Semester-Long Research Project -- "Ethnography of Technology"

Sociology 430 [T]
Society and Technology

David A. Sonnenfeld, Ph.D.
Washington State University, Tri-Cities
Fall 2002

Part I. Ethnography (Weeks 1-8)

Begin this assignment now. Select an aspect of your life (home, work, community, etc.) where you, members of your family, co-workers, or others engage with one particular technology. A one-paragraph (typed, double-spaced) description of your proposed research topic is due in class on Fri., Sept. 13.  In Week 4, we will have an in-class discussion of topics. 

Once your topic has been approved, keep daily notes and reflections about that technology and people’s interaction with it. How are people involved in creating that technology? In modifying or using it according to their needs? How does using that technology, or perhaps even its very existence, change the lives of the individuals interacting with it? Of other people?

Commencing in Week 7, prepare a "working paper" summarizing your chosen focus, observations, reflections and conclusions. This working paper is due in class on Wed., Oct. 16. It should be c. 5-8 pp., typed, double-spaced, well-organized and well-written, with your daily notes appended to it. Students will give brief informal presentations on their work in-progress that same day.

Part II. Technology in Context (Weeks 9-14)

Extend your study to include available data on the history of the technology you selected. Where was it developed? By whom? Under what conditions? How, where, by whom, and under what conditions is it manufactured today? How is your (or your family members', co-workers' or others') use of the technology affected by the character of its production, and vice versa?

Part III. Final Paper & Presentation

Your final research paper should integrate your ethnographic observations, historical research and theoretical studies.  Frame your empirical findings with a thoughtful discussion of one or more of the theoretical issues discussed in the class and class readings

Abstract, detailed outline, and bibliography for the final paper are due in class Wed., Nov. 15.  Students will make formal, in-class presentations on their projects, Dec. 9-11.  Final papers are due no later than noon, Mon., Dec. 16.  Papers should be c. 12-15 pp. (typed, double-spaced) in length, and include citations and references as appropriate.

last updated December 17, 2002