This module teaches students to critically analyse and assess the influence of science and technology on humans and society from a philosophical perspective. It does so by acquainting students with the main approaches and theories in the history of philosophy, focusing on science and technology and their social roles. But rather than merely studying the philosophical tradition in itself, or aiming to understand technology in general, the focus will be on developing the ability to make philosophical analyses of specific technologies and technological practices. The module will reflect on the ways in which technological artefacts and practices give shape to, and are themselves shaped by, our society and culture. It will also study normative aspects of technologies and their correlated social and cultural impacts. The module combines perspectives and insights from philosophy with technical disciplines in a so-called Philosophy of Technology Lab, a formula which has proved itself fruitful in the PSTS master programme.
1. Philosophical Theories and Methods
This component introduces students to various approaches and methods within philosophy and lays a basis for the other themes. It discusses philosophers and philosophical methods that are relevant and significant throughout the module, including analytical, hermeneutical and applied empirical methods.
2. Cyborgs, Hybrids and Posthumans
This component focuses on how technology influences and constitutes human nature and human existence. In this context we will study how technologies have always challenged traditional convictions and how emerging technologies are blurring the boundaries between humans and machines. The rapid development of mind and body enhancing technologies and their influence on human faculties such as rationality, self-consciousness, agency, and autonomy is another important topic of inquiry in this component.
3. Technology, Ethics and Society
This component focuses on contemporary social and ethical problems and the role of technology in these problems. It asks how technology has both positive and negative influences on society, how we can ethically and politically evaluate technologies, and how technologies can be designed and used differently to solve these problems so as to create a society with more justice, democracy, freedom, and well-being.
4. Knowledge as epistemic tool This component aims at a better understanding of the internal dynamics of scientific research in technological application contexts, with a focus on epistemological issues. It is concerned not only with the acquisition and validation of scientific knowledge, but also with its uses in technological design. The design for a cathedral, for example, is not a drawing or photo of an already existing 3 building. Instead, it is an ‘epistemic tool’ constructed for epistemic uses such as, making calculations, thinking of how to build it, and planning the building-process.
5. Project: Philosophy of Technology Lab
In this module students learn about typical patterns in innovation processes, they learn how society and technology affect each other, and how policy and other societal actors may actively intervene in these processes. These questions are addressed from an interdisciplinary social science perspective combining insights from science and technology studies, policy studies and history.
The module consists of four thematic components which build on each other. In parallel, students work on a project in which they apply the gained insights to a particular innovation or innovation field. The last two weeks are dedicated to finishing the project.
1. Innovation and Social Change This thematic component builds the ground by acquainting students with a basic understanding, core concepts and theory on the interrelated dynamics of innovation and social change. This includes for instance recurring patterns along the ‘journey’ a new technology may take from development to becoming embedded in user’s practices and broader socio-technical environments, and the roles of different actor groups therein. Furthermore, students learn how this can affect social practices or society more broadly. Both contemporary and historical examples will be used for illustration.
2. Prospecting and Assessing Technology
The knowledge gained feeds into reflections on possible ways to anticipate on the further development of technologies and their embedding into society. Furthermore, students learn about the (often) strategic role of expectations and promises in research and innovation, and their dynamics – e.g. hype disappointment cycles. Finally, we ask how technologies (in the making) can be assessed and how such insights can be fed back into technology development and design.
3. Governance of Science, Technology and Innovation
Building on the understanding of innovation processes, the third thematic component addresses the question how research and innovation, up to socio-technical change, can be (managed and) governed and by whom. Students will learn about possible policy instruments and approaches. What are their options and limitations? And how can these be used to foster responsible ways of research and innovation?
4. Governance of Problems in Science-Policy Interaction
The fourth thematic component shifts the perspective from inquiring about the role of governance for science and technology to the role of science, technology and scientific expertise in policy-making, or governance more broadly. This includes learning about the types of societal and policy problems we encounter, frictions between the
5. Project Each project group chooses a particular innovation to focus on, suggested by the teachers or the students, and a research question which will guide the project work. All projects consist of an analytical part and a ‘design’ part, suggesting a recommendation to a specific ‘client’ based on the analysis. Examples of types of projects:
To apply for an exchange programme, you will have to follow these seven steps:
1. Pre-application phase: 6 - 4 months before arrival
2. Nomination: 6 - 3 months before arrival
3. Application phase: 6 - 3 months before arrival
4. Assessment phase: 4 - 2 months before arrival
5. Acceptance or rejection: 3 - 2 months before arrival
6. Preparation to arrival phase: 3 - 1 month(s) before arrival
7. Upon arrival and during your stay at the UT