We are familiar with the existence of art criticism and literary criticism, but, despite the importance of science and technology in today’s society, “science criticism” is not a widely accepted enterprise. With the goal of promoting a wider range of engagements in science and technology, this course uses a Project Based Learning (PBL) format to stimulate interdisciplinary inquiry, pedagogical, conceptual and practical innovation, and epistemological self-consciousness. The projects are designed to put into play a range of different kinds of resources, which include:
- the diverse interests, skills, commitments, and passions of the instructors and the students
- annotated bibliographies, syllabi, and review essays—especially material contributed by feminist, anti-racist, and other critical analysts of science and technology
- the rich personal and intellectual connections made easier in this internet age
- the instructors’ experience in stretching students and themselves beyond disciplinary and conceptual boundaries, especially as they concern race and gender
- various course routines with related tools and processes
PBL is an approach that allows you to shape your own directions of inquiry and develop your skills as investigators and prospective teachers. At the same time, the PBL projects engage your critical faculties as you learn to contextualize science, especially as they address or suppress gender and racial difference, and especially as can be discerned by reading and analysis of texts—whether in science, social studies of science, or science fiction. The projects address different areas of life and environmental sciences, but are sequenced so as to first lead you into practice with the interpretation of the cultural dimensions of science. Building on that, we contrast the imaginaries of fiction writers with those of scientists and science-emphasizing commentators, and then address the complexity of promises, fears, and claims being made about genetics in this evolving digital era. In the final course project, you develop a personal plan to foster the development of others in their learning about the issues raised in this course, and to practice some of what you plan. This is an opportunity to develop your own projects for teaching, prepare grant proposals for further inquiry or activist engagement, or construct syllabi around topics in feminist and critical studies of science and technology.
Throughout the semester we navigate between two tendencies. On one side, there will be divergent, reticulating explorations of the implications that each of you draw from the project descriptions. On the other side, you will have to discipline these explorations so as to generate the final product specified in each project description. In that navigation, you address the bodies of substantive knowledge most relevant to your individual inquiries (guided by review essays in anthologies/handbooks, original scientific literature and informants identified by the instructors) and translate that knowledge into terms digestible by others with different levels of expertise around diverse (sometimes divergent) bodies of knowledge. You also navigate between generating a product for each project and practicing processes of close reading, reflection, dialogue, and articulation of identities. These different aspects of the course experience are animated by the challenging question of how each of us prepares for ongoing inquiry that troubles the boundaries of knowledge production in the academy and sciences. This last question is an obvious one for interdisciplinary work, but it also applies in any area of specialization that wants to stay relevant as the wider social context changes over time
The PBL format of the course provides an opportunity to re-engage with yourself as an avid learner and inquirer. What makes this re-engagement possible is a combination of:
- the tools and processes used during the course for close reading of texts, inquiry, dialogue, reflection, and collaboration
- the connections you make among the diverse participants who bring diverse interests, skills, knowledge, experience, and aspirations to the course
- our contributions to the topics laid out in the scenarios from which each project-based learning project begins
Reflection on this re-engagement feeds into the final project, in which you plan for your own ongoing learning that enables you to “trouble the boundaries of knowledge production in the academy and sciences, especially as they concern race and gender.” The PBL approach taken in this course makes the schedule of classes look incomplete—it doesn’t meet conventional expectations of weekly topics, readings, and pre-defined assignments. But the essence of the course is that we make the road as we travel. Expect this offering— this workshop-style collaboration of students—to result in a unique construction. This said, there is a definite set of routines that make up the class sessions and other learning interactions in the course—blog, check-in, one shared focal reading per week, workshop, presentations, annotations, dialogue around written work, peer commentary, and a private learning journal.