Brief description

An exploration of the impact of technology, broadly defined, upon cultural evolution as currently discussed in anthropology and related disciplines.

Longer description

Karl Marx once wrote that "by producing their means of subsistence" human beings are "indirectly producing their actual material life."

I read this both as an affirmation of the primacy of humanity over the tools that it produces and as a recognition that these tools have a profound impact on the future of humanity in an open feedback process though which human beings imagine tools, produce tools, resist tools, whether these tools are stone axes, canals, factories, labs, computers.

I also read Marx as opening the discussion of the processes by which human beings discuss the implications of changes they may be fostering or resisting. In these ongoing collective deliberations, I see education.

This course is an exploration of this process through an examination and discussion of the arguments about the relationship between culture and various technologies: plows and irrigation, literacy, power looms and trains, computers and medical processes.  We will continually struggle with understanding both the materiality of technologies, and their imaginative virtualities.

I think of this course as a guided mutual exploration where many of the specifics will be determined through the participants own concerns.