Technological Change & Social Justice

Course Syllabus

JUS 200 (07096; 00800; 93557) – Fall 2003

Tuesday & Thursday 12:15 – 1:30


Lecture:          LSE 106 (Tuesdays)

Discussion:     LSA 119, PS A304, SS 215 (Thursdays)


Dr. Torin Monahan

Office: Wilson 314

Phone: 480-965-4522


Office Hours: T/Th 2-3pm & by appt.


Course Description

This course offers an introduction to the social, historical, and ethical dimensions of modern technology. Attention will be given to the multiple ways in which technologies, individuals and institutions mutually shape one another to the benefit and/or detriment of society. Cases include surveillance devices, communications infrastructures, transportation systems, workplace automation, reproductive technologies, and more. Readings are drawn from the social sciences, fiction, and popular media. Films and documentary videos will direct inquiry into the potential of technologies for achieving democratic or equitable outcomes. The class is designed to give students freedom to develop and express their own ideas. 

Required Texts

1. Teich, Albert H. 2003. Technology and the Future. 9th Edition. (Hereafter “TATF”)

2. Readings Course Pack. (Hereafter “Reader.” Available at “Alphagraphics,” 122 E. University Dr.)


Weekly Essays 30%
Participation 20%
Mid-term Project 20% 
Final Project 30%

Course Expectations

Attendance: This class will be conducted with a focus on lectures, activities, and in-class discussions. Because of this format, you are encouraged to attend all classes. Formal attendance will not be taken, but your participation grade will suffer if you are excessively absent or tardy. You must turn in assignments ahead of time and arrange to get notes from a colleague if you are going to be absent.

Reading: Complete all readings (and other assignments) prior to the class meeting for which they are scheduled. Most of the readings will be drawn from the required texts for the course or from Internet web pages. In some cases, we may distribute photocopied readings to you in class. See the course outline below for details.

Participation: Through communication, ideas are formed, revised, borrowed, and developed. It is through argument, description, explanation, and improvisation – within a community – that individual learning flourishes. This course requires full participation (including active listening, facilitating, note-taking, and question-asking) to create an environment of open and shared learning. An effective participant is not someone who simply talks frequently, but someone who reliably offers thoughtful insights that help others to learn.

Student teams will be formed early-on for work on a final project (see below). Each team will also lead one discussion section during the semester beginning with Week 7. Plan on approximately thirty minutes for presenting themes from the reading, offering critical examinations of them, and facilitating class discussion.

Writing: Writing is one of the most productive forms of thinking. It is where you will generate ideas that become part of class discussions. All writing in this course should critically reflect on the relationship between modern technologies and social justice. No late or emailed writing assignments will be accepted. Please use 12-point font and 1" margins. All papers must be stapled or they will not be accepted. The socio-technological infrastructure is unreliable, so plan accordingly and print papers well in advance.

Technology: Laptop computers and other portable technologies should be used as learning-facilitation tools. During class, it is not acceptable to play games, answer email, surf the web, or engage in other non-class-related activities. Your participation grade will be penalized if you break this rule. Why? Not only do these practices negatively affect your learning and participation, but they also distract others and create an environment of disrespect.


Course Assignments

1. Weekly Essays:

Weekly essays are due on Thursday every week except weeks 1, 13, and 16 (no essays are due for these weeks). These essays are based on the reading and the lectures. You must show that you did the reading and listened attentively to the lectures, but not, for example, by listing your reactions in a series of unconnected paragraphs: you must write an essay that develops them as a whole. We will look not only for your reactions, but more importantly why you had them. Try to give reasons for your reactions, but if you are not sure about your reasons, at least try to state the dilemma in which you find yourself. It is even acceptable, in other words, to write an essay about your confusion.


We suggest, therefore, that you jot down ideas for your essays as you read or listen to the lectures, and afterwards step back for a moment to reflect on your overall reaction, that is, the theme for your essay. It is best to take a critical perspective for your theme. A critical perspective does not require that you be against the ideas expressed in the reading or lectures. It means simply that you have asked yourself some hard questions. What are the alternatives to your reaction? Why is your reaction better than the alternatives? It is always important to remember, especially when the issues in question concern how we should live, that your first reaction may well be defensive, often accompanied by some intense feelings. It is appropriate to explore these feelings in your essay, though it will not always be easy to get to the bottom of them. You will need patience and honesty if you wish to get beyond the level of gut reaction and opinion to the level of justified belief.


For each of these assignments, write 2-3 typed pages in response to the articles and lecture for that week. These assignments will be graded on a pass / not-yet-pass basis. If you do not "pass," you will be given one chance to revise it (due one week after the essay is returned to you). If you don't turn something substantive in for the week, you will receive a "fail" for that assignment and will not be allowed to make it up. Passed assignments will receive full credit; all others will receive 0.

