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STS101: Introduction to Science, Technology, and Society

Unit 1: Introduction to STS   This unit will introduce you to Science and Technology Studies. STS draws from several disciplines, primarily in the humanities and social sciences. These disciplines include anthropology, cultural studies, history, philosophy, political science, and public policy. However, the field is best understood in the ways in which it approaches to science and technology. The major approaches or subfields of STS include the philosophy of science, institutional sociology of science, sociology of scientific knowledge (the Strong Programme, or SSK), actor-network theory (ANT), feminist and ecofeminist studies of science, and other critical and cultural studies of science and technology. This unit also introduces important thinkers who have contributed significantly to these subfields or approaches.

Unit 1 Time Advisory
This unit should take approximately 21.25 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 1.1: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2: 18.25 hours

☐    Web Media: 2.25 hours

☐    Readings: 16 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.2.1: 4. hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.2.2: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 1.2.3: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 1.2.4: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 1.2.5: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 1.2.6: 3 hours

☐    Sub-sub-subunit 1.2.6.1: 2 hours

☐    Sub-sub-subunit 1.2.6.2: 1.25 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 1.2.7: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 1.2.8: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 1.2.9: 2 hours

Unit1 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - define STS; - identify general aims and issues in STS research; - identify the major approaches operative in STS; and - identify major thinkers associated with each subfield in STS.

1.1 Definition of STS   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “About STS” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

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  • Reading: Polytechnic Institute of New York University: Steven Shapin’s “Science and the Modern World” Link: Polytechnic Institute of New York University: Steven Shapin’s “Science and the Modern World” (PDF)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above and scroll to “Additional Reading.”  Click on the link for Shapin, S. (2007) “Science in the Modern World,” from The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, ed. E. Hackett, et al.   Read this article, which provides a good introduction to the centrality of science and technology in modern society and the relationship it holds with other important institutions of society (including religion). It also discusses STS and the relationships among some of its subfields.

    Reading this article should take approximately 2 hours.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.2 Introduction to the Approaches and Subfields of STS   1.2.1 Introduction   - Web Media: YouTube: Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government: Trevor Pinch, David Kaiser, and Antoine Picon’s “Science and Technology Studies: Opening the Black Box” Link: YouTube: Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government: Trevor Pinch, David Kaiser, and Antoine Picon’s “Science and Technology Studies: Opening the Black Box” (YouTube)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and watch this video.
While you are watching, take notes on the definitions of STS, its
history, and its future, according to the speakers. This video is of
a session of the conference on “Science and Technology Studies: The
Next Twenty,” held on April 7-9, 2011, at Harvard’s Kennedy School
of Government. After an introduction by the chair of the panel,
three major contributors to STS speak: Trevor Pinch of Cornell
University, David Kaiser of Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
andAntoine Picon of Harvard University. Pay close attention to the
speakers, but do not worry about understanding the inside jokes and
other trivial anecdotes. Take notes on the different approaches to
STS that are discussed. Enjoy this informal and lively introduction
to the field!  

 Watching this video and pausing to take notes should take
approximately 2 hours.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Helen Longino’s “The Social Dimensions of Scientific Knowledge” Link: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Helen Longino’s “The Social Dimensions of Scientific Knowledge” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this article, in which Helen Longino introduces the STS field. Note the various approaches to science and technology discussed. This reading can be quite dense in parts, so do not worry about understanding every point. Rather, work at grasping the central ideas. One of the most important ideas is that these relatively new approaches to science do not consider science an autonomous or self-sufficient field that can be understood in isolation from social, political, economic, gender, or other factors. While they conceive of these impacts differently, most agree (though some philosophers are exceptions) that science cannot be understood strictly in terms of its own internal logic or reasoning.

    Reading this article should take approximately 2 hours.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.2.2 The Philosophy of Science   - Reading: University of California, Berkeley: Understanding Science: P. Godfrey-Smith’s “The Philosophy of Science” Link: University of California, Berkeley: Understanding Science: P. Godfrey-Smith’s “The Philosophy of Science” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this article,
which provides a very good, brief overview of the field, including
historical and some contemporary dimensions. Note the terms that are
defined. Write them down and translate the definitions into your own
words.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.2.3 Institutional Sociology of Science   - Reading: Daniel Little’s Understanding Society: “Merton’s Sociology of Science” Link: Daniel Little’s Understanding Society: “Merton’s Sociology of Science” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this brief
introduction to Thomas Merton’s sociology of science. Note the
approach that Merton’s sociology takes to science, including the
areas of inquiry that it excludes.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.2.4 Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK)   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK)” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

