somnambulism,”
our literal sleepwalking through society to the myriad of technologies
that keep us warm in the winter, technologies that allow you to hear
the voice of a loved one miles away in exchange for punching
buttons…it is time to wake up! (Ironically, to an alarm clock)

A course like this is designed to, Langdon Winner might say, “be a
wake up call.”  The sociology of science and technology (or, STS, for
short) offers ways to think about the role of science and technology
in society as well as the role of society in science and technology.
This course also speaks to fundamental questions about human action
and even questions the very order keeping society bound.  We will
consider the social context (i.e., who, what, where, when) of a
science and technology (i.e., society’s effect on technology); we will
also consider the consequences (intended and unintended) for science
and technology’s development, use, and misuse.  The take-away message
from this course is:  scientific and technical decisions – to build,
regulate, develop, apply, or abandon – are also political, economic,
and social decisions.

This course is constructed from a series of case studies (detailed,
empirical investigation) of science and technologies, some are as
obvious as bicycles, doors, and cars; other case studies however, will
challenge the very boundaries of what can be thought of as
technology—is a building a technology, what about a tomato?  Since
this is a course on technology, we will build-up a series of distinct
theories to use like tools (for your intellectual tool belt).  Toward
the close of the course we will begin to question the role of social
actors in society and how technology plays a role in the very fabric
of social order.