Postgraduate Course: Understanding Technology (PGSP11353)
|School||School of Social and Political Science
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||Many 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.
Focussing on the relationship between technology, innovation and society this course offers a foundational understanding of the social study of technology, encompassing theoretical approaches, concepts and key empirical studies that form the canon and state-of-the-art in social research and critical thinking on technology. 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.
Introduction: What is technology? The relationship between technology and society
Foundational debates: we explore the key frameworks that have emerged for understanding the technology-society relationship; the controversies between their proponents and how these bear upon current understandings and debates
The politics of technological knowledge: how do we know the properties of technology - eg through testing
Technology exclusion and inclusion : This session explores the development of feminist analyses of technology and explores the lessons this may offer for processes of exclusion for technology development and use/non-use
Technological Systems and Entrenchment : a key concern has been with the obduracy of technology development, seen by some writers as being 'out of control'. But how can we understand the processes by which technologies become entrenched
Technology embedding & sociotechnical transitions: building upon the previous week we explore various writers who have mapped out opportunities to purposively resist, embed novel or sustain entrenched technologies
Technology design and the user: Design has been seen as a key moment in technology developer - but capturing the 'user needs' for novel artefacts has often seemed problematics. We explore evolving understandings of the design-user relationship and examine the mutual shaping of technology and its users. This paves the way for exploring the Biography of Artefacts and Practices
Technology in everyday life: Are users passive recipients of technology offerings? This session explores the active ways in which (individual and organisational) users may appropriate technology-based systems at work, in the home and in everyday life
New challenges for technology policy and governance: The dynamism of technology development seems to pose a challenge to attempts to promote and regulate technological innovation. However new approaches are emerging whereby we may seek to anticipate and modulate innovation processes and
The future and relevance of STS This final class, run jointly with the partner core course, 'Science, Knowledge and Expertise' to avoid reifying distinctions between science and technology, 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.
The course will be delivered through weekly lectures and seminars. Students will prepare presentations for at least one seminar and will contribute to discussion of the readings and topics for each week. Students will be encouraged to bring their particular substantive interests and concerns to the course, to foster a lively culture of enquiry exploring linkages between key theoretical debates, detailed empirical evidence and discussion of implications for policy and practice. Discussions will seek to develop a critical appreciation of knowledge in the field. Achievements here will be reflected in their performance in seminar presentations, the book review and in particular the final essay.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Lecture Hours 25,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||A combination of a book review (25%) half way through the semester and a long essay (75%) at the end.
||The course aims to cater for students from diverse educational backgrounds, including those transferring from science and engineering as well as social scientists (we do not presume prior knowledge). We seek to foster an ability to develop critical analysis of complex developments, demonstrated though a well-craft end of course essay. We provide briefings to assist students in their seminar presentations, the book review and in selecting and developing their essay topic. Detailed feedback on the (mid-semester) book review will be geared towards identifying weaknesses and strengthening analytical and writing skills (formative assessment) in time to inform the final essay.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- to have acquired 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
- to be able to apply and critically evaluate this learning in relation to a variety of empirical cases
- to be aware of how an appreciation of the social dimension of technology can help to inform public and policy debate
- to have developed their skills in finding, evaluating and analysing information about technology and its role in the modern world
- to have developed their abilities to convey complex ideas through written and oral means - particularly through essay writing and seminar presentations.
|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: http://www.lib.ed.ac.uk/resources/collections/serials/ejintro.shtml
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
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Course organiser||Prof Robin Williams
Tel: (0131 6)50 6387
|Course secretary||Mr Dave Nicol
Tel: (0131 6)51 1485