Hum 201 – Understanding Technological Society (Syllabus)


STS 201: UNDERSTANDING TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY            (Preliminary Syllabus updates available at )

Prof: Gareth Edel                         Contact:              Office Hours Mon/Wed 1:30-2:30pm and by Appointment

Course Summary Description: This course looks at issues related to science and technology as they participate in and effect our society and our life experiences. Topics include: work, city planning, online social media, sustainability. We will be particularly working to develop an understanding of technologies as part of techno-social systems, and to increase the complexity of our views of technology as performing multiple functions, constraints and enablement.


Quizzes (7)                                                          15%

Reading Response Papers (5)                      15%

Note: Additional Response papers may be submitted for extra credit throughout the term.

Midterm Examination                                     30%

Final Examination                                             40%

Note: While quizzes draw entirely from the readings, exams will test on subject matter from in class lectures, and

students are strongly encouraged to attend every class, take notes, and ask questions.

Course Policy on Plagiarism: Any form of cheating or plagiarism will be grounds for failure in the course per NJIT Academic Integrity Policy:


COURSE OUTLINE & ASSIGNMENTS                                                                                                                                                                   

WEEK 1                        Topic: What is Technology                           

Wed, Sept 7th:            NO READING DUE/ WELCOME TO CLASS, Review of SYLLABUS


WEEK 2                        Topic: How “things” have politics.            

Mon, Sept 12th                                                                                                                                                                          (Last day 100% withdraw must notify)                     

Reading Due:              Langdon Winner,  1980. “Do Artifacts Have Politics.”  Daedalus 109 (1): 121-136 (Read whole article)

From Reprinting in The Whale and the Reactor:

Robert Moses, 1945 “Slums and City Planning,”

Wed, Sept 14th                                              Written Assignment Due: In Class Quiz on Winner Article.


WEEK 3                        Topic: Technology in our lives today.

Mon, Sept 19th              

Reading Due:  Putnam, Robert. Bowling Alone Article 1995. Selection:

Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together (Selection); P. 1-14

Sander, T.H. & Putnam, R.D..2010 “Still Bowling Alone” journal of Democracy. 20 #1,

Wed, Sept 21st               Written Assignment Due: 500+ words response to the articles, topic: “How people socialize with technology?”


WEEK 4                        Topic:        Questioning our assumptions.

Mon, Sept 26th              

Reading Due: Mumford – pentagon of power “Chapter 11, The Megatechnic Wasteland – Air-Conditioned Pyramids” Spaceflight from

Reality.  Pp300-320

Three Blog Entries: Katherine Viner, 2016, The Guardian,


Justin Fox,2014, The Disruption Myth, the Atlantic

Gladwell, Malcolm. 2002. “Smaller: The disposable diaper and the meaning of progress.


Wed, Sept 28th               Written Assignment Due: : 500+ words response to the articles, topic: “A problem with technology?”


WEEK 5                        Topic:        What is Sustainability?              

Mon, Oct 3rd                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        (Happy Rosh Hashana- or Muharram, New Year)

Reading Due:              McDonough and Braungart, “The Next Industrial Revolution,” Atlantic Monthly,
Bilger, Burkhard The Great Oasis A plan to combat desertification.
“Calculate Your Ecological Footprint,” (website)

Wed, Oct 5th               Written Assignment Due: Response: Log all the technology and consumer products you use in 48 hours.


WEEK 6                        Topic:        What are choices?   

Mon, Oct 10th                                               THIS CLASS DOESN’T MEET (Happy Columbus Day)

Wed, Oct 12th                                                 (Happy Yom Kippur)

Reading Due:              Rifkin, Jeremy “Vanishing Jobs,”
Barber,Benjamin. “Jihad vs. McWorld,” the Atlantic

Ron Eglash, “Appropriating Technology”

Written Assignment: In Class Quiz on these articles

WEEK 7                        Topic:        Are things what they Seem?

Mon, Oct 17th                                                (Happy Sukkot)            

Reading Due:

Lacy, Tim. 2008. “The idea of Specialization: John Higham on its roots nature and consequences” US intellectual

History Blog

Wed, Oct 19th            Written Assignment Due: 700+ words, Topic: “Profile a technology you believe others could misunderstand?”


WEEK 8                        Topic:        Mid-Term Week                                               

Mon, Oct 24th            Reading Due: No Reading,  Mid-term Review

Wed, Oct 26th            Written Assignment Due: MID TERM EXAMINATION


WEEK 9                        Topic:        Our Working Future                                       

Mon, Oct 31st                                                                                                                                                                                                                    (Happy Haloween)

Reading Due:              Mac McClelland, 2012, “I was a warehouse wage slave”, Mother Jones.

Jeffrey Pfeffer, ”The Case against the ‘gig economy’, Fortune Magazine Online

David Rodman (Editor) “How Technology is Destroying Jobs”, The MIT Tech Review Online

  1. M. Echkardt & F. Bardhi, “The Sharing Economy Isn’t about sharing at all” Harvard Buisiness Review

Wed, Nov 2nd             Written Assignment Due: In class quiz on these articles.


WEEK 10                      Topic:                                                                   

Mon, Nov 7th                                 (Last Day to Withdraw from Class)

Reading Due: Anthony Walton, “Technology Versus the African Americans” Atlantic Monthly

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, 2009, Introduction to special issue- “Race and/as technology” in Camera Obscura


Wed, Nov 9th              Written Assignment Due: In Class Quiz on Readings.                 (Happy All Soul’s Day)


WEEK 11                      Topic:        The Media?                                    

Mon, Nov 14th

Reading Due: McChesney, R.W. & Nichols, J.. 2000. It’s the Media Stupid . Stories Press SELECTION: pp.21-25, 27-39,119-120.

Lark Federman On Mcluhan

Political Economy of Media

Recommended/Optional: Lawrence Lessig, Code v2

Wed, Nov 16th           Written Assignment Due:  500+ words Response, Topic: How does the media effect our society?


WEEK 12                      Topic:        The Idea of Science 

Mon, Nov 21st

Reading Due: Shapin & Shaeffer –truth/credibility/science ideal  Intro to 2011 ed.

Steven Fuller’s Response Essay Never been Pure:

Wed, Nov 23rd           Written Assignment Due: In class Quiz on these articles                                                   (Last day of class before Thanksgiving Break)


WEEK 13                      Topic:        TBA                                                   

Mon, Nov 28th

Reading Due: TBA

Wed, Nov 30th           Written Assignment Due:  In Class Quiz on readings.


WEEK 14                      Topic:        Ending with a classic.                 

Mon, Dec 5th

Reading Due: Jacques Ellul,. 1962 Trans: John Wilkinson. “Ideas of Technology: The Technological Order.” Technology and

Culture, Proceedings of Encyclopedia Britannica Conference on the Technological Order 3 #4, pp. 394-521

Jacques Ellul “technological Bluff”

Wed , Dec 7th              Written Assignment Due: Quiz in class about the Ellul Readings


WEEK 15                      Topic: Wrapping-Up & Exam   

Mon, Dec 12th                  EXAM REVIEW                                                                                                               (Happy Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday)

Wed, Dec 14th:           FINAL EXAM (and Last Scheduled class session)                          (Last Day of Regular Class Sessions for semester)

Thurs, Dec 15th          Reading Day

WEEK 16                      Topic: NONE