URL for this syllabus: http://nuweb4.neu.edu/jperrolle/socU485/
Assignments and Due Dates | bookmarks icon Bookmarks | Contact Information | twitter icon Twitter | youtube icon Youtube |
Topics and Readings for: Introduction to Technology | Ethics and Worldviews | Energy and Climate Change | Population and Food | Solving Global Environmental Problems September: 5 | 6 | 10 | 12 | 13 | 17 | 19 | 20 | 24 | 26 | 27 | October: 1 | 3 | 4 | 10 | 11 | 15 | 17 | 18 | 22 | 24 | 25 | 29 | 31 | November: 1 | 5 | 7 | 8 | 14 | 15 | 19 | 26 | 28 | 29 | December: 3 | 5 |

SOCL 3485 Environment, Technology, and Society Syllabus

Northeastern University, Fall 2012, CRN 13430
Professor: Judith A. Perrolle (perrolle@ccs.neu.edu)
Office: 541 Holmes
Phone: (617) 373-3861
Office Hours: M, Th 3:00-4:00pm and 6:00– 6:30pm

Class meets sequence 3: M, W, Th 10:30 - 11:35 AM in 425 Shillman Hall

Course Description

Assignments and Due Dates
Journal 1 due M Sept 17 15% of grade
Journal 2 due M Oct 1 15% of grade
Journal 3 due Th Oct 25 20% of grade
Journal 4 due M Nov 19 15% of grade

Individual and group presentations to be scheduled at the
end of the semester (and at the time of our scheduled final
exam if we need the time.) Your slides or handouts and
be turned in at the time of your presentation. Selection of
your problem is due Thursday Oct 24.
Your final 10-20 page paper is due on the last day of class.
20% of grade

including attendance, serving as a discussion leader,
and contributions to discussions.
15% of grade

Required Reading and Viewing

Deborah G. Johnson and Jameson M. Wetmore, editors. Technology and Society: Building Our Sociotechnical Future MIT Press, 2009.

Rachel Parker and Rich Appelbaum, editors, Can Emerging Technologies Make a Difference in Development?, Routledge, 2012.

Online readings and videos are also assigned, as indicated in the syllabus.

About the Course

The goal of this course is to explore the complex relationships among human society, technology, and the natural environment. Sociology will be emphasized, but the study of environmental sociology requires basic concepts drawn from the other social and natural sciences. It is important for students to develop an interdisciplinary approach to environment and technology issues and to integrate this approach with their own perspectives.

To facilitate this process, students are asked to keep a journal in which they record their reactions to lectures, readings, and discussion questions. Journals should be printed, but may be written in an informal style. Several specific questions will be assigned for each journal. They should be answered in a good paragraph each. You may also write a short ungraded essay reacting to the material you have read and discussed in class.

Grades for the journals will be based on evidence of your having read the assignments, listened to lectures and discussions, thought about both, and put the material together with your own experience in an analytical and critical way. Your opinions will not be graded, but your ability to support your opinions with a logical argument will. You must give references for materials other than the textbooks and lectures that you use in preparing your journal entries.

Each student will serve as the leader of a 10-15 minute discussion of one day's assigned readings. At the end of the course students (individually or in groups working on the same problem) will present a proposed solution to an environmental problem. There will be approximately 15 minutes per student; groups will have more time to present their solution.

Northeastern University expects students to abide by the NU Academic Integrity Policy http://www.northeastern.edu/osccr/academichonesty.html and to participate in the TRACE course evaluation survey at the end of the semester.

The class bookmarks provide to information on topics that will be used in lectures. You can access subsets of bookmarks with specific tags to use as sources for essays and group presentations. The twitter link is used to announce class cancellations in case of illness.

Introduction to Technology

W Sept 5 Topic: Technology and Society
Read in Johnson&Wetmore:
Read in Parker&Appelbaum: Forward and Preface (pages xvii-xxiii)
Read Online: Judith A. Perrolle, A Model of Information and Tools in Social Change from Computers and Social Change (3 pages)
diagram of relationship between technology and information

Th Sept 6 Technology and History
Read in Johnson&Wetmore:
Article 7. Do Machines Make History? by Robert L. Heilbroner (pages 97-106)
and Article 9. Technological Momentum by Thomas P. Hughes (pages 141-150)
Read in Parker&Appelbaum: Article 2. Creating the Future: Materials, Innovation, and the Scientific Community by Todd Osman (pages 21-27)

M Sept 10 Topic: Social Construction of Technology
Read in Johnson&Wetmore:
Article 8. The Social Construction of Facts and Artifacts by Trevor Pinch and Wiebe Bijker (pages 107-139)
and Article 15. White by Richard Dyer (pages 257-264)

