Students assess and explain the expectations, apprehensions, interests and norms that drive current technologies and technological trends.
Students critically scrutinise their own views and uses of technology and draw valuable lessons for their dealings in the ever more technological worlds of work and daily life.
Technologies pervade contemporary life. Whether travelling or eating, working or communicating with friends and family, we are constantly interacting with technical devices and machines. Some of them, such as computers or mobile phones, are often within arm’s reach. Others, like eyeglasses or pace-makers, are even closer: we wear them; we incorporate them into our bodies; they become part of our bodies. Yet other technologies, such as electricity or sewage systems, usually operate silently in the background – until blackouts and flooded streets confirm the truth of the saying “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” For all their diversity, however, what many technologies have in common is that we take them for granted. Because our familiarity with technologies conceals their complexity, we must learn to pay closer attention to them.
The goal of the Technologies area of concentration is to analyse, interpret and contextualise humanbuilt worlds. By technology, we do not mean pure instruments or inert infrastructures. Technology has social effects, cultural meanings and political relevance. These vary according to time and place, nation and class, gender and racialised identity, ability and disability. Moreover, technologies embody specific values and are dynamic forces that possess their own kinds of agency. Technologies save and destroy life, afford and procure control, connect and isolate people, and solve and generate ethical problems. To grasp the various dimensions of technology, this area of concentration investigates the processes and contexts in which technologies are invented, produced and researched; to understand the expectations and value systems in which technologies are embedded, we study the ways in which they are pitched, implemented, used and resisted.
The Technologies area of concentration enables students to deal with technology in their private, public and professional lives insightfully, and to see current trends such as digitisation and automation, traditional and renewable energy, and organisational innovation complexly and comprehensively. Students who successfully complete the area of concentration will not only be educated in the history and current affairs of our technological world but will also be equipped soberly to assess the competing interests and norms, anxieties and hopes that shape our dealings with emerging technologies.
At the Bachelor level, course topics can range from Big Data to self-driving cars, artificial intelligence to genetically modified food, reproductive medicine to science-fictional visions of technology’s future. Courses at the Master level can share many of these topics while also complementing them with critical discussions of major methodological and theoretical approaches to studying technology, including Science and Technology Studies (STS), Sociology of Technology, and Philosophy of Technology.