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History of Technology: Tools of Toil

Homework    By answering these questions you can begin to write the papers in the class.

What is Technology: just what evidence is there that people understand it?

These questions relate to our initial inquiry:

Have we invested more in our symbols of technology than they can promise us in satisfying our hunger for contentment, comfort and convenience?

The history of tool use and technological innovation is a global enterprise reflecting an expression of everything that is human, according to Carroll Pursell, author of White Heat and The Machine in America.

Assignments | Calendar | Texts | Grades | readings

Syllabus details

Required Reading:

Carroll Pursell, White Heat. Berkeley: U C Press, 1994.

Arnold Pacey, Technology In World Civilization (TWC). Boston: MIT Press, 1990.

Mark E. Eberhart , Why Things Break. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.

Neil Postman, Technopoly. . .

C. P, Snow, The Two Cultures

Michio Kaku, Visions. . . .

Edward Tenner, Why Things Bite Back. . .


Arnold Pacey, Meaning in Technology, Cambridge, MIT Press, 2001.

Don DeLillo, White Noise, NYC: Penguin, 1992.




the value of the assignments

Use your notes and homework answers to the above questions in your essays.

I ask you to meet with me individually, at least once or twice in the term, to discuss your project's progress.

The project should be based on use of the Olin library, or College Archives (Olin lower floor) & Government Documents (Olin “1st” floor) where we as a group will visit to supplement themes derived from your readings. All work must be referenced.

You are expected to do your own work and to give proper credit to others for using their ideas. Your failure to responsibly attribute ideas, phrases and sentences of others by a note in the text -- called plagiarism-- is grounds for getting a zero on your assignment, because you have committed fraud. Trust is the basis of academic life.

For every hour in class I expect you to study for three to four hours because I reward your hard work and revising your assignments for clearer descriptions and logical arguments.

Name of assignment                                due                           description

An interview of several different types of people asking them what they think technology is and does. Questions and responses are written up and a three page types summary of what the respondents said. 9-15: 4 to 5 pages (typed) with a table of the names, ages, gender, occupation and length of the interviews ( minimum should be 30 minute interviews).

All Essays consist of drafted and redrafted formal assignments based on all the readings. The papers may be taken to the writing center, reviewed with a consultant at least twice per essay, then typed, in 10 point, Times New Roman or Arial font, 27 lines to a page, with 1” margins. All pages must be numbered and you must have sources correctly cited for me to accept the essay for grading.

 First Essay            10/4: 5 pages (typed)      How complex is Technology? And does the convergence of technologies play a role in sustaining our lives and our contentment?

Using evidence from Pursell, Pacey, & Postman, and defining three facets of tools.

 Second Essay       11/7: A typed, 7 page essay that is a comparison & contrast of Pacey’s, Postman’s, Kaku’s, Tenner's, Eberhart’s & Kranzberg’s arguments demonstrating your ability to distinguish between analysis of factual data as opposed to opinions in the news. The essay should address what makes any technological change a serious problem?.

Mid-term               10/11-18: Dramatic Debate is a demonstration of your capacity to interpret selections from all the books based on a rehearsed oral presentation of the argument in C. P. Snow's Two Cultures. You should pay particular attention to characteristics of good public speaking. 4 pages typed, 1st page: outlined points & text references, 2d page is a diagram of the three facets of technology specific to your tool’s focus as handout and a 2 page explanation. As you discuss Snow, demonstrate your understanding of four aspects or three facets of tools and how they promote or retard progress?

The themes you discuss here at the midterm in relation to Snow's essay may be used with further development and relation to all the books for your final essay and summary of that as a verbal presentation at the final exam?

Late work is unacceptable & will be penalized.  Missing assignments count as a zero.

Syllabus details


The focus of this class is how technology, particularly the tools we use, help to identify who we are, what we believe, how well we live and to what degree the entire world is created, maintained by and infused by mechanical, technical, automated and manual systems of tools.

Last class day, December 4, Exam December 12; 5-7 PM, 2008.

My schedule

Technology Defined


Tools of Toil: what to read.
Tools are historical building blocks of technology.

Assignments | Calendar | Texts | Grades | Technology Content

Syllabus details