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STS 181: Techno-metabolism: technology and society in the Anthropocene

The technosphere metabolizes energy, materials, and information to feed human consumption. It transforms not only fossil fuels, but also solar energy, through processes such as photosynthesis (agriculture), wind, and hydroelectric power. The technosphere also metabolizes information, ingesting some kinds of data as inputs and producing other data as outputs. Techno-metabolism's waste products-greenhouse gases, microplastics, nuclear waste, etc. - are transforming both the biosphere and the geosphere, with radically different effects on disparate peoples and places. Scientists, historians, and others have proposed new ways to conceptualize techno-metabolism in order to reduce energy requirements and material waste. Meanwhile, "data exhaust" - the "waste" data generated by individual activity, from web searches to Facebook and Instagram - is increasingly "recycled" to detect patterns, trends, and individual preferences. Can data exhaust be harnessed to tame the technosphere's destructive effects? Course assignments include readings and group projects that creatively visualize the interplay of energy, materials and information in the radical inequality of the technosphere.
Terms: Spr | Units: 3-5 | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)
Instructors: Edwards, P. (PI)
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