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COMM 121S: The Human Relationship with Machines

This course will survey ways in which people have thought about machines, in social and moral terms, from the late 18th century to the mid-20th century. Students will read mostly primary and secondary historical sources, originally published among industrial countries including France, Holland, England, Germany, and the United States, that illustrate major points of contention between actors brought into contact with one another through machine technologies. By the end of the course, students will have a greater understanding of the particular stances taken toward machines throughout modernity, how communication between people during this period has been shaped and occasioned by machines, the variety of forms taken by that communication, and what this history could mean for the role played by machines in our own lives. Topics include the censorship of Julien Offray de la Mettrie, automata and industrialization in 18th century England, the English and French Luddite movements, the literary dystopias of Samuel Butler and Charles Dickens, the American machine breakers movement, Taylorism and technocracy, and the post-war perspectives of Norbert Wiener and Martin Heidegger.
Terms: not given this year | Units: 3 | Grading: Letter or Credit/No Credit
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