Instructors: Prof. Phoebe Sengers; teaching team led by Vera Khovanskaya and Ishtiaque Ahmed
Time: Tu, Th 1:25-2:40
Location: Olin Hall 255
The social impact of technologies is typically thought about fairly late, if ever, in the design process. Indeed, it can be difficult at design time to predict what effects technologies will have. Nevertheless, design decisions can inadvertently "lock in" particular values early on. In this course, we will draw on science & technology studies, technology design, and the arts to analyze the values embodied in technology design and to design technologies to promote positive social impact. What social and cultural values do technology designs consciously or unconsciously promote? To what degree can social impact be "built into" a technology? How can we take social and cultural values into account in design?
Technical background is not needed for this course, but may be drawn on if you have it.
In the modern world, technologies are an intimate part of everyone's daily lives. The act of designing technologies does not simply create functionality; it also offers possibilities for and constraints on action, ways of looking at the world, and modes through which we can relate to one another. Designs thus, intentionally or not, embody values—ones we as a community of users sometimes accept, sometimes reject, sometimes build on, and sometimes alter.
This course will equip students to find their own answers to two key questions:
These questions cross between two domains which are not often brought into conversation in undergraduate education: technology design and the social, cultural, and political analysis of technologies. In these course, we will develop a facility to think, speak, and act across these domains using techniques from critically-informed technology design and analysis. These techniques draw on and blend ideas from human-computer interaction, engineering, product design, science & technology studies, and the arts. This course is open to all students from engineering, the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts and design who are interested in reflecting on and improving the role of technology in society. No technical background is required or expected.
This course is oriented to an advanced undergraduate and master's student audience. An ability to read critically and willingness to take intellectual risks are essential in this course.
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:
You can download the full syllabus with all information from this website in print-friendly format.