HUMN 344 7980 Technology and Culture_ Discussion Questions

Week One Discussions

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Readings:

Ralph Waldo Emerson: Works and Days

Study Question:

1. First, provide a basic definitions of “culture” and “technology.” Identify at least one possible problem with the definition of technology commonly used in the culture where you live.

2. What does Emerson mean when he writes that “invention breeds invention”? Are we better off, according to Emerson and to you, as a result of technological innovations?

Initial discussion posts are due by Thursday at 11:30PM ET and at least three responses to fellow classmates are expected by the end of the week on Sunday by 11:30PM ET.

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Week Two Discussions

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Week Two Discussions

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Readings:

Adam Smith: Wealth of Nations: READ pp.12-14 and 602-605 (refer to number at bottom of pages)

Karl Marx: The Strife Between Workman and Machine

Study Question:

  1. Is there a single historical moment or invention that seems especially important to your life right now?  Why?  Be as specific as possible.
  2. Explain at least one way that Smith is optimistic and pessimistic about technology and the division of labor. Would Smith and Karl Marx agree on the relation between machine and worker in capitalism? If yes, why so. If not, why not. What is your position on at least one of the issues raised by one of these philosophers?

Initial discussion posts are due by Thursday at 11:30PM ET and at least three responses to fellow classmates are expected by the end of the week on Sunday by 11:30PM ET.

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Week Three Discussions

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Week Three Discussions

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Readings:

Ruth Schwartz Cowan: How the Refrigerator Got its Hum

Study Question:

1. Is there a single aspect of technology you use in your everyday life that you are skeptical about or dislike? Explain.  Is there a single aspect of technology that you are especially grateful about? Explain.

2. What are the main factors at play in the gas versus electric refrigerator story by Cowan? What is Cowan’s main conclusion in the section “The Profit Motive and the Alternative Machine”? Explain. Do you think the “profit motive” is similarly at work in other fields of technology today (stem cell, nano-technology, etc.)?

Initial discussion posts are due by Thursday at 11:30PM ET and at least three responses to fellow classmates are expected by the end of the week on Sunday by 11:30PM ET.

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Week Four Discussions

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Week Four Discussions

Readings:

John Bargh and Katelyn McKenna: The Internet and Social Life

Study Question:

1. What is the main effect of technology on the political or social life in your region? Be sure to explain clearly what you mean by “your region.”

2. What ethical concerns do you find that are particularly important in the research, reported by the Bargh and McKenna’s article, on how the Internet affects interpersonal interaction? Why do Bargh and McKenna suggest that trust is a key element in Internet usage? Do you agree with them? Which additional ethical issue, among those provided in the list of our weekly readings, do you believe to be particularly important for us, today, and for our culture?

Initial discussion posts are due by Thursday at 11:30PM ET and at least three responses to fellow classmates are expected by the end of the week on Sunday by 11:30PM ET.

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Week Five Discussions

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Week Five Discussions

Readings:

Langdon Winner: Do Artifacts Have Politics?

Study Question:

1. Do you think social media is beneficial or harmful? Explain. Focus your response on your immediate personal and professional sphere. Be as specific as you possibly can.

2. Explain, in your own words, at least one of Winner’s examples of political technology. You will see that he will distinguish between two kinds of politics in technology. Make sure you explain why your example is part of one or the other. Also, comment on the claims in Winner’s last paragraph. Provide at least one reason why you think he is right or wrong. What is your position on at least one of the issues raised by this philosopher?

Initial discussion posts are due by Thursday at 11:30PM ET and at least three responses to fellow classmates are expected by the end of the week on Sunday by 11:30PM ET.

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Week Six Discussions

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Week Six Discussions

Readings:

John Markoff: The Rapid Advance of Artificial Intelligence

Study Question:

1. Is there a single technology that is widely used today that will be marginalized or disappear in the next twenty years?   Identify very carefully this technology and try to supply an image or video of it if you can.

2. Briefly summarize the main advances of artificial intelligence, as reported by The New York Times article, by John Markoff (see The Rapid Advance of Artificial Intelligence). Do you think these advances are more or less likely to be beneficial for the next generations? Consider at least one advantage and one disadvantage.

Initial discussion posts are due by Thursday at 11:30PM ET and at least three responses to fellow classmates are expected by the end of the week on Sunday by 11:30PM ET.

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Week Seven Discussions

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Week Seven Discussions

Readings:

Bill Joy: Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us

Ray Kurzweil: Promise and Peril

Study Question:

1. At present, what is at least one major difference in the use of technology between two different regions of the world (continents, nations, or cultures)? Explain.

2. What is Luddism and what is Joy and Kurzweil’s position on it? Is technology inevitably a double-edged sword, according to Joy and Kurzweil? Whose line of reasoning do you find more convincing, Joy’s or Kurzweil’s? Why?

Initial discussion posts are due by Thursday at 11:30PM ET and at least three responses to fellow classmates are expected by the end of the week on Sunday by 11:30PM ET.

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