My teaching is focused on Science and Technology Studies (STS), Ethnography & Archival Methods, and breeds of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI and CSCW).
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Foundations of Science and Technology Studies
A PhD level survey of STS.
Experts speak in the name of our societies' most powerful institutions, such as science, engineering, medicine, and finance. They make and disseminate knowledge and technologies, shaping how we all see and act in the world. How have experts come to play such an important role in our society and what are the consequences?
This course is an introduction to Science and Technology Studies (STS), a lively interdisciplinary field dedicated to studying the social worlds of experts. We will draw from approaches such as the sociology of knowledge, actor-network theory and social shaping of technology in order understand today's most challenging issues, such as climate change, financial crises or revolutions in biotechnology.
This is ‘classic’ seminar style course, focused on discussing close readings of key texts. The course begins from STS’ foundations in sociology, philosophy and history and works its way forward through the advances and debates in topics, concepts and methods to arrive at the contemporary field. The final project is a group based literature review of a new or old topic, issue, theory, or method within STS.
Ethnographic and Archival Research: A Grounded Theory Approach
A hands-on grounded theory course driven by student research projects.
This is a hands-on qualitative data analysis course. It is designed to give students an introductory opportunity to produce their own, original grounded theory research. What is grounded theory? Put simply, it is research methodology that insists that theory be built from the “ground up,” paying close attention to members’ categories but generating analytical concepts which give broader meaning to the data. It is principally a theory-building methodology, rather than a theory-testing one. This is be a very practical course: we will learn coding, constant comparison, memoing, and the generation of central substantive concepts. We will also learn 'tricks' for researching things that are hard to study like technologies, multisited activities or very large organizaitons.
** In order to attend this course you must be engaged in an empirical research project, and you will be expected to bring data to class regularly. Data may be interview, transcribed video, thick ethnographic notes, archival, historical and so on. We will collectively analyze and code each others’ projects. **
Though you will get to know the philosophical underpinnings for grounded theory and its basic characteristics, everything in this course culminates in your writing up a piece of grounded theory in a substantive area of interest to you.
Infrastructure Studies: Knowledge, Power and Distribution
Infrastructure from the perspective of STS, organizational theory, and a selection of other luminary fields.
There is a great deal of ‘political heat’ hidden within the infrastructures that support our daily activity, e.g., where does our water supply come from? Where does our garbage go? And what are our search engines leaving out? This course will focus on literature drawn from organizational studies, history of technology, and science studies regarding the concept of infrastructure: we will focus on classic infrastructures such as roads and power lines; invisible infrastructures such as those that enable the production of art; and new information infrastructures such as the Internet. While infrastructure quickly becomes invisible and appears dull, in this course we will seek to unearth the controversies in their construction and maintenance. Topics will include standardization and classification; flexibility and extensibility; invisibility and black-boxing; and understanding infrastructure in relation to lived practice. Specific case studies in power lines, transportation and development of the internet will sensitize us to the particularities of infrastructures in context – thus, there is something general to be learned about infrastructure and still more that is always local.
Technology and Human Action
Inspecting ‘modern classics’ of technology studies with a focus on their methodologies.
This course will focus on qualitative research approaches to the study of use, design and consequences of technologies. Topics will include: How to study technology and materiality? How do we research action, conversation and discourse around technology? And how do we qualitatively study large-scale technologies such as infrastructure? Qualitative research, as defined in this course, will be based primarily on ethnography, interviews and document analysis; however, this will not be a hands-on methods course. Rather, our goal in this course will be to learn how to use such approaches to generate researchable objects. We will explore mundane everyday technologies like the photocopier, and monumental technologies like the space shuttle; ‘hard technologies’ such as automobiles and ‘soft technologies’ such as software. To address these topics we will closely read ‘canonical qualitative studies’ (primarily in grounded theory, ethnomethodology and actor-network theory), and ask: how have we made technology in action empirically researchable?