W Sept 12 Topic: Technology and Social Control
Read in Johnson&Wetmore:
Article 11. Code Is Law by Lawrence Lessig (pages 181-194)
and Article 14. Control: Human and Nonhuman Robots by George Ritzer (pages 227-255)

Th Sept 13 Topic: Technology and Gender
Read in Johnson&Wetmore:
Article 12. The Intersection of Culture, Gender, and Technology, by Patrick D. Hopkins (pages 195-204)
Article 16 Manufacturing Gender in Commercial and Military Cockpit Design by Rachel N. Weber (pages 265-274)
Article 22 Bodies, Machines, and Male Power by M. Carme Alemany Gomez (pages 389-406)
Read Online: Notes on Technology: Shoes

Questions for Journal 1 (due M Sept 17):
3 questions, 5 points each.

  1. Answer question 1 on page 95 of Johnson&Wetmore.
  2. Answer question 4 on page 95 Johnson&Wetmore.
  3. Explain how technology is used in the social construction of gender.
  4. Optional: Comment on anything that captured your interest in the readings or class discussion. (ungraded)

Ethics and Worldviews

M Sept 17 Topic: Social Justice
Read in Johnson&Wetmore:
and Article 1. Technology and Social Justice by Freeman J. Dyson (pages 5-12)
Journal 1 due today.

W Sept 19 Topic: Environmental Ethics (Bookmarks bookmarks icon)
Read in Johnson&Wetmore: Article 33. Introduction to Environmental Justice: Creating Equality, Reclaiming Democracy by Kristin S. Shrader-Frechette (pages 579-598)
Read online: "Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy" Environmental Ethics (17 pages)

Th Sept 20 Topic: Technology and Politics (Bookmarks) (bookmarks icon
Read in Johnson&Wetmore: Article 13. Do Artifacts Have Politics? by Langdon Winner

M Sept 24 Topic: Technology and Policy
Read in Parker&Appelbaum: Article 3. Rural Development, Technology, and "Policy Memory": Anthropological Reflections from Bangladesh on Technological Change by David Lewis (pages 28-39)
and Article 4. Achieving Equitable Outcomes Through Emerging Technologies: A Social Empowerment Approach by Guillermo Foladori (pages 40-46)

W Sept 26 Topic: Technology and Values
Read in Johnson&Wetmore: Article 2 The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster (pages 13-36)
and Article 18. Amish Technology: Reinforcing Values and Building Community by Jameson M. Wetmore (pages 297-318)
Read online: Section 3: How the internet is used in groups p. 22-29 and
Section 4: The impact of the internet on group activities p. 30-37 in Lee Rainie, Kristen Purcell, and Aaron Smith, The Social Side of the Internet, PEW Internet & American Life Project, 2011 (excerpt available on Blackboard)

Th Sept 27 Topic: Economic and Environmental Values
Read in Johnson&Wetmore: Article 17: Pas de Trois: Science, Technology, and the Marketplaceby Daniel Sarewitz (pages 275-296)
View online: Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff

Questions for Journal 2: (due Monday Oct 1)
3 questions, 5 points each.

  1. Answer question 1 on page 206 of Johnson&Wetmore.
  2. Answer question 2 on page 207 of Johnson&Wetmore.
  3. Explain your environmental philosophy or worldview. Refer specifically to the online readings.
  4. Optional: Comment on anything that captured your interest in the readings or class discussion. (ungraded)

Energy and Climate Change

M Oct 1 Topic: Introduction to Energy
Journal 2 due today.
Browse online:

View Online: For the next week we will be reading booklets based on the National Academies' 2010 report on America's Climate Choices. These reports are also available as a videos. (bookmarks icon climate change bookmarks)

W Oct 3 Topic: Causes of Global Warming
Read or view online:

Th Oct 4 Topic: Ecological Impacts (bookmarks icon ecosystem and species bookmarks)
Read online: The National Academies', Ecological Impacts of Climate Change (2008)

M Oct 8 Columbus Day holiday.

W Oct 10 Topic: What We Can Do to Limit Climate Change
Read online: Limiting the Magnitude of Climate Change (2010),

Th Oct 11 Topic: Externalities and Market-Based Approaches
Read in Parker and Appelbaum:
Article 11. Solid State Lighting: A Market-Based Approach to Escaping the ‘Poverty Trap’ by Dave Irvine-Halliday (pages 116-126)
Read on Blackboard: article on carbon tax to be supplied

M Oct 15 Topic: Sustainable Energy
Read in Johnson&Wetmore:
Article 32. Energy, Society, and Environment: Technology for a Sustainable Future by David Elliott (pages 565-578)

W Oct 17 Topic: Technological Efforts to Limit Global Warming
Read on Blackboard: to be supplied

Th Oct 18 Topic: Adapting to Climate Change
Read online: The National Academies' Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change (2010).

