Instructor: Marianne de Laet
Office: Parsons 1259
Office hours: T 6-7 or by appointment
The seminar reviews a selection of core texts in Science, Technology, and Society Studies. In the weekly seminars we discuss these texts in depth, with an eye on their philosophical and methodological underpinnings and with the aim to understand how, in dialogue with each other, these texts shape the field of STS. The course covers a broad orientation on the theory, frameworks, and origins of STS. It is a required capstone of the senior year for majors in the intercollegiate STS program, preparing them for the thesis writing process in the spring semester. Others who take the course will complete it with a substantive term paper.
For those of you who are completing a STS major this academic year, you should leave this course well on your way towards writing your senior thesis; together they wrap up your undergraduate studies in STS. This course will include instruction in research resources, discussions about thesis progress, and presentations on thesis topics in class in order to help you through the exciting but challenging assignment of completing a well-researched, thoughtful, and interesting thesis. The keys to success: start early, select your thesis readers early in the game and work closely with them, plan well, work hard, deal with the inevitable frustrations of writing and research, and settle for no less than your best efforts.
Required texts - available at Huntley Bookstore
Peter Berger & Thomas Luckmann The Social Construction of Reality
Michel Foucault History of Sexuality 1
Ian Hacking Representing and Intervening
Thomas Kuhn The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Bruno Latour and Steven Woolgar Laboratory Life
David Turnbull Maps are Territories
Selected handouts; will be distributed in class.
Course assignments and grading
Intelligent reading and participation in class discussions are key to your success in this course - and to the success of the course. For each session I expect you to: (1) read the assigned text; (2) read around the assigned text; (3) be ready to discuss the assigned text. In advance of each class you will prepare a typed, 1-page commentary; the commentary provides you with a guideline through the discussion and will be handed in after class. Your collected commentaries count towards your grade, as does your participation in the discussion. I will give you regular feedback on both. Moreover, each student is responsible for leading the discussion on one of the texts. Class participation, leading discussion, and commentaries together count for 50% of the grade.
Throughout the semester you will be working on a term paper or on your STS
thesis. STS majors conclude the course with a research proposal/report, which
forms the basis of the thesis. The thesis is to be completed by the end of the
spring. Others' term paper is a 20-page exploration of a theme or topic in STS.
Deadlines for "milestones" (written assignments that help you progress
towards completion of the paper) are listed in the schedule below. The term
paper (including "milestones") counts for 50% of the grade.
I have tried to make the program coherent and consistent - and the reading interesting and fun. Whether this translates into a successful learning experience depends on your engagement. The course has many ingredients and requires a variety of activities on your part. It's hard to predict where discussion will lead, whether readings are as exciting to you as they are to me, and if they are appropriate to your individual thesis projects. So I may make changes in or additions to the syllabus, as our discussions require. I will try my best to keep you informed about such changes if and when they occur, but it is your responsibility to keep track of things, by checking with me, with your classmates, and on the website. I invite you to talk to me about what you think. Please remember that any discussion-based course is an experiment, the outcome of which depends on its participants. Ask when you are confused, and by all means let me know, as we go along, what you would like to see addressed; how your project is moving along; and whether you need more help, guidance, or instruction.
I view any class as a collaborative project. This means that I expect you to participate in, and contribute to, the quality of the proceedings; while I have tried to build in techniques and mechanisms to ascertain that, you are responsible for your own participation and for the quality of your contributions. Ultimately, the quality of your engagement will determine the quality of the class. But you are not on your own; I am available to direct, guide, explain, redirect. Use me as a resource. And talk to me. I value your input, and I will take it seriously.
The social study of science, technology, knowledge, and belief - and of the social practices that produce them - is an exercise in tolerance. Or rather, it is a deep probing of what tolerance entails: the intelligent, open minded and respectful exploration of views other than one's own. We will be discussing matters on which you do not agree. I expect that you treat each other and your differences with interest and respect.
All work submitted should be typed. Syllabus and schedule may change.