Program in Science, Technology and Society

Winter/Spring 2021 Courses

STS 0080 (DATA 0080) Data, Ethics and Society
A course on the social, political, and philosophical issues raised by the theory and practice of data science. Explores how data science is transforming not only our sense of science and scientific knowledge, but our sense of ourselves and our communities and our commitments concerning human affairs and institutions generally. Students will examine the field of data science in light of perspectives provided by the philosophy of science and technology, the sociology of knowledge, and science studies, and explore the consequences of data science for life in the first half of the 21st century. Fulfills requirement for Certificate in Data Fluency   (Deborah Hurley)

STS 0230 (EAST 0620) Literature, Science, and Technology in China
This course explores relations between Chinese science, technical know-how, and literary writings in early modern and contemporary China. The course encourages students to re-define science and technology in the context of China’s changing Confucian education system, booming market economy, and the multiethnic empire and explores the impact of imperial legacy in scientific imagination in contemporary China. By drawing on materials from local museums as well as latest Chinese science fictions, we will investigate the ways in which knowledge about medicine, handicrafts, and foreign lands transformed the form and content of novels and belle-lettres.  (Kaijun Chen)

STS 0295 (ENVS 0705) – Equity and the Environment
The environmental justice movement emerged in the U.S. South from the observation that African-Americans were more exposed to toxics than whites. It spurred decades of academic and activist efforts to understand and address the relationship between inequality and environment. The issue has expanded around the world, and beyond unequal exposures to “bads”, to unequal access to “goods,” along lines of equity by race, class, gender, ethnicity, indigenous identity, and position in the global economy. Issues of assigning responsibility and applying theories of justice with legal instruments have made environmental justice policy difficult. This course seeks to serve first-years and sophomores.  (Myles Lennon)

STS 0386 (HIST 0286B) - History of Medicine II: The Development of Scientific Medicine in Europe and the World
From the 18th century onward, Western medicine has claimed universal validity due to its scientific foundations, relegating other kinds of medicine to the status of "alternative" practices. The course therefore examines the development of scientific medicine in Europe and elsewhere up to the late 20th century, and its relationships with other medical ideas, practices, and traditions. Students with a knowledge of languages and the social and natural sciences are welcome but no prerequisites are required. (Harold Cook)

STS 0470A (MCM 0902Q) – Literally Occult:  Hidden Imaginaries in Media and Theory
From the printing press to digital computation, mediating technologies have long been associated with ghosts, demons, magic. Emerging media are often touted as enabling unprecedented access to information, yet this also beckons a fascination with that which necessarily remains hidden. This course examines how hidden — or, “literally occult” — operations, techniques, frequencies, and figures pervade popular media and media scholarship. We will focus on themes of the occult read in and through critical theory, media archaeology, and software studies. What remains hidden in photographs, films, songs, maps, webpages, books? And how might the occult help us comprehend the (literally) occult?  (Rose Rowson)

STS 0522 (PHIL 0991Q)
Advanced Topics in Philosophy of Physics 
A focused, in-depth exploration of contemporary work in or related to the philosophy of physics. Possible themes include scientific ontology, explanation, reduction, time, chance, and laws. At least one previous philosophy course, ideally in metaphysics or epistemology, is required.  (Elizabeth Miller)

STS 0610 (SOC 0300K) - Inequalities and Health
We start from the assumption that the social organization of society shapes definitions and experiences of health and illness, the distribution of diseases, and the responses to them. We explore the relevance of social structure and social interaction to health and well-being, emphasizing socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, gender, and social contexts such as relationships, families, schools, and neighborhoods. This is not a "sociology of medicine" course. It will not emphasize the profession of medicine, health care policy, or health care organizations. Enrollment limited to 19 first year students. Instructor permission required. (Susan Short)

STS 0770 Stories of Nature
 What is nature? Are humans part of it or outside it? How has this boundary diverged over time and space, and how has it been expressed? This seminar tackles these questions by exploring stories of nature from various epistemic traditions. Through ten case studies, we will investigate how the human-nonhuman boundary has been expressed through storytelling in creation myths, natural histories, fiction and journalistic writing, documentaries, and artistic creations. Methodologically, we will survey how scholars have reflected on this boundary from the history of science, animal studies and indigenous studies, while learning to write stories of nature of our own. WRIT DIAP (Iris Montero)

