THE UNIVERSITY of EDINBURGH

DEGREE REGULATIONS & PROGRAMMES OF STUDY 2016/2017

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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : RCSS

Undergraduate Course: Technology in Society (RCSS08003)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryTechnology in Society provides an introduction to one of the fastest-growing and most vibrant areas of academic inquiry the Social Study of Science and Technology. This is an area in which Edinburgh has longstanding strengths and which the course draws upon. 'Technology' is seen as one of the distinguishing characteristics of modern societies. The promotion of new technologies figures centrally in economic and industrial policy. In recent years there has been extensive debate and public discussion about the social implications of particular technologies for work, for the quality of life, for health and the environment. But what is technology? How does it arise? How does it affect us? Technology in Society explores these issues.

The overall aim of the course is to examine some of the different ways of analysing and understanding technology in society. It explores both the consequences of technical innovation for society and the ways technology is itself shaped by cultural, economic, political and organisational factors. We introduce a range of analytic perspectives on Technology in Society - drawing upon history, economics, and the sociologies of work, gender and science & technology themselves. We apply these to examine particular areas of technological activity including the workplace, the home, reproduction, and weapons technology. Technology in Society reflects the interdisciplinary traditions of social studies of science. It is intended to appeal to students taking either social science or natural science programmes.
Course description 1. Introduction: What is Technology
This introductory session explores the changing ways of thinking about technology. Technological issues are now central to many areas of economic and social policy. The traditional association of 'technology' with 'progress' has given way to a more critical perspective that addresses the promotion and control of technology. It shows how these concerns are reflected in the technology studies field, and in the coverage of this course.

2. Social Explanations of Technology
This sessions lays out the basic concepts that underpin social explanations of technology. Reviews various different attempts by sociologists to analyse what we describe as the social shaping of particular technological developments.

3. Economic Explanations of Technology
In this sessions we examine economic explanations and particularly the emerging evolutionary economic account. We will explore the foundations and historical development of evolutionary economics and analyses its contribution to the study of innovation.

4. The Entrenchment of Technologies
19th Century European railway gauges were shaped by the wheelspan of hay-carts in Lancashire. This draws attention to the processes of ┐lock-in┐ with technology. Lock-in is particularly marked where there are substantial returns to past investment.

5. Technology Design and the User
In this session we critically examine frameworks developed to analyse the relationship user and technological design. Contemporary technology suppliers have developed sophisticated mechanisms for understanding their potential user markets. We explore these in relation to the contrasting cases of corporate information systems and online computer games with millions of customers

6. Technology and Work
This section explores debates about the introduction of computer-based technologies and how this has evolved as the focus of technological change has shifted from the automation of discrete processes, to company-wide information systems to today┐s pervasive emerging information infrastructures.

7. Gender and Technology
Women, like men, encounter technologies daily. Yet, women are largely absent from high technology occupations responsible for the development and design of new technologies. This session considers the historical and contemporary reasons for this state of affairs. It explores the strong demarcations between 'women's jobs' and 'men's jobs' and the idea that particular work skills and technologies are gendered in quite material ways. This session also introduces some basic concepts for the analysis of gender.

8. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY
This sessions addresses the following questions: What drove the nuclear arms race, and why did the USA and USSR build thousands of nuclear weapons? Does deterrence depend on rational state behaviour? Are nuclear weapons usable? We also address questions such as: What impact might cyber war technology have on the nature of conflict? Does it matter that robots are changing not just how war is waged, but also by whom? What might be the consequences of a robot arms race? Who would be empowered most? Will reduced risk of human death make war/intervention seem less costly, and therefore more likely?

Student Learning Experience:
Social Studies of Science and Technology is a highly empirical field. This course is designed to help you develop a critical analysis of the mutual relationship between technology and society, exploring the ways in which technology is itself shaped by social and other factors as well as the effects of technology on society.

This is an introductory course in the subject; it does not presume prior knowledge and there are no prerequisites. It is designed to be an attractive course for Science and Social Science students alike. It is recognised as a relevant course for those wanting to pursue a specialism in Sociology or Social Anthropology.
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
1. Develop a critical analysis of the mutual relationship between technology and society, exploring the ways in which technology is itself shaped by social and other factors as well as the effects of technology on society.
2. The student will become familiar with, and develop a critical understanding of, the main approaches to the socio-economic analysis of technology, and the ways in which these theories have been deployed to analyse various technological innovations in different settings (including industrial production, technology in the home, contraception, information technology, biotechnology and defence technologies, environmental technologies.
3. Exploring the ways in which technology is itself shaped by social and other factors
4. Exploring the effects of technology on society
5. Develop a critical understanding of, the main approaches to the socio-economic analysis of technology
6. Become familiar with, and develop a critical understanding of, the ways in which these theories have been deployed to analyse various technological innovations in different settings (including technology at work and in the home, information technology, biomedicine and defence technologies,
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesNone
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2016/17, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 10, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 164 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 60 %, Coursework 40 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Essay 40%
Exam 60%


Feedback Marked coursework, grades and feedback will be returned to you via ELMA. We will return the essay to you after marking to give you feedback about your performance. We hope that this will help you improve your writing style. General feedback will be uploaded to the relevant course learn page within 24 hours of the overall marks for the course being returned to Students.
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)2:00
Resit Exam Diet (August)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Develop a critical analysis of the mutual relationship between technology and society, exploring the ways in which technology is itself shaped by social and other factors as well as the effects of technology on society. The student will become familiar with, and develop a critical understanding of, the main approaches to the socio-economic analysis of technology, and the ways in which these theories have been deployed to analyse various technological innovations in different settings (including industrial production, technology in the home, contraception, information technology, biotechnology and defence technologies, environmental technologies.
  2. Exploring the ways in which technology is itself shaped by social and other factors
  3. Exploring the effects of technology on society
  4. Develop a critical understanding of, the main approaches to the socio-economic analysis of technology
  5. Become familiar with, and develop a critical understanding of, the ways in which these theories have been deployed to analyse various technological innovations in different settings (including technology at work and in the home, information technology, biomedicine and defence technologies,
Reading List
None
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Additional Class Delivery Information 1 hour tutorial per week for 10 week(s). One hour tutorial each week, starting in week two.
KeywordsTechnology Society Environment Socio-economic Information Technology
Contacts
Course organiserProf Robin Williams
Tel: (0131 6)50 6387
Email: R.Williams@ed.ac.uk
Course secretaryMr Alexander Dysart
Tel: (0131 6)51 5197
Email: Alex.Dysart@ed.ac.uk
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