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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Understanding Technology (PGSP11353)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Course typeStandard AvailabilityAvailable to all students
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) Credits20
Home subject areaPostgrad (School of Social and Political Studies) Other subject areaNone
Course website None Taught in Gaelic?No
Course descriptionMany of the students taking the MSc in Science and Technology in Society will have no prior training in the interdisciplinary field of science, technology and innovation studies. Focussing on different approaches to the social study of technology, this course introduces theoretical approaches, concepts and key empirical studies that form the canon and state-of-the-art in social research and critical thinking on technology.

While this course can be taken as a standalone course for students enrolled on other programmes, this course is designed to work in tandem with the partner core course, 'Science, Knowledge and Expertise'. Where possible, the contents of the two courses develop in parallel week by week, in order to encourage students to explore both the differences and intersections of science and technology. In doing so we avoid reifying distinctions between science and technology. The final week of each course will focus on "the future and relevance of science, technology and innovation studies", and will include reflections on the limitations of the field and its relevance for the wider world.

This core course asks what is the relationship between technology, innovation and society? Students are introduced to different social science approaches for understanding the design, development, use and circulation of technologies - from those we encounter in everyday, domestic life to industrial contexts, and from local to national, regional and global settings. In addition to theoretical and conceptual approaches, the course provides students with relevant methodological skills for studying technologies and other artefacts.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs None
Information for Visiting Students
Displayed in Visiting Students Prospectus?No
Course Delivery Information
Delivery period: 2013/14 Semester 1, Available to all students (SV1) Learn enabled:  Yes Quota:  None
Web Timetable Web Timetable
Course Start Date 16/09/2013
Breakdown of Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 25, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 171 )
Additional Notes
Breakdown of Assessment Methods (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
No Exam Information
Summary of Intended Learning Outcomes
- have a substantive knowledge and understanding of a range of theoretical approaches, conceptual tools and methodologies for studying the relationship between technology, innovation and society, and a critical appreciation of the contending viewpoints and claims of those theories
- be able to apply and critically evaluate this learning in relation to a variety of empirical cases
- be aware of how an appreciation of the social dimension of technology can help to inform public and policy debate
- have developed their skills in finding, evaluating and analysing information about technology and its role in the modern world
- have developed their abilities to convey complex ideas through written and oral means - particularly through essay writing and seminar presentations.
Assessment Information
1 book review 1000 words 25%
2 paper 3500 words 75%

Special Arrangements
Additional Information
Academic description Not entered
Syllabus The course will be delivered over 10 weeks using a lecture-plus-seminar-discussion format. Each two-hour sessions will typically consist of a 1 hour lecture intended to signpost major theories, concepts and literature in specific areas of the field, followed by a 1 hour seminar organised around classroom discussion, student-led presentations, and case study work. The lectures as somewhat longer than normal to permit adequate coverage and explication of interdisciplinary perspectives that will be strikingly novel to many of the students. The role of the seminars is (i) to ensure that students have a good working understanding of the concepts and perspectives developed in the lectures, and (ii) to give them an opportunity to explore how those concepts and perspectives may be used to analyse a range of empirical case studies of the role of technology in society.

Weekly Outline

1 What is technology? The relationship between technology and society
2 The politics of technology: foundational debates
3 The politics of technological knowledge: how do we know the properties of technology
4 Practices of technology production
5 Technological Systems and Entrenchment
6 Technology embedding & sociotechnical transitions: purposive efforts to embed novel or sustain entrenched technologies
7 Technology in everyday life
8 Technology exclusion and inclusion : Lessons from feminist technology studies
9 New challenges for technology policy and governance
10 The future and relevance of STS
Transferable skills Not entered
Reading list Though there are no core texts for this course, there is a body of work, including the books listed below, that inform our work and that you may wish to become acquainted with over the course.

Bijker, W., T. Hughes & T. Pinch (eds.) (1988) The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology, Cambridge MA: MIT Press

Bijker, W. & J. Law (eds.) (1992) Shaping Technology/Building Society, Cambridge MA: MIT Press

Clark, N. (1985) The Political Economy of Science and Technology, Oxford: Blackwell

Collins, H. & T. Pinch (1998) The Golem at Large,

Coombs, R., P. Saviotti & V. Walsh (1987) Economics and Technological Change, London: Macmillan

Elliot, B. (ed.) (1988) Technology and Social Process, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

Feenberg, A. (1991) Critical Theory of Technology,

Feenberg, A., T.J. Misa & P Brey (2003) Modernity and Technology,

Freeman, C. & L. Soete (3rd ed., 1997) The Economics of Industrial Innovation, London: Pinter

Hackett, E. J., Amsterdamska, O., Lynch, M. and Wajcman, J. (eds) (2008), The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, Third Edition, MIT Press (also 1st edn, eds Jasanoff, Markle, Petersen & Pinch 1994)

Kirkup, G. & L.S. Keller (1992) (eds.) Inventing Women: Science, Technology and Gender, Milton Keynes: Open University

Law, J (ed.) (1991) Sociology of Monsters, London: Routledge

MacKenzie, D. (1996) Knowing Machines: Essays on Technical Change, Cambridge MA: MIT Press

MacKenzie, D. & J. Wajcman (eds.) (2nd ed., 1999) The Social Shaping of Technology, Buckingham: Open University Press (also 1st edition 1985)

McLaughlin, J. et al. (1999) Valuing Technology,

McLoughlin, I (1999) Creative Technological Change, London: Routledge

Rip, A. et al. (eds.) (1995) Managing Technology in Society

Rosenberg, N. (1976) Perspectives on Technology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Rosenberg, N. (1982) Inside the Black Box: Technology and Economics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Scarborough, H. & J.M. Corbett (1992) Technology and Organisation

Sørensen, K. and R. Williams (eds.) (2002) Shaping Technology, Guiding Policy, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar

Wajcman, J. (1991) Feminism Confronts Technology, Cambridge: Polity

Webster, A. (1991) Science, Technology and Society: New Directions, London: Macmillan

Westrum, R. (1991) Technologies and Society: the Shaping of People and Things, Belmont CA: Wadsworth

Williams, R., J. Stewart and R. (2005) Social Learning in Technological Innovation: Experimenting with Information and Communication Technologies, Edward Elgar: Aldershot


Many journal papers are available electronically, at:

Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society Science, Technology, & Human Values

History & Technology Social Studies of Science

IEEE Technology & Society Magazine Technology and Culture

MIT Technology Review Technology Analysis & Strategic Management

New Technology, Work & Employment Technology in Society

Research Policy Science, Technology, & Human Values

Science & Public Policy Social Studies of Science

* item particularly recommended ¿ minimum essential reading for lecture or seminar question
Study Abroad Not entered
Study Pattern Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Robin Williams
Tel: (0131 6)50 6387
Course secretaryMiss Jodie Fleming
Tel: (0131 6)51 5066
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