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BSc Biology with Science & Society / Course details
Year of entry: 2021
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Course unit details:
Information visions: past, present and future
|Unit level||Level 2|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 2|
|Offered by||Centre for History of Science, Technology & Medicine (L5)|
|Available as a free choice unit?||Yes|
UCIL units are designed to be accessible to undergraduate students from all disciplines.
UCIL units are credit-bearing and it is not possible to audit UCIL units or take them for additional/extra credits. You must enrol following the standard procedure for your School when adding units outside of your home School.
If you are not sure if you are able to enrol on UCIL units you should contact your School Undergraduate office. You may wish to contact your programme director if your programme does not currently allow you to take a UCIL unit.
You can also contact the UCIL office if you have any questions.
This unit is also available with a different course unit code. To take a UCIL unit you must choose the unit with a UCIL prefix.
This unit studies how information and communication technologies have developed, and have sometimes been questioned or challenged, to provide analytical tools for engaging with technological change now and in the future. It focuses particularly on the influence of predictions, ideals and fantasies, from engineering prototypes to science-fiction dreams and nightmares, looking at how these shape not only public hopes and fears but also the reality of the technologies and the systems surrounding them. It explores why some innovations succeed and others fail in particular situations, and introduces the wider theme of the relationship between technology and human culture in general.
On successful completion of the unit, you will be able to:
Outline the key developments in the history of information technology and its impact on society
- Describe, compare and assess the different motivations of various players – both innovators and users - in the history of information technology
- Analyse and discuss the different factors - social, technical, economic, sometimes accidental - that shape and have shaped the history of computing
- Engage in informed group debates and present your own arguments effectively
In addition, for 20 credits:
- Identify a topic and write an in-depth, critical essay or report based on primary and secondary source material
Lectures and seminars typically cover the following themes:
- Information then: nineteenth-century industry and the Babbage engines
- Information now: identity, privacy and power in the smartphone age
- Robots in reality and fiction
- Garbage in, garbage out? Software, infrastructure and algorithmic culture
- Alan Turing and the power of legends
- Computers for the people! Home micros and techno-evangelists
- Hacker histories
- Women and men, identities and skills
- Information-age fears
- Boffins, wizards, hackers and nerds: images of ‘computer people’
Teaching and learning methods
12 x Combined Lecture/Seminar
12 x Combined Lecture/Seminar
3 x Individual project supervision meetings
Knowledge and understanding
Outline the key developments in information and communication technologies (ICTs) over time
- Explain the success or failure of particular ICTs in different times and places in relation to social, cultural and economic factors
- Interpret speculative visions both in fiction and in proposals for real-world technological innovation, showing how these visions respond to the concerns of their time
- Apply the lessons of past ICT projects and visions in understanding and dealing with the innovations and challenges of our own time
Transferable skills and personal qualities
- Critically analyse arguments and documents from a range of different sources, with particular reference to the influence of proposals, visions and fantasies on public expectations and understanding
- Produce an essay delivering a focused argument relevant to the course themes
- Analytical skills
- All work on this course involves the critical examination of source materials (who wrote this, when and why? What was the intended audience? Did it have the intended effect?...)
- Oral communication
- Discussion skills: Throughout the course, students are expected to give their own interpretations of the ideas and narratives presented, through in-class discussion and in their written work. Half the classroom time in most weeks is devoted to seminar discussion based on a reading or research task. All students will be involved in oral discussion.
- The lecture content is designed to provide a gateway to engaging with a wide range of literature, and all assessed work requires some independent source research.
- Written communication
- All students write a 1500-word essay in standard humanities form, and receive individual written feedback. Essay skills training is provided.
|Written assignment (inc essay)||50%|
Detailed feedback on coursework essays and projects is provided via Turnitin. Comments on exam scripts may be viewed on request.
- Campbell-Kelly, M., et al. (2013) Computer: A History of the Information Machine (third edition). Westview
- Ceruzzi, P. (2003) A History of Modern Computing, 2nd edition. MIT Press
- Levy, S. (2001) Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. Penguin
- Swedin, E (2005) Computers: the Life Story of a Technology. Johns Hopkins University Press
- Abbate, J (2012) Recoding Gender: Women’s Changing Participation in Computing. MIT Press
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Assessment written exam||2|
|Independent study hours|
|James Sumner||Unit coordinator|
This unit is delivered by the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM).
For more information, see www.manchester.ac.uk/chstm