Course Meeting Times
Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session
In this class we ask two big questions. First, what is "technology"? Second, how has the set of activities to which we commonly give this label shaped human relations among ourselves and with the rest of the natural world?
We focus on four fundamental transformations in these relations: the emergence of humankind as a history-making species; of agriculture-based civilizations; of productive systems based on fossil fuels; and of "human empire" dominated by human presence and power.
In each unit we will study, among other things, technologies as media of expression and communication; connections among technological, political, and military power; the concept of "technological revolutions"; and the role of imagination, beliefs, and values both in inspiring and in being shaped by technological creativity.
Because MIT is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2011, we will focus on connections between MIT as an institution and technology in the history of the last 150 years.
Requirements and Grading
|ACTIVITIES ||PERCENTAGES |
|Check-off writing assignments (one-page, not graded) ||15% |
|Oral presentations and discussions ||15% |
|Quizzes ||20% |
|4 papers (one paper must be revised, others may be; 4-5 pp. each, to total 20 pages including a longer revised paper) ||40% |
|Revised paper ||10% |
This course is a Communications Intensive HASS (CI-H) subject. Students are required to have two meetings with the class Writing Advisor.
Christian, David. Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History. University of California Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780520244764. [Preview with Google Books]
Hersey, John. Hiroshima. Vintage, 1989 [originally published in The New Yorker, 1946]. ISBN: 9780679721031.
Additional readings will be assigned from other sources.
|LEC # ||TOPICS ||IN-CLASS ACTIVITIES & KEY DATES |
|Unit 1: Humankind as a History-making Species |
|1 ||Introduction to class and key concepts ||In class exercise: Maps of time |
|2 ||What is technology? What is history (and prehistory)? (Visitor: Prof. Leo Marx) ||Writing (check-off): Question for Professor Marx |
|3 ||Technology in prehistory: cave art ||Discuss paper 1 assignment |
|4 ||Technology in "prehistory" || |
Writing (check-off): Where is "technology" in The Clan of the Cave Bear?
Group discussions and presentations on reading
|5 ||Historical Analogies ||Paper 1 due |
|Unit 2: Civilizations Based on Agriculture |
|6 ||The Neolithic Revolution || |
|7 ||Introduction to MIT's 150th anniversary: class visit to MIT archives ||Writing (check-off): Questions for Archivists |
|8 ||Discuss visit to Archives ||First mandatory meeting with writing advisor by this date |
|9 ||Civilizations and Empires (part two) ||Discuss paper 2 assignment |
|10 ||Technohistorical Revolutions (part one) || |
|11 ||Technohistorical Revolutions (part two) ||Paper 2 due |
|12 ||Agrarian Civilizations (part one): megalithic agrarian civilizations ||Quiz on reading and lectures/discussions to date |
|13 ||Agrarian Civilizations (part two): the Roman Empire as an agrarian civilization || |
|Unit 3: Civilizations Based on Fossil Fuels |
|14 ||The Industrial Revolution || |
|15 ||Visit to MIT Museum ||Writing (check-off): Questions about your MIT topic for museum hosts |
|16 ||The Second Industrial Revolution (part one) || |
Paper 3 due
Oral reports on paper 3 topics
|17 ||The Second Industrial Revolution (part two) ||Oral report on paper 3 topics (continued) |
|Unit 4: Human Empire |
|18 ||The Second Industrial Revolution (part three) ||Discuss Marx-Engels & Schivelbusch reading |
|19 ||The Second Industrial Revolution (part four) ||Group discussions and presentations: Comments on Marx-Engels & Schivelbusch reading |
|20 || |
From Industry to Battlefield
Chemical Engineering at MIT
|Finish group and individual oral reports |
|21 ||Ground Zero (part one) || |
Discussion of Hersey, Hiroshima, and "Ground Zero" from Visualizing Cultures
Second mandatory meeting with writing advisor by this date
|22 ||Ground Zero (part two) || |
Fourth paper due: comments on Hersey, Hiroshima (default mode); other topics acceptable with permission
Review for quiz
|23 ||Looking Back and Beyond: General review of MIT 150 ||Quiz |
|24 ||Looking Back and Beyond: Presentations and discussion on "what is the role of technology in history?" || |
|25 ||Looking Back and Beyond: Presentations and discussion on "what is the role of technology in history?" ||Revised paper due: Student choice as to which one |