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Our subject is the historical process by which the meaning of "technology" has been constructed. Although the word itself is traceable to the ancient Greek root teckhne (meaning art), it did not enter the English language until the 17th century, and did not acquire its current meaning until after World War I. The aim of the course, then, is to explore various sectors of industrializing 19th and 20th century Western society and culture with a view to explaining and assessing the emergence of technology as a pivotal word (and concept) in contemporary (especially Anglo-American) thought and expression.

Work of the Course

A brief (750-1500 word) paper interpreting the significance of each week's assigned reading in illuminating the process by which "technology" - the word, the concept - has been constructed. Each student also will write a longer final paper summing up his or her conclusions about the character of the process, and the meaning and value of "technology" - the word, the concept. Students in effect will be writing the final paper as they proceed, week by week, keeping track of the cumulative effect of each session on their personal effort to enlarge, refine, and sharpen their sense of the historical development of the concept of technology. The weekly papers will provide a sort of running journal of thoughts on this subject; the final paper will reorder, collate, and summarize this ongoing work.

Books Recommended for Purchase

Smith, Merritt Roe, and Gregory Clancey, eds. Major Problems in the History of American Technology. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1997. ISBN: 0669354724. [S&C]

Scharff, Robert C., and Val Dusek. The Philosophy of Technology: The Technological Condition (An Anthology). Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing, 2003. ISBN: 0631222197. [S&D]

Adams, Henry. The Education of Henry Adams. Riverside Edition. Annotated, edited by E. Samuels. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1973. ISBN: 0395166209. [EHA]

Whitehead, A. N. Science and the Modern World. Riverside, NJ: Simon & Schuster, 1997, chapters 1, 3, and 5. ISBN: 0684836394. (Reprint)