HIST365/STS203: History of Technology

Course Syllabus for "HIST365/STS203: History of Technology"

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This course provides an introduction to the history of technology for the Science, Technology, and Society (STS) major.  The course surveys major technological developments from ancient to modern times with particular attention to social, political, and cultural contexts in Europe and the United States.  You will also think critically about the theory of technological determinism, the ways in which technology has defined “progress” and “civilization”, and the major ethical considerations surrounding today’s technological decisions. This course begins with discussions of the promotion of technology in centralized states of the ancient and medieval worlds: the Roman Empire, Song and Ming China, and the Islamic Abbasid Empire.  After a period of relative decline, the states of Western Europe centralized and flourished once again, having benefited from the westward transmission of key ideas and technologies from the East. The focus of the course then shifts to the West, to the technologies of the Renaissance in Italy, industrialization, imperialism, and World War I.  Unbounded faith in technology, which was characteristic of the 19th century, suffered a severe blow after two industrial world wars.  Today, many nations that are interested in technological solutions to social, medical, and military problems also value a healthy environment and respect human and civil rights.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Explain technological determinism with a concrete example.
  • Define and identify a primary source.
  • Explain Aristotle’s philosophy of technology.
  • Identify and explain major Roman technologies.
  • Identify and explain technologies developed in China or by the Mongols.
  • Compare and contrast male and female work in the medieval West.
  • Explain the social and political importance of the medieval plow and stirrup.
  • Compare and contrast Romanesque and Gothic Cathedrals.
  • Identify and explain major technological developments of the Renaissance movement.
  • Identify and explain major technologies of exploration.
  • Explain the theory of the Military Revolution.
  • Define the Scientific Revolution.
  • Define Mechanical Philosophy.
  • Summarize main events of the Industrial Revolution.
  • Explain Watt’s steam engine.
  • Explain the social and gender implications of the factory system.
  • Compare and contrast American and European industrialization.
  • Identify and explain major technologies of imperialism.
  • Define the Second Industrial Revolution.
  • Compare and contrast major technologies of WWI and WWII.
  • Define and explain socio-technical systems.
  • Explain Taylor’s Scientific Management.
  • Explain the ideological significance of Cold War technologies.
  • Define feminist and environmental perspectives on technology.
  • Identify pros and cons of natural gas and nuclear power.
  • Identify ethical issues raised by modern medical technology.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (e.g. .doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Be competent in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Course Information

Welcome to STS203.  Below, please find general information on the course and its requirements.

Course Designer: Warren Dym, Ph.D.
Primary Resources: This course is composed of a range of different free, online materials.  However, the course makes significant use of the following materials:

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials.  You will also need to complete assessments for each unit and the Final Exam.
Note that you will only receive an official grade on your Final Exam.  However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through the resources and assessments in each unit of the course.
In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.
Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of 128 hours to complete.  Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit.  These should help you plan your time accordingly.  It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit and then set goals for yourself.  For example, Unit 1 should take 8.5 hours to complete.  Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunit 1.1 and sub-subunit 1.2.1 (a total of 4.5 hours) on Monday night; sub-subunits 1.2.2 through 1.2.4 (a total of 4 hours) on Tuesday night; etc.
Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.