Historical Perspectives; Technology and Society
Listen long enough to the speeches of any politician in the United States, in almost any period in US history, and a common theme emerges: America is a land of innovation; technology is part of the American DNA; technological progress is all but foreordained. And while it is best not to blindly take politicians at their word, what is undeniably true is that the ideology of America as a country and nation built on technology, and of American culture as being tightly linked to technologies such as the internet and the automobile, are etched deeply into the American psyche. But is the relationship between technology and American culture so straight-forward? And if not, what are the relationships, and how have they changed over time? In this course, we will explore the complex and ever changing relationships between technology and American culture. We will tackle the questions: What is a technology? How have the concept of technology, as well as technological artifacts, changed over time? What is culture, and what is American culture in particular? How has technology both shaped and been shaped by American cultures? How do diverse groups of people ascribe meaning to the ever-changing technological world around them. The course covers a broad span of history--from before the arrival of Europeans to the present day--and investigates these questions in numerous aspects of American life--from the city to the countryside, the automobile factory to the internet.