STS 1000 – Introduction to Science, Technology and Society:  Theories and Controversies
What is "science"? How do scientific ideas become knowledge? What is the nature of scientific objectivity, how can it be compromised? What is a scientific community, scientific consensus, and scientific authority? What roles does science play in our culture, and how is science related to other social institutions and practices? The interdisciplinary field of science studies is introduced through exploration of topics that include: gender and race, psychiatric classification, the drug industry, science and religion, and the use of nuclear weapons during World War II. Enrollment limited to 30 sophomores, juniors, seniors; others may enroll with permission of instructor.  (Debbie Weinstein)

STS 1125 (ANTH 1515) - Anthropology of Mental Health
Mental illness and wellbeing have been defined and treated in dramatically different ways across cultures and historical epochs. In this course we engage with religious and secular healing traditions including biomedicine, and the ways in which these shape the experience and understanding of “madness”, of common mental disorders (such as depression and anxiety), and changing perceptions of the normal and the pathological. Drawing on anthropology, psychiatry, philosophy, literature and cinema, we follow the emergence, translation and critique of diagnostic categories across different parts of the contemporary world. Key authors include Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, Kleinman, Good, Veena Das, and others. (Katherine Mason)

STS 1220C (CSCI 1800) - Cybersecurity and International Relations
The global Internet shortens distances, makes businesses more efficient and facilitates greater social interaction. At the same time, it exposes vital national resources to exploitation and makes it easier for the international criminal element to prey on innocent Internet users. Cybersecurity is concerned with making the Internet a more secure and trustworthy environment. In this course we study this topic from the technological and policy points of view. The goal is to facilitate communication across the divide that normally characterizes the technological and policy communities. (Deborah Hurley)

STS 1281 (ENGL 1190U) – Nature Writing
This course seeks to develop your skills as a sensitive reader and writer of the natural world. You will build a portfolio of revised work through a process of workshops, tutorials, and conferences, and engage in discussion of a range of written and visual narratives with reference to their personal, political, and ecological contexts. Writing sample required. Prerequisite: ENGL 0930 or any 1000-level nonfiction writing course. Class list will be reduced to 17 after writing samples are reviewed during the first week of classes. Preference will be given to English concentrators. S/NC.  (Robert Ward)

STS 1390K (HIST 1825F) - Nature, Knowledge, Power in Renaissance Europe
This course examines the creation and circulation of scientific knowledge in Renaissance Europe, ca. 1450-1600. We will explore the practices, materials, and ideas not just of astronomers and natural philosophers, but also of healers, botanists, astrologers, alchemists, and artisans. How did social, political, economic, and artistic developments during this period reshape how naturalists proposed to learn about, collect, manipulate, and commercialize nature? We will also consider the ways in which colonial projects forced Europeans to engage with other “ways of knowing” and rethink classical knowledge systems.  (Tara Nummedal)

STS 1390R (HIST 1835A) - Unearthing the Body: History, Archaeology, and Biology at the End of Antiquity
How was the physical human body imagined, understood, and treated in life and death in the late ancient Mediterranean world? Drawing on evidence from written sources, artistic representations, and archaeological excavations, this class will explore this question by interweaving thematic lectures and student analysis of topics including disease and medicine, famine, asceticism, personal adornment and ideals of beauty, suffering, slavery, and the boundaries between the visible world and the afterlife, in order to understand and interpret the experiences of women, men, and children who lived as individuals—and not just as abstractions—at the end of antiquity. (Jonathan Conant)

STS 1570 (MCM 1506N) - From Pathogens to Memes Media, Pandemics, and Globalization
Plagues and epidemics have fueled narratives, imaginations, and media events when rumors and gossip spread as fast as germs and viruses. The fear and fascination with pathogens have also revised our understanding of the technology and culture of global media that are often metaphorically described as “contagious” or "viral." This seminar explores the historical and theoretical intersection between media and pandemics. Conjoining media studies, postcolonial criticism, and the history of medicine and public health in an interdisciplinary approach, we will critically examine how power, body, machines, chemicals and bio-organisms are mediated in the contexts of colonial expansion and global migration.  (Jinying Li)

STS 1590 (MES 1270) Histories of Watching and Surveying
How are surveillance practices historically embedded in social fabric? How have surveillance technologies altered social life throughout history? This course explores these questions by mapping the complex ways that technologies and societies interact to produce security, fear, control, and vulnerability. Some of the areas covered include close-circuit television (CCTV) in public and quasi-public spaces, biometric technologies on the border, and a host of monitoring technologies in cyberspaces, workplaces, and the home. Readings are drawn from the critical theories in visual culture, science-fiction, and popular media. (Samine Tabatabaei)

