Course Meeting Times
1 session / week, 1 hour / session
1 session / week, 2 hours / session
Each session is either used as a lecture (discussion) or a lab, but which session is used for which purpose changes weekly.
The Experimental Study Group (ESG) is an alternative academic program that offers experimental, small group learning in the core freshmen subjects within a community-based setting. This course, as part of the ESG Seminar Series, offers students the opportunity to participate in a small discussion-based class taught by an MIT upperclassman under the guidance of a faculty supervisor. Students James Rising (S.B. ‘05, Philosophy) and Amilio Aviles (S.B. ‘03, Aero-Astro) taught this seminar, loosely supervised by ESG faculty. Seminars taught in this format are all graded Pass/Fail and receive 1/2 of the academic credit assigned to regular academic classes.
Culture Tech evolved from a more extensive, two-semester course which formed the centerpiece of the Integrated Studies Program at MIT. For 13 years, ISP was an alternative first-year program combining humanities, physics, learning-by-doing, and weekly luncheons. Culture Tech represents the core principles of ISP distilled into a 6-unit seminar. Although many collections of topics have been used over the years, the modules presented here are a representative sequence.
This class is divided into a series of sections or “modules,” each of which concentrates on a large technology-related topic in a cultural context. We will use most of two modules previously developed by the ISP program for depth and parts of three others for variety. The class starts with a four-week module on Samurai Swords and Blacksmithing, followed by smaller units on Chinese Cooking, the Invention of Clocks, and Andean Weaving, and ends with a four-week module on Automobiles and Engines.
There are two class meetings per week, at which assigned readings and related topics are discussed. In addition, there will be a series of hands-on projects that tie theory and practice together. The discussions range across anthropology, history, and individual development, emphasizing recurring themes, such as the interaction between technology and culture and the relations between “skill” knowledge and “craft” knowledge.
The 6 units for this class are divided as follows:
- Meeting Times - 3 hours per week, divided into one 1-hour meeting and one 2-hour meeting
- Reading - 2 hours per week, or about 40 pages per week
- Writing - 1 hour per week, or a total of about 10 pages for the semester
The writing is split up into one 4-5 page paper, one 2-3 page paper, and a series of evaluation topic questions to help us track students’ reading. The papers are largely on topics of the students’ choice. The topic questions ask for short answers (1-2 paragraphs) which require information from the readings, and will be administered (as take-home assignments) every week or two.
This list is organized as a sequence of class meetings (of which each two make a week). Each class time has associated readings and discussion. Citations and questions for the readings and details about lab activities can be found on each module page.
|The Samurai Sword and Blacksmithing|
|1||Introduction to Japan|
|3||The samurai’s cultural origins|
|4||The code of the samurai|
|5||Zen and the samurai|
|6||Civil war and unification|
|7||Giving up the gun|
|8||The Tokugawa state|
|Chinese Cooking and Food|
|9||The context of Chinese food|
|10||The interplay between Chinese food and culture|
|John Harrison and Clocks|
|11||Harrison and the longitude problem|
|12||Clock design issues and engineering|
|13||Peruvian textiles and culture|
|15||Peruvian textile techniques|
|16||Textiles and their functions|
|Automobiles and Engines|
|17||Early history of the automobile|
|18||Engine design and engineering|
|20||American rites of passage|
|21||Fast food and American culture|
|22||Scientific thinking, Zen, and motorcycles|
|23||Cultural change and progress|