S576: Technology and Contemporary Life
The Rhode Island School of Design, Wintersession 2003
Notes, January 16th -- Roger B. Blumberg

Technolophilia and its Discontents

Introduction: (How) Does Technology Transform?

Last week Salon.com reprinted an AP story about a secondary school in the UK that had decided to use retinal scans (rather than cards or cash) to charge students for their lunch. On the face of it (sorry), this might seem just an oddity: a strangely high-tech solution to a low-tech problem. But in its goal of equity, the application seems to raise a number of good questions not so far from those that occupy Ullman and Ellul. What is your reaction to this story? What are some technologies that have transformed schools and schooling in the US; and on what basis can/should we distinguish technologies that "belong" in schools from those that don't?

Ellen Ullman's Close to the Machine, chapters 5-9

We'll begin with students' presentations of the final chapters of Ullman's book, and eventually discuss how/whether it sets the stage for the sorts of questions/issues raised by The Technological Society.

Jacques Ellul's The Technological Society

The contrast between Ellul's prose and Ullman's narrative is striking (and perhaps annoying), so before we discuss the details of the arguments in Ellul's book let's consider some very elementary questions:

For Next Time: Finish chapters 1 and 2 in Jacques Ellul's The Technological Society and, if time permits, begin reading Benjamin's essay.

Back to the Syllabus

© 2003 Roger B. Blumberg