This seminar is co-taught by Chiara Ricciardone and Micah White:
Our time is typically considered an era of unprecedented technological change. New tools are transforming human work, values, and relationships. At the same time, human actors are consciously using the Internet and social media to pursue diverse cultural and political agendas. The rate of technological change today may be new, but technology has defined every historical age—and humans have always sought to harness its power. In this course, we explore the interdependent relationship between technology and social change from a variety of angles. We will ask: how do the tools we use change who we are?
The course is not a comprehensive survey of technological change. Instead, we will consider five very different kinds of landmark techno-social innovations: technologies of writing, war, social media, the self and the cyborg, and the potential technological event known as the “Singularity,” or divine machines. We will draw on texts from philosophy, history, fiction, and social movements. We will entertain perspectives ranging from the most critical to the most utopian. By looking at how technological innovations have shaped human life in the past, we hope to gain new perspective on the possibility of technological social change in the present.