2. Mid-term Project:

The midterm project will be a 7-10 page paper due October 14. For this paper, you will write an essay that a) identifies one specific social problem concerning an issue of injustice, b) describes and analyzes the role of technology in that problem, and c) proposes viable solutions to that problem. More information will be distributed in class.

3. Final Team Project:

The final project will be a team-based research paper of 20-25 pages due December 9. Teams will decide upon their own technology and social justice topics and will thoroughly investigate them using a variety of research techniques: interviewing, photographing, mapping, observing, surveying, and – of course – reading. Experimentation is highly encouraged for this project, and alternative formats are welcome. Be creative and have some fun! The team with the best project in the course (as decided by the instructors) will present it to the entire class on December 9, and each member of that team will receive an additional 5 points of extra-credit. More information about this assignment will be distributed in class.

Academic Honesty

In order to avoid plagiarism, your papers must provide full citations for all references: direct quotes, summaries, or ideas. While you are encouraged to develop your thinking with your peers, you cannot use their material without citing it. Work from other courses will not be accepted in this course. Allowing your writing to be copied by another student is also considered cheating. Please review the Student Code of Conduct for complete guidelines on academic honesty. Note: Any instance of plagiarism or cheating can be grounds for failure of the entire course or expulsion from the university. 

Gender-Fair Language

Language structures thought and action. Biases in language can (and do) naturalize inequities. Imprecise language also signifies un-interrogated values and sloppy thinking. For all of these reasons, the use of gender-fair language is expected in this course. For example, do not use words like "mankind" or "men" when referring to people in general; alternate between "she" and "he" instead of always using "he", or construct sentences in the plural instead of the singular so you can use "they" or "them" and avoid the problem altogether.

ESL/LD Students

Course requirements can be adjusted to serve the needs and capabilities of ESL and LD students. Please speak with the primary instructor during the first two weeks of class to make arrangements. Students may be advised to attend additional sessions during the instructor’s office hours so they can draw comparable value from the course.  

Course Schedule (subject to revision)

Week 1                       Introduction: What is Progress?

August 26                    Course Introduction


August 28                    Halstead, Ted. 2003. “The American Paradox.


                                    Marx, Leo. 1987. “Does Improved Technology Mean Progress?”

                                    (TATF 1-12)

                                    Wolfe, Gene. 1996. “One-Two-Three for Me.” (Reader)

                                    Suggested Reading:

                                    Kapur, Akash. 1998. “Poor but Prosperous.



Week 2                       Technology Design & Governance 

September 2                Winner, Langdon. 1980. “Do Artifacts have Politics?” (TATF 148-164)


                                    Weinberg, Alvin. 1966. “Can Technology Replace Social Engineering?”

                                    (TATF 23-30)


September 4                Sclove, Richard. 1993. “Technological Politics as if Democracy Really Mattered.” (TATF 91-108)

                                    Woodhouse, Edward. “Sophisticated Trial and Error.” (Reader)

                                    Fiorilli, Leonard & Richard Sclove. 1997. “Technology by the People.



Week 3                       Globalization & Postindustrialization

September 9                Hardt, Michael & Antonio Negri. 2000. “Postmodernization, or the Informatization of Production.” (Reader)

                                    Diamond, David. 2002. “One Nation, Overseas.                                    

September 11              Ziauddin, Sardar. 1999. “Western Colonization of the Future.” (TATF 109-118)

                                    Klein, Naomi. 2003. “Argentina's Luddite Rulers.



Week 4                       Automation & Postindustrial Work

September 16              Zuboff, Shoshana. 1988. “In the Age of the Smart Machine.”

                                    (TATF 268-275)

                                    Rifkin, Jeremy. 1995. “Vanishing Jobs.


September 18              Schor, Juliet. 1992. Summary of The Overworked American. (Reader)

                                    Schumacher, E.F. 1973. “Buddhist Economics.” (TATF 71-77) 

Week 5                       Environmental Effects of “Clean” Technologies

September 23              Smith, Ted. 1997. “The Dark Side of High-Tech Development.                                    


                                    Doherty, Brendan. 1998. “Intel Outside.                                    


                                    Associated Press. 2002. “Chinese villages poisoned by American high-tech trash.

                                    Research your zip-code on


September 25              Center for Health, Environment, and Justice. 1998. “Love Canal: the Start of a Movement.


Chatterjee, Pratap. 1996. “USA: Intel Computer Chip Plant Tests New Environmental Rules.” (and in Reader)

                                    Intel. 2003. “Intel in your Community: Arizona Environment.                                        


Week 6                       Technology & The City

September 30              World Resources Institute. 1997. “Transportation and Land Use: Portland, Oregon.