M Oct 22 Topic: Economic Adaptations (bookmarks icon economy bookmarks)
Read online: United Nations Environmental Programme's Green Economy Initiative

Questions for Journal 3: (due Thursday October 24)
4 questions, 5 points each.

  1. What are the causes of global warming?
  2. What are the consequesnces of global climate change for ecosystems and species (including our own)?
  3. How can global warming be prevented, slowed down, and/or adapted to?
  4. How can ordinary citizens in democratic societies make decisions about climate change?
  5. Required but ungraded: What problem have you chosen for your final project?
  6. Optional: Comment on anything that captured your interest in the readings or class discussion.

Population and Food

W Oct 24 Topic: Principles of Distributing Environmental Resources and Risks
Read Online:

Th Oct 25 Topic: Population Technologies
Journal 3 due today.
Read in Johnson&Wetmore: Article 3. The Prolongation of Life by Francis Fukuyama (pages 37-50)
and Article 4 Reproductive Ectogenesis: The Third Era of Human Reproduction and Some Moral Consequences by Stellan Welin (pages 51-62)

M Oct 29 Topic: Too Many North Americans? Population Growth and the Environment (bookmarks icon population bookmarks)

W Oct 31 Topic: The Keys to Slowing Population Growth - Infant Health, Women's Socioeconomic Status, and Old Age Pensions
Read online: University of Michigan's 2011 Global Change Lectures Population Growth over Human History and Demographic Transition: An Historical Sociological Perspective
View online: Hans Rosling "What Stops Population Growth?" http://vimeo.com/2905893

Th Nov 1 Topic: Population and Food - What We Eat (bookmarks icon food and agriculture bookmarks)
Read online:

M Nov 5 Topic: Population and Food - Waste and Profit
Read online:

W Nov 7 Topic: The Coming Water Wars
Read or view online:

Th Nov 8 Topic: The Future of Food in a Global Economy
View Online: Vandana Shiva, The Future of Food Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

M Nov 12 Veterans Day holiday.

W Nov 14 Topic: The Future of Food - Technological Possibilities
Read in Parker&Appelbaum: Article 7. Food Security: From the Green Revolution to Nanotechnology by Jennifer Rogers and Amy Zader (pages 75-85)
Article 8. (Nano)Technology and Food Security: What Scientists Can Learn from Malian Farmers by Scott Lacy (pages 86-98)
Article 10. Nanotechnology for Potable Water and General Consumption in Developing Countries by Thembela Hillie and Mbhuti Hlophe (pages 105-115)
Read online: Union of Concerned Scientists' food site http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_environment/

Questions for Journal 4: (due M Nov 19 )
3 questions, 5 points each.

  1. Explain how social justice contributes to reducing human population growth.
  2. How does global climate change affect the world's popuation and resource balance?
  3. Can new technologies solve the world's food problems without changes in policy and the global economy?
  4. Optional: Comment on anything that captured your interest in the readings or class discussion.

Solving Global Environmental Problems

Instead of a journal for this section, complete work on your choice of environmental problems. A short (1-3 paragraph) description of your environmental problem is due Thursday, October 24, as part of Journal 3. Presentations for your problem solution will be made during the last two weeks of class (and during the final exam period, if necessary) which gives everyone about 15 minutes each. If people work in groups we may not need to meet during exam week. The powerpoint or handout for your presentation will be made available to everyone via Blackboard.

The final writeup on your problem solution should be 10-20 pages long, and must include references for your sources of information. It is due on the last day of class.

Th Nov 15 Topic: Solving Global Environmental Problems
Read in Parker&Appelbaum: Article 5. Emerging Technologies and Inequalities: Beyond the Technological Transition by Susan Cozzens (pages 47-60)
and Article 15. Responsible Innovation, Global Governance, and Emerging Technologies by Andrew Maynard, Antje Grobe, and Ortwin Renn (pages 168-187)
Read on Blackboard:Excerpt from Technology and Environment: An Overview, pages 1-20 in Jesse H. Ausubel and Hedy E. Sladovich, Editors, Technology and Environment>, National Academy of Engineering.
M Nov 19 Student Presentations
Journal 4 due today.

W Nov 21 Thanksgiving vacation begins.
M Nov 26 Student Presentations
W Nov 28 Student Presentations
Th Nov 29 Student Presentations
M Dec 3 Student Presentations
W Dec 5 Student Presentations
Environmental problem solution writeup due today.

If we run out of time, we will use the final exam period to complete student presentations.