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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Science, Technology and Innovation Studies

Undergraduate Course: Gender Science and Technology (STIS10004)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe aim of the course is to examine the mutual shaping of gender, science and technology. This involves exploring (i) how gender gets 'imprinted' in new scientific knowledge and new technologies, and (ii) how women and men encounter the 'products' of science and technology differently. Topics covered include the position of women in science and engineering; feminist critiques of sexist science and feminist epistemologies for science; changing relationships between technology, gender and work (both paid work and unpaid work in the home); computing and IT as a possible arena of new gender-technology relations; and issues raised by medical science and new reproductive technologies (IVF, cloning etc). Note: this is a social science course; students do not need to have a background in science or technology.
Course description Gender, Science and Technology gives students the opportunity to explore how the social phenomena of gender, science and technology are interrelated, and how they shape each other in dynamic and complex ways. The class uses sociological, historical and philosophical perspectives to investigate the powerful gender politics of technoscience. Students learn about a wide range of issues, such as: how the sciences are involved in crafting our understanding of men and women, maleness and femaleness, and masculinity and femininity; how everyday technological artefacts like smartphones help perpetuate dominant ideas and expectations of men and women; and how feminist activism can engage with science and technology. Upon completing the class, students will understand how gender threads through all of society, including sciences commonly understood as free from biases, and technologies that are seemingly neutral objects. Gender, Science and Technology requires no previous training in gender or feminist studies, nor does it require training in science and technology.

Outline content:
Week 1: Introduction and beginnings
Before starting our look at the relationship between gender, science and technology, it is necessary to understand basic ideas. In this lecture, we will discuss the two key social orders we will examine: sex and gender. These two terms are most often misunderstood and misused. We will develop a fundamental understanding of the relationship between these two very different social phenomena. We will also discuss feminism and its relationship to the study of gender, science and technology.

Week 2: Science and the sexual binary
We tend to think that men and women are ¿obviously¿ and ¿naturally¿ different, because sexual differences are not of our making. In reality, the idea that there exists an essential difference between the sexes is wrong. During this lecture, we use historical case studies to examine the way in which the sciences, and especially the biological and medical sciences, have constructed the idea of the sex binary. We also discuss how such knowledge contributes to ongoing beliefs about what men and women are ¿naturally¿ capable of doing and not doing.

Week 3: Feminist epistemologies of science
Feminist epistemology asks two questions. First, how does the male dominance of scientific research influence the type of knowledge produced by that research? Second, is it possible to develop a practice of knowledge-making that incorporates feminist principles? In this lecture, we think about how beliefs about masculinity and femininity find their way into scientific facts. We also examine the concept of ¿standpoint epistemologies¿ and how we can advance the cause of gender equality using scientific knowledge.

Week 4: Gender and environment
In week 4, we study ¿ecofeminism,¿ a contested and even controversial theory and movement that looks at the relationship between gender and the environment. In doing so, we will bring our discussion right up to date to current calls for renewing academic interest in the relationship between gender and environment in order to address contemporary environmental problems such as climate change.

Week 5: Engineering and masculinity (and engineering masculinities)
Engineering is one of the most gendered professions in many modern societies. In week 5, we study how engineering was born and developed as a type of work done by men, and only men. We examine the notion of ¿hegemonic masculinities,¿ and consider how ideas about the ideal engineer and interwoven with ideas about the ideal man. Together, these two topics provide us with the necessary understanding to make sense of the shockingly low number of women professionally practicing engineering, and our everyday assumptions about who is qualified to build our technologies.

Week 7: The gendering of technological things
We tend to think of our material things as neutral objects, but technological things are in fact tremendously political. In this lecture, we explore how technological artefacts are ¿gendered.¿ That is, how technological artefacts are labelled as masculine or feminine things. We use the idea of ¿co-production of gender and technology¿ to unpack the gender politics of our technologies and to find
the politics embedded into the human-made material world that surrounds us. Using several compelling case studies, we will arrive at two key lessons: first, all are gendered; second, the mundane stuff of the world has great political power.

Week 8: Gender, technology and work
In two previous lectures, we examined how gender shapes technological work and artefacts. Here, we discuss work more broadly, and how gendered technologies shape our ideas and experiences of that work. First, we tackle the role that technology has played in our modern understanding and experiences of housework. We explore how technologies can be marketed as liberating along gendered lines and ultimately have the opposite results, again on gendered lines. We then learn about how gender politics shape our understanding of who does what, and what types of work deserve value.

Week 9: Gender and reproductive technologies
Reproduction and sexuality are fundamentally important to understanding gender, and reproductive technology have been important topics of study for those concerned with gender and technology. This week looks at reproductive technologies (such as oral contraceptives) that have been shaped by our ideas about gender, and they in turn shape what we think about gender and sexuality.

Week 10: Gender and ICTs
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are everywhere. They are economically and symbolically important. They are continuously changing. ICTs also matter greatly with regard to gender. In this lecture, we study ICT work and technologies. We use ideas about ¿hegemonic masculinities¿ and ¿co-production¿ from earlier weeks to examine these topics. We then explore present-day efforts to address gender inequities in computer science education, and how ICTs can be used to play with our gender identities.

Week 11: Science, technology and feminist praxis
Ultimately, feminism is a political movement. Feminist studies, including feminist STS, hope to serve a particular end: the abolition of sex-, gender-, and sexuality-based discrimination. This final lecture asks how feminist STS can contribute to feminist praxis. To do so, we draw on case studies, research agendas, and a tremendously influential manifesto.

Student learning experience:
Gender, Science and Technology is designed for students interested in unpacking accepted ideas and finding new ways to think about gender and technoscience. It is taught through lectures and seminars. The latter involves extended discussions intended for students to hone their critical thinking skills by dismantling each week¿s ideas. The seminars are a crucial part of the class. As such, attendance is required, and forms part of the final mark.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
The learning approach throughout the course encourages you to examine and think critically about this two-way relationship between gender and S&T, drawing on empirical case material and broad theoretical approaches from both science and technology studies and gender studies. Lecture notes are provided to help students lacking background knowledge of key concepts in science and technology studies, as are copies of overheads where appropriate
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Pablo Schyfter
Tel: (0131 6)50 4262
Course secretaryMr Alexander Dysart
Tel: (0131 6)51 5197
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