CSE 268D: Social Aspects of Technology and
Your project should be an essay of about 10 to 30 pages. You must take a
position on a significant issue and support it with cogent arguments;
unsupported opinions and appeals to authority should be avoided; you should
have a good solid bibliography, and make good use of things you have learned
in class. Use as much concrete data as possible, such as quotes from original
source documents, interviews, etc.; be specific. Use proper format for
citations, giving full names of authors, full title, date, page numbers, and
publisher, as applicable.
There are no very rigid rules about the subject, which can be chosen to
match your own interests and talents. It would be a very good idea to look
over the course outline and course notes. Don't pick a topic that is too general.
Here are a few suggestions, just to give you some ideas:
- Study the role of technological determinism in arguments for using
computers in education. Do a careful analysis of at least three real advocacy
documents, such as press releases, newspaper articles, or magazine articles.
- Write an essay comparing the views of McLuhan and Ellul on technological
determinism, and contrasting them with the more holistic views of
technological evolution presented in class.
- Write an essay on Newton as a case study in paradigm shifts. You might
want to consult the new book Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcer, by Michael
White (Addison-Wesley 1998). Or discuss some other paradigm shifts (in
- Discuss wireless telephony as a social phenomenon using actor-network
theory: who are the actors, how are they connected, what translations must to
be done to get and keep them involved? Or apply a similar approach to some
other technology, such as electric cars, or the Strategic Defense Initiative
(also called "Star Wars"), or Java.
- If you have the expertise, discuss economic aspects of some information
technology, such as ISPs, or video games, or web browsers, or email.
- Discuss the management of risky technology and the role of institutions,
using the case study of NASA by Diane Vaughan (Chicago 1996) as a source; she
brings in Kuhn, and actor-network theory is also highly relevant.
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Maintained by Joseph Goguen
Last modified 19 November 1998