[Submit Materials](/contribute/)

1.2.5 Network Theories   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Actor-network Theory (ANT)” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

[Submit Materials](/contribute/)

1.2.6 History of Science and Technology   1.2.6.1 History of Science   - Reading: History Today: Richard Tomlinson’s “What is the History of Science? Part I” Link: History Today: Richard Tomlinson’s “What is the History of Science? Part I” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this article,
in which some major contributors to the field, such as Roger Cooter,
Maurice Crosland, Brian Easlea, David Gooding, Rupert Hall, and John
Hendry, introduce the history of science. Each of these historians
of science deals with different, although overlapping, aspects of
the field. Pay attention to the major themes in these introductions.
One major theme is that the history of science no longer treats the
ideas and practices of science as autonomous or self-sufficient
phenomena. Rather, the history of science today treats science and
its practitioners as fully immersed in their social, economic,
political, ideological, philosophical, personal, gendered, and other
contexts. David Gooding provides perhaps the most up-to-date
assessment of the field, noting that recent trends involve the study
of actions and artifacts – what scientists have done and what
objects they have convened with – as important factors in the making
of science.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 2 hours.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.2.6.2 History of Technology   - Web Media: YouTube: The University of Winnipeg Instructional Network: Peter H. Denton’s “Introduction to History of Technology” Link: YouTube: The University of Winnipeg Instructional Network: Peter H. Denton’s “Introduction to History of Technology” (YouTube)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and watch this very
brief introduction to the field of the history of technology. Note
the central concept: one cannot treat technology as a
self-determining system but rather must take into account social
actors and the choices that they make. Consider what Professor
Denton says in connection with ANT, introduced above.  

 Watching this video should take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: The Society for the History of Technology: “Some Thoughts on the History of Technology from Leading Scholars” Link: The Society for the History of Technology: “Some Thoughts on the History of Technology from Leading Scholars” (HTML)

    Instructions: Click on the link above and read these short excerpts from historians of technology about their field. Also click on “Basic Bibliography” and “Classic Works,” located in the left-hand side navigation bar. Read through the list of books to get an idea of the kinds of work done in the field.

    Reading this article should take approximately 1 hour.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

1.2.7 Feminist Studies and Critiques of Science   - Reading: University of Tennessee Martin: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Marianne Janack’s “Feminist Epistemology: Part 3, Feminist Science Studies” Link: University of Tennessee Martin: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Marianne Janack’s “Feminist Epistemology: Part 3, Feminist Science Studies” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read Part 3 of
this article, which provides an overview of feminist studies and
critiques of science. Some parts of the reading are quite dense.
Take note of and look up any unfamiliar words and terms. Do not
worry if you cannot grasp everything completely, but do try to grasp
some of the central concerns and concepts. In particular, feminist
critics of science suggest that women are marginalized from
scientific activity in terms of participation. Furthermore, these
critics suggest that science’s very concepts are biased in
masculinist ways that both reflect and suit the dominant
participants in science and society. Some critiques are normative in
addition to being strictly descriptive. That is, they seek not only
to describe how science does operate but also to suggest how it
should operate.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

1.2.8 Ecofeminist Studies and Critiques of Science   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Ecofeminism” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

[Submit Materials](/contribute/)

1.2.9 Other Critical and Cultural Studies of Science   - Reading: Wesleyan University: Joseph Rouse’s “Cultural Studies of Science” Link: Wesleyan University: Joseph Rouse’s “Cultural Studies of Science” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and then click
“download” to download and read this introduction to cultural
studies of science. The material is very dense in places, but do not
let its difficulty deter you from moving forward. Some sentences are
best understood after reading subsequent ones. The point here is to
grasp the key concepts: 1) Cultural studies of science is
anti-essentialist. That is, it does not consider science as having a
pre-existing essence, a given set of values, or even given
operational norms. Rather, these are established in the process of
doing particular science initiatives themselves.  2) Cultural
studies of science, unlike other, mostly descriptive studies such as
SSK, is normative. Since Cultural studies of science does not
consider science as having pre-existing norms and values, these
values and norms are actually shaped or constructed in the process
of doing science. The cultural studies practitioner, according to
Rouse, can thus have a part in shaping such norms and values, and
consequently, scientific knowledge itself.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 2 hours.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.