STS.012 Science in Action: Technologies and Controversies in Everyday Life

When controversies about science and technology emerge, they bring to light points of friction between science, society and politics. The recent US presidential elections revealed some such divisive frictions within American society – when differing views on climate change, abortion, vaccines and autism proved decisive in the outcome of the race.


In this course, we study a range of such controversies and explore disagreements about the role of technology, the nature of scientific research and the place of politics in science. For example, we explore ongoing debates about climate change, digital piracy and privacy, unaffordable healthcare, fetal rights, MRIs as evidence, the determinism of genes, the impact of race and gender on research, and so on.

By examining such controversies before they come to be resolved, we discover science and technology in action, in a dynamic relation with social life and cultural ideas, changing them and in turn, being changed by them. Class materials draw from humanities and social science research, ethnographic fieldwork, films and science podcasts, as well as experimental multimedia.