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Unit information: Science, Technology and Social Values in 2015/16

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Unit name Science, Technology and Social Values
Unit code SPAI30015
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Downer
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will explore the sociological insights into the construction and maintenance of scientific knowledge and technical expertise. Using insights and examples from the field of science and technology studies (STS), History and Philosophy of Science (HPS), and Sociology of Scientific Knowledge (SSK) literatures, this unit will offer a critical exploration of the nature of expert authority, as well as of science’s relations with the state, democracy; authority; technological disaster, and security. Particular attention will be paid to STS theoretical insights into the social production of scientific knowledge and the social shaping of technology, the significance of which will be examined in light of historical and contemporary examples.

Unit aims:

  • To extend students’ appreciation for the limits of expertise and the breadth of social influence;
  • To provide both a theoretical and empirically based understanding of the role of science, technology and expertise in democratic decision-making
  • To develop the ability to apply theoretical concepts to past and current controversies involving scientific or technical knowledge-claims.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On the completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a nuanced understanding of key concepts and approaches associated with Science and Technology Studies;
  2. Offer detailed exegesis of major thinkers and in the field of STS and their respective approach/method;
  3. Critically engage in key debates across the field of STS and understand their relevance for contemporary socio-political debates; and
  4. Apply key theoretical concepts to the analysis of a specific technology, past or present.

Teaching Information

1-hour lecture, 2-hour seminar

Assessment Information

750 word Research proposal (0%) 3000 Research Paper (100%) Both assessments assess all Learning Outcomes

Reading and References

  • Collins, Harry & Pinch, Trevor (1993) The Golem: What Everyone Should Know About Science. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge
  • Collins Harry. & Pinch, Trevor (1998). The Golem at Large: What You Should Know About Technology. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge
  • Latour, Bruno (1987) Science in action: how to follow scientists and engineers through society. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, (Mass.)
  • MacKenzie, Donald (1996) Knowing Machines: essays on technical change. MIT press, Cambridge (Mass.)
  • MacKenzie, Donald, & Wajcman, Judy (eds) (2nd edition) (1999) The Social Shaping of Technology Open University Press, Buckingham.