De Laet and Tanenbaum

M 6:45-9:15 Parsons 1264




n.b. this syllabus is preliminary and may change

1259 Parsons, 73812                                                     

Office hours M 12-1, Th 2:45-4:00, or by appointment

2363 Parsons, 18864



This seminar is a companion course to clinic projects. We offer you an opportunity to reflect upon your work as a scientist or engineer. Reading materials and class discussions cover interactions of technology and society, presented through exemplary case studies. In the course of the semester you prepare a significant research paper that analyzes political, ethical, environmental and/or (other) social issues that pertain to your clinic project.


Our premise is that technology and science are social practices. These practices do not exist in a vacuum; they are human endeavors – and, therefore, by nature culturally shaped. These practices are done in a social, material, and economic environment. While the work of science and engineering is shaped by the social and cultural world in which it takes place, the products of science and engineering – facts and technical artifacts – have a profound impact on this world: they have material, environmental, and social consequences. But how far do these consequences reach; how, exactly, do interactions between science, technology, and society shape each of these realms? And, as scientists, engineers and scholars, can we influence or channel these interactions – and do we have the responsibility to do so?


The course consists mainly of class discussions about case studies presented in the reading materials. These readings show how profoundly science, technology and society influence and shape each other. While each of you is responsible for leading at least one discussion, the success of these discussions depends to a great extent on the participation of all students. So, while our discussions will guide you through the reading materials, what you will learn depends on your own involvement and work. Moreover, your engagement throughout the term will be reflected in the quality of your final project. As instructors, we are committed to helping you as much as we can in preparing, structuring, and finding examples and background information in preparation for your class discussion and guiding you towards the final project. Our help is secondary, though. This course should be a chance for you to learn on your own, and share with others, new aspects of the science and engineering work that you are interested in. Our hope is that the understanding of science and technology as of – and in – the world that we present here will serve you in your careers as scientists and engineers.


Required texts  (all books will be available at Huntley bookstore)

Andrew Hurley Environmental Inequalities

David Nye  Consuming Power

Bruno Latour Aramis

Arnold Pacey The Culture of Technology

selected articles (handouts)


Graded work

Presence, leading discussion, working knowledge of reading materials, and participation (25%)

You are expected to submit two discussion questions, by email, to both instructors and to the discussion leaders of the day on each Monday morning. Moreover, you will lead one class discussion (in pairs). Finally, it is your responsibility to show us that you are keeping up with – and have a working knowledge of – the reading materials. You will use this knowledge in your project report, and you are expected to bring it to bear on class discussions.


Project Report (60%)

The term project report represents 60% of the grade in this course; it involves a substantial amount of work. The report will be concerned with the political, ethical, environmental, and/or social aspects of your clinic research; at the end of the semester you will present your work in a written report and in an oral presentation. You must meet the following deadlines:


Project title and thesis
Project description and brief outline of issues that will be explored in the final report
Annotated bibliography
Report outline, table of contents and summary of chapters
04/12& 04/13
Oral presentations
First draft and materials for oral presentations
Final report


All work will be returned with our comments. Note that there will be a small penalty for missing any of the first 5 deadlines and a major penalty (one grade per day) for missing the deadline for the Final Report. Reports should include a technical as well as a social/ethical/political component and should adhere to the rules of proper writing. Please make components, the oral and the written report, understandable to a wide audience. The report should respond to and incorporate material presented, read, and discussed in this class. Mechanical, spelling, and grammar errors are not acceptable; we encourage you to consult Diana Hacker’s Writer’s Reference and to have the draft and the Final Report reviewed at the Writing Center.


Collective Exam (15%)

Class discussion M 03/8/31; individual exams due W 03/10/03



Lecture series
We encourage you to attend the lecture series "Toward greater inclusiveness: Women and underrepresented minorities in science and engineering." The four lectures in the series (Thursday nights 1/29, 2/26, 3/ 25, and 4/15) are an excellent addition to the topics we cover in this class. Moreover, go to the Nelson lectures!