This course asks three questions: What is technology? What is research? And how does technology aid research? These three questions beg a fourth: how can we spend a semester on three questions? Well, the answers to each of these questions may seem apparent, but think about them for more than a few seconds and you’ll be hard pressed to offer a satisfactory answer. The term technology conjures images of recent, micro-processors, robots, or the Internet. But think deeper about the term’s meaning for a moment and you’ll see that such ancient, elemental things as mathematics and the alphabet are technologies, too. Likewise, you’ll find that something we have all done before—research—is an opaque and contestable term. The question of research gets at the very processes through which knowledge is produced. Even though we’ll deeply consider the concept of technology and the concept of research, this course will primarily be a space in which to actively and collaboratively practice using technology to do research and present results. This course is, at heart, a methodological practicum. We will study the history and structure of technology and research, but while studying that history and structure we will do research using technology. To gain an appreciation of the history of technology and the historical practice of research we will explore technologies both old and new. Yes, we’ll use the latest and greatest digital tools such as TEI, Gephi, Qualtrics, Scalar, wikis, arcGIS, and Twitter, but we’ll also transcribe manuscripts using candlelight, conduct foundational research with Enlightenment-era dictionaries and encyclopedias, and program an early computers using hand-punched cards—all in an effort to better understand the process of research and the elemental structures of technology. This course is hands on, participatory, and collaborative and includes “weekly making” in-class projects and five field trips, including visits to the Penn Museum, the Kislak Center, the Archives of American Philosophical Association, the ENIAC at the School of Engineering, and the Institutional Review Board. By the end of this course you will be able to construct a methodological plan for a sociological or historical research project and will have an expansive tool kit of analog and digital technologies that to help you conduct research in future courses and your future careers.
Day and Time: 
Cross Listings: 
  • STSC364401
  • Major/Minor requirements fulfilled: Seminar