STS 1625 (PHIL 1283) - Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics 
An examination of philosophical issues informed by elementary quantum mechanics; topics include the measurement problem, superposition, non-locality, and competing "interpretations" of the textbook formalism.  (Elizabeth Miller)

STS 1700P – Neuroethics
In this course, we will examine ethical, social, and philosophical issues raised by developments in the neurosciences. Topics will include: neurodevelopment and the emergence of persons; the impact of child abuse on brain development; aging, brain disease, and mental decline; life extension research; strategies and technologies for enhancement of human traits; "mind-reading" technologies; agency, autonomy, and excuse from responsibility; error and bias in memory; mind control; neuroscientific and evolutionary models of religious belief and moral judgement. Enrollment limited to 20. Instructor permission required. (Jeffrey Poland)

STS 1721 (ANTH 1300) - Anthropology of Addictions and Recovery
The purpose of this course is to consider the uses and misuses alcohol, tobacco and drugs, and approaches to recovery from addictions. We will read some of the major cross cultural, ethnographic, linguistic, and social-political works on addictions. Students will conduct their own anthropological interviews regarding substance misuse and recovery as well as observe a local 12 step recovery meeting in the community. Students will engage in discussions of recovery with community partners. Enrollment limited to 20. (Irene Glasser)

STS 1790I (HIST 1956S) -History of Artificial Intelligence
The course will trace the origins and trajectory of ideas about artificial intelligence, starting with the "active intellect" of Aristotle, early analog computers and automata, Ada Lovelace's "calculus of the nervous system," through the "general intellect" and "machine capital" of Karl Marx, Karel Capek's "Universal Robots," the "Turning test," "cyberpositivity" and Donna Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto," and concepts like "swarm intelligence," "hive mind," "singularity," and the "master algorithm." Sources will encompass a range of disciplinary approaches (philosophy, sociology, computer science, etc.), formats (text, film, graphic novel), and genres including Japanese anime and Afrofuturism.  (Holly Case)

STS 1790J (HIST 1976J) - Earth Histories: From Creation to Countdown
This course offers a humanistic perspective on global climate change, arguably the most pressing issue facing our species today. At the heart of this issue lies the idea that human beings have been elevated to the level of a geological force, merging geological and historical time and necessitating a critical conversation between the sciences and the humanities. To that end, we will foster a collaborative dialogue about the diverse “temporalities” that inform our thinking about the earth and its history, from creation stories to the modern idea of progress. Students will also curate a group exhibition about earth histories.  (Lukas Rieppel)

STS 1802 (HMAN 1974R) - Humans, Animals, and Machines
This course examines the invocation of animals and machines to illuminate the meanings and limits of the human in modern American thought and culture. Our objects of analysis will range from medical experiments to popular films, primatology to video games, and Crispr babies to science fiction. Readings will consider the roles of animals and machines in the history of categories of race, gender, and bodily difference. Throughout we will examine the political, cultural, and epistemological stakes of the shifting boundaries of the natural and the unnatural, as well as the human and non-human.  (Debbie Weinstein)

STS 1840 (SOC 1873R) - Research Ethics 
Is covert research inherently unethical? Is it okay to inflict harm upon research participants for the sake of scientific learning? Is it unethical to misrepresent or lie to research participants? What happens to research participants after the research is over? What happens to the research findings? And who is regulating these things? In this course, we will explore case studies that underscore the importance of ethical research. We will examine the evolution and efficacy of internal research boards. We will study the development of posthumanism and relational ethics to understand evolving thought on the treatment of humans and non-human animals in research. Finally, students will develop their own research ethics framework based on their understanding of material presented in the course.  (Lisa DiCarlo)

STS 1850 (MCM 1701I) Digital Worlding: Terraforming Future, Fact, Fiction and Fabulation
Inspired by Marilyn Strathern’s concept of ‘worlding,’ this production course, will speculate on technologies of the future as a way to address the present. We’ll work in the game designing platform, Unity, Adobe Premiere, and Photoshop to fabricate and co-create our worlds. Although not a gaming course, tools, theories, and vernaculars of game design may be utilized/subverted. Expect readings, discussions, technical workshops, and weekly assignments leading to a final project. “Art in the biological, ecological, and cyborg modes are all aspects of worlding. We cannot denounce the world in the name of an ideal world” - Donna Haraway  (Maralie Armstrong)