Schedule of Topics

The course is divided into three sections. In the first section, we'll do an introduction to the key ideas in the sociology of science, to lay the foundation for in-depth consideration of topics later in the course, and to give you an opportunity to consider some ideas for your research project. In the second section, we will look more closely at science as an institution of knowledge production and power. In this section, our main consideration will be the concept of civic epistemologies. We'll discuss science and power in the context of the law and politics. Finally, in section three, we will consider the role that technology plays in structuring social processes and institutions. This critical approach to sociology of science and technology emphasizes the relationship between knowledge (discourse) and power. People use science and technology to know, but also to act in the world. Science and technology can be used to advance the common good or to exacerbate inequality. Understanding how these processes work in institutions empowers us to act collectively to achieve our shared goals.

Textbooks and Readings

  • Sergio Sismondo, An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies, 2nd edition (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).
  • Sheila Jasanoff, Science and Public Reason (Earthscan/Routledge, 2012).
  • Catherine D'Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein, Data Feminism (MIT, 2020).
  • Cathy O'Neil, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy (Crown, 2016).
  • Students should read the Science section of the New York Times or Washtington Post each week. We will discuss science reporting in group activities.
  • Topics:

    @ Week 1. 8/27. Zoom meeting: Introduction to the course.

    Part I. Introduction to Science and Technology Studies
    Week 2. 9/1. Zoom meeting: ISTS 1-4. [] 9/3. Group activity 1.

    Week 3. 9/8. Zoom meeting: ISTS 5-8. [] 9/10. Group activity 2.

    Week 4. 9/15. Zoom meeting: ISTS 9-12. [] 9/17. Group activity 3.

    Week 5. 9/22. Zoom meeting: ISTS 13-17. [] 9/24. Group activity 4.

    No classes on 9/29.

    Week 6. 10/1. Zoom meeting: ISTS synthesis & first discussion of the term paper proposal.

    Part II. Science and Public Reason
    Week 7. 10/6. Zoom meeting: SPR 1-4. [] 10/8. Group activity 5.

    Week 8. 10/13. Zoom meeting: SPR 5-8. [] 10/15. Group activity 6. Due: Research project proposal.

    Week 9. 10/20. Zoom meeting: SPR 9-12. [] 10/22. Group activity 7.

    Week 10. 10/27. Zoom meeting: SPR 13-14. [] 10/29. Group activity 8.

    Part III. Algorithms and Society
    Week 11. 11/3. Zoom meeting: DF introduction, 1-3. [] 11/5. Group activity 9.

    Week 12. 11/10. Zoom meeting: DF 4-6. [] 11/12. Group activity 10. Due: Research project draft.

    Week 13. 11/17. Zoom meeting: DF 7, conclusion. [] 11/19. Group activity 11.

    Week 14. 11/24. Zoom meeting: WMD introduction, 1-2.

    No classes on 11/26.

    Week 15. 12/1. Zoom meeting: WMD 5-7. [] 12/3. Group activity 12.

    Week 16. 12/8. Zoom meeting: WMD 8-10, conclusion.

    Due: Research project, final version, 12/14. The final edited version of the term paper represents the final exam for this class. Comments closed on 12/18.