                                    Marshall, Alex. 1996. “Putting Some 'City' Back In the Suburbs.


                                    Center for a New American Dream. 2003. “Transportation and Urban Design.


October 2                    Graham, Stephen and Simon Marvin. 1999. “Planning Cyber-Cities?


Week 7                       Surveillance Technologies 

October 7                    Clarke, Roger. 2001. “While You Were Sleeping ... Surveillance Technologies Arrived.


Lyon, David. 2002. “Surveillance Studies: understanding visibility, mobility and the phenetic fix.                                    


October 9                    Haggerty, Kevin D., and Richard V. Ericson. 2000. “The Surveillant Assemblage.” (Reader)

                                    Institute for Applied Autonomy. “i-SEE Project.” (Webbing)


Suggested Webbing:

                                    Workplace Surveillance Project.                                     


                                    EPIC Video Surveillance Information.



Week 8                       Digital Divides & Economic Development  

October 14                  Mid-term Project Due


Pitroda, Sam. 1993. “Development, Democracy and the Village Telephone.” (Reader)


                                    Yam, Jovi Tañada. 2002. “Women and the Digital Divide: Part 1 & Part 2.                                   


October 16                  Jenkins, Timothy. 1997. “Black Futurists in the Information Age.” (TATF 119-134)


                                    Hetzel, Laura. 2002. “Reservations and the Digital Divide.” (Reader)

                                    NTIA Report. 1999. “Native Americans Lacking Information Resources.


Week 9                       Technologies of Food Production

October 21                  Ayres, Ed and Alan Durning. 1994. “The History of a Cup of Coffee.” (Reader)

                                    Ayres, Ed and Alan Durning. 1995. “An Order of French Fries.” 


                                    Talbott, Stephen L. 2003. “Cheap Food at Any Cost.” (Reader)


October 23                  Schlosser, Eric. 2002. “The Most Dangerous Job.” Chapter from Fast Food Nation. (Reader)


Movement for a Socialist Future. 2003. “How corporations use 'biopiracy' to patent food.


                                    Suggested Reading:

Shand, Hope and Pat Mooney. 1998. “Terminator Seeds Threaten an End to Farming.


Week 10                     Intellectual Property & The Internet

October 28                  Lessig, Lawrence. 2001. “The Internet Under Seige.” (TATF 258-267)


Boyle, James. 1997. “A Politics of Intellectual Property: Environmentalism For the Net?                                    


October 30                  Litman, Jessica. 2002. “War Stories.

Week 11                     Nanotechnology

November 4                Mnyusiwalla, Anisa, Abdallah S. Daar, and Peter A. Singer. 2003. “‘Mind the gap’: science and ethics in nanotechnology.” (Reader)


ETC Group. 2003. “Nanotech Un-gooed!


Winner, Langdon. 2003. Congressional testimony on “The Societal Implications of Nanotechnology.

                                    Suggested Reading:

                                    Drexler, K. Eric. 1986. Engines of Creation.                                    


November 6                Joy, Bill. 2000. “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us.” (TATF 293-317)


                                    Brown, John Seely and Paul Duguid. 2000. “A Response to Bill Joy...” (TATF 318-322)


Week 12                     Hi-Tech Policing and Prisons

November 11              VETERANS DAY


November 13              Cole, Simon. 2001. “The Myth of Fingerprints.


                                    Wired. 1997. “Prisons Aim to Keep, and Keep Ahead of, Convicts.                                    

                                    Youssef, Nancy A. 2003. “Tethers may ease jail crowding, state budget.


Week 13                     Media & Democracy

November 18              Media ownership chart. 2001.


Media Access Project. 2003. “Media Consolidation/Encouraging Diversity of the Electronic Media.


                                    FAIR. 2001. “Fear & Favor 2001: How Power Shapes the News.                                    

November 20              Rich, Frank. 2003. “Penetrating the fog of the TV war.” (Reader) 


                                    Listen to one program at


Week 14                     Affluence & Overconsumption

November 25              Berner, Robert. 1997. “A Holiday Greeting the Networks Won’t Air.



Calculate your ecological footprint






November 27              THANKSGIVING

Week 15                     Gender, Sexuality & Technology

December 2                Maines, Rachel P. 1999. “The Job Nobody Wanted.” Chapter from The Technology of Orgasm. (Reader) 


                                    Barbie Liberation Organization Press.




December 4                Cussins, Charis M. 1998. “Quit Sniveling, Cryo-Baby. We’ll Work Out Which One’s Your Mama!” Chapter in Cyborg Babies. (Reader)

Week 16                     Conclusions . . .

December 9                Final Team Project Due

                                    Closing lecture and best team presentation 

© 2003 Torin Monahan