Nature, Culture and Technology - SOC00016I

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  • Department: Sociology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Amanda Rees
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19
    • See module specification for other years: 2017-18

Module occurrences

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2018-19 to Summer Term 2018-19

Module aims

This module asks what it is to be human in worlds shaped by the methods and innovations of science and technology. In the world in which we live,  the cultural politics of individuals and groups, the shaping and scrutiny of the body, and the interactions between humans and the lived environment are all profoundly influenced and informed by scientific and technological practices, including developments in biomedicine and the life sciences.

Taking this course will enable you to understand the relationships between different groups of humans and their environments, and to be able to identify the ways in which these are performed through and enacted by techno-scientific discourse and practices.  We will look in particular at the politics and social consequences here by examining the key binaries that underpin Western modernity (nature/culture, social/technical, body/mind, object/subject), and we will explore how these binaries and divisions help to underpin relations of power and inequalities in both human relations, and between humans and non-humans (air, water, soil, animals, machines).  We will investigate the social implications of different kinds of technologies - from cars to mobile phones, from nanotechnology to digital assemblages - and think through their social, material and personal consequences.

 

These explorations of how capitalist modernity is supported by science, technology and biomedicine will enable you, as a sociologist, to demonstrate how knowledge is itself power, and how the capacity to access and to define knowledge is socially differentiated and hierarchised.  

 

The course comprises of two parts:

First, ‘the politics of nature’ as it has been thought about in social and historical studies of science and technology.

Second, how we live in a ‘more-than-human world’.  We will introduce you to contemporary debates surrounding the effects and affects of how science and technology are done and of how they interact with identity, ways of life, forms of social organization, sociality and thought.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module students will be able to:

  • Account for the fundamental importance of science and technology to Western societies and cultures.

  • Deploy an understanding of the interaction of techno-science with bodies, identities, landscapes and ecosystems.

  • Analyse the use of science and scientific information in the media and within political debates

  • Develop a theoretical understanding of the sociology of science, technology and biomedicine

Module content

This module will be taught through lectures and workshops by lecturers who are experts in the fields. There will be one hour-long lecture per week, followed and supported by weekly 1 hour small group workshops in which the themes of lectures and readings will be discussed.

 

This module rejects the notion that science and technology are somehow ‘separate’ from society and culture. Instead, it places them firmly in their social, cultural and historical context, considers their deployment at home and abroad, and explores the role of scientific authority and expertise in governance, regulation and public debates. Over the course of the module, you will examine the Politics of Nature, Techno-Realities, and Mediating Science. Topics covered may include topics as diverse as Islamic science, the Cyborg, animal agency, regulation and innovation, manufactured landscapes, climate change, science fiction and scientific controversy. You will become familiar with the principal sociological analyses of the relationships between techno-science and society and you will learn to identify and to critique the implications and applications of science with respect to their impact on institutions, identity and social change.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay
N/A 40
University - closed examination
Exam
3 hours 60

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
University - closed examination
Reassessment: Exam
3 hours 100

Module feedback

Feedback at University level can be understood as any part of the learning process which is designed to guide your progress through your degree programme by providing commentary on your work to date. So feedback means more than just written comments on written work. We aim to help you to reflect on your own learning and to feel clearer about your progress through clarifying what is expected of you informative and summative assessments. The University guidelines for feedback are available in the Guide to Assessment Standards, Marking and Feedback.

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You will receive feedback in a number of forms:

  • On any formative (non-assessed) work, you will receive written or verbal feedback about how to improve your work (though you may not receive a mark)

  • On summative work (work that is assessed) you will receive detailed written feedback from the marker. This is intended to show areas in which you have done well, and areas in which you need to improve.

  • Your supervisor will also give you feedback on your work. S/he will be able to look across a range of your work and discuss ways in which you can build on your strengths and improve in any areas

 

Feedback on your summative written work is made available to you online via e:vision. You will receive an email telling you when it is ready to look at. You are then advised to take this work (printed out or on your laptop) to your regular meeting with your academic supervisor. Your supervisor will be able to look at your work with you and address any queries you have, as well as advise you on ways to improve your work.

 

Feedback on Exam Scripts

 

You can ask for feedback on your exam performance from your supervisor, who will go through your examination script(s) with you and discuss the areas in which you did well, and those in which you need to improve. However, you may not take the script away with you, or photocopy the script. If you would like to discuss your exam performance, please let your supervisor know at least two working days in advance of your meeting, so that they can make sure they have the script with them when you meet.

 

Indicative reading

These texts will either be referred to throughout the course or will provide useful background reading.

 

 A key supporting text is:

Sheila Jasanoff, Gerald E Markle, James C Peterson, Trevor Pinch (eds) (1995) The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies. Sage Publications

 

Other Texts include:

 

Beer D. (2016) Metric Power. Palgrave-MacMillan.

 

Bowler, P & I Morus (2005) Making Modern Science, Chicago: University of Chicago Press

 

Bowker G and Star S.L. Sorting things out: Classification and its consequences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Pp 1-32.

Haraway, D. (2016) Manifestly Haraway. The Cyborg Manifesto. The Companion Species Manifesto. Companions in Conversation (with Cary Wolfe). Posthumanities 37. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

 

Latour B. (1991) We have Never Been Modern. Boston, Mass: Harvard University Press.

 

Latour b. (2004) Whose Cosmos? Which Cosmopolitics? Comments on the Peace Terms of Ulrich Beck. Symposium: Talking Peace with Gods: Part 1. Common Knowledge, 10(3): 450-462.

 

Latour B. (2004) Politics of Nature : How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy. Boston, Mass: Harvard University Press.

 

Latimer J. & Miele M. (2013) Naturecultures? Science, Affect and the Non-human. Special Issue, Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 30, 7-8: pp. 5-31.

 

Law J. (ed.) (1986) Power, Action and Belief: a New Sociology of Knowledge. 32: 264-280.

 

Law J (ed.) (1991) A Sociology of Monsters. Essays on Power, Technology and Domination.  London: Routledge

 

Munro R. (2010) Identity: Technology & Culture.  In: Wetherall M. Handbook of Identity. Pp201-215.

 

Ong A. & Collier S.J. (2003) Global assemblages: technology, politics, and ethics as anthropological problems. Malden, MA : Blackwell Publishing|2005

 

Puig de la Bellacasa. (2011) Matters of care in technoscience: Assembling neglected things. Social Studies of Science, 41(1): 85-106.

 

Rees A (2017) ‘Animal agents? Historiography, theory and the history of science in the Anthropocene’, BJHS THEMES, 2: 1-10.

 

Sismundo, S (2010) An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing

 

Yearley, S (2005) Making Sense of Science, London: Sage



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.