Theme 1 – Theorising Technology

Welcome to our first theme!

In this theme, we will explore visions and theories of technology: is technology good or bad? Does it have agency? Does it shape society or is it shaped by society?

(non youtube alternative link)

For our first theme you have a number of tasks to do (in this order):

    • complete a short introductory activity with Mural  in preparation of your Week 2 group meeting (1h) 
    • Watch a couple of videos and do the short quiz at the end (2h)
    • Read your first key paper (2h), and complete the task in preparation of your Week 3 group meeting (1h)
    • Read a second key paper (2h), and write your first short essay (5h)

visual representation of the to do list explained below

Remember to also check what you need to prepare for the Week 3 seminar

Let’s dive in!

First, do some exploration (before week 2 group meeting)

On your own, find 3 examples from the media (news article, advert, movie, etc) that depict or discuss technology. For each, write down the answer to these questions:

    • Is technology presented in a specific way (good vs bad)?
    • Is it assumed to have agency (does it ‘do’ things in the world)?

Go to your group’s theme 1 mural and add the media examples on the existing framework. Use the comment feature to explain to your group why you placed the examples where you did.

Then, watch the following videos introducing core theories of technology

part 1 – techno-centric approaches

part 2 – social shaping of technology

(low bandwidth alternatives for part 1 and part 2)

check your understanding of these theories by completing this quiz on moodle.

Read your first annotated key reading by Winner (1980) (before week 3 group meeting)

Click here for the article 

(You’ll have to use your university login. Make sure you read it in a PDF viewer such as Adobe Acrobate, Preview, etc. if you want to see my notes. These will NOT appear if you read the PDF in a web browser.)

During and after the reading, identify the key examples used by Winner.

For each, think about:

    • where agency is located in these examples
    • the theoretical perspective it matches best
    • the possible contradictions

Then, go back to your group mural and place these examples on the chart. Use the comment feature to explain your choice. If a group mate has already placed the example you located, add instead a comment explaining whether you agree or not, and why.

Now read a second article of your choosing (depending on which theory you want to explore for the short essay you have to write).

Finally, write a 250 word (min) paragraph with the following prompt:

Choose a theory of technology from those explored (technological determinism, Social Construction of Technology, Actor-Network Theory). 

Explain in your own words the theory and critically evaluate it. 

Support your work with at least 1 example and 2 references. You might find that 250 words is not much – you can of course go over the wordcount (although think about the students who will assess your work in Weeks 4&5!). 

Further guidelines and feedback criteria are available at the link below. 

Post your short essay on Moodle by the end of Week 3. (You will assess each other’s essays in Weeks 4/5).

Confused about a concept, or wanting to engage? Drop a comment below! 

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