Syllabus

HIST 325: AMERICAN TECHNOLOGY AND CULTURE

Spring 2009                    TR, 9:30-10:45

http://hist325.umwblogs.org/ — Course management site (syllabus, assignments, readings)

http://mcclurken.umwhistory.org/wiki/index.php?title=HIST_325 – Course discussion wiki

http://historyoftech.umwblogs.org/ — Course project site

Jeffrey McClurken

Course Description

This course will examine the development of American technology, culture and history by studying the creation, context, and impact of about twenty pieces, or artifacts, of American technology, ranging from the axe to the railroad to the light bulb to the electric washer to the personal computer.  Special emphasis will be placed on the evolution and transfer of technology; government and business involvement; technology as a product of American culture and society; technology as changing American culture & society; evaluating how culture and society deal with new technology through resistance, adaptation, and changes in work habits and lifestyles.

Course Requirements

Students are expected to attend all lectures, read all assigned texts, participate in class, create a proposal blog and research proposal, prepare a research-based online project on an artifact of technology (and present it to the class), review two classmates’ online projects, and take a midterm and a final examination. Late assignments will be severely penalized, or, after 24 hours, not accepted for credit.   [All assignments must be completed to pass the class, however.]

Discussions

Students are expected to attend all weekly class discussions (on Thursdays) having read the material and having prepared two or three questions or comments.  The questions or comments should be posted on the appropriate week of the class wiki with your name by 7 AM on discussion days (http://mcclurken.umwhistory.org/wiki/index.php?title=HIST_325); they should be aimed at provoking class discussions on the reading.  Class participation includes contributing weekly questions, actively participating in class discussions, and reviewing two peers’ online projects.

Research-Based Blog Project

Each student will create an online research-based project about the history of an artifact of American technology that she or he finds interesting.  [Topics cannot duplicate those of classmates and cannot overlap with those covered in class lectures.]  Each individual project, created in UMWBlogs.org, will be linked to the class project site (http://historyoftech.umwblogs.org/) and will explain the background and invention or adoption of the piece of technology, as well as examining its impact on American society and culture.  Advance deadlines have been set for topic approval, proposal with bibliography, a project outline, an initial version to be reviewed by two of your peers, and a finished version of the project; be sure to meet these deadlines.  See http://hist325.umwblogs.org/project for more details about the project and http://umwblogs.org for more about getting a blog.

The Proposal Blog and Research Proposal

The proposal blog (separate from the blog for the final project) is intended to get you started on your research project and provide some experience in online publishing with WordPress (the software UMWBlogs uses).  The blogged research proposal (with annotated bibliography) is also intended, like most proposals, to prove to me that you will have enough scholarly material to complete the larger research-based project.  The blog assignments and the proposal with bibliography are collectively worth 5% of your final grade.  See http://hist325.umwblogs.org/project for more details.

Final Grades

Final grades will be determined based on class participation (20%), completion of the blog assignments and research proposal (5%), performance on the research-based project site (30%) and a presentation to the class on it (5%), and on the midterm and final exams (20% each).

Honor Code

I believe in the Honor Code as an essential, positive component of the Mary Washington experience.  You should know that if you cheat or plagiarize in this class, you will almost certainly fail, and I will take you to the Honor Council, so do not do it.  On the other hand, I also believe that having friends or family read and comment on your writing can be extremely helpful and falls within the bounds of the Honor Code (assuming the writing itself remains yours).  If you have questions about these issues, then you should talk to me sooner rather than later.

Required Texts

Nye, David, Electrifying America: Social Meanings of a New Technology.

Smith, Merritt and Gregory Clancey, Major Problems in the History of American Technology.

Assorted additional readings available online.

Class Schedule and Reading Assignments

Jan. 13 – Introduction

Jan. 15 – The Evolution of Technology

Discussion of reading & wiki entries – What is “technology?”

–    Smith and Clancey, 1-25

Create (or use a previously created) blog at umwblogs.org and send me the blog address by email by Thursday (Jan. 15).  [This will be your “proposal blog”.]

BY THURSDAY, JANUARY 22, TURN IN TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH TOPICS FOR APPROVAL VIA EMAIL (Note: You are encouraged to submit your idea earlier.)

Jan. 20 – Colonial America: The Axe & America’s Wooden Age

Jan. 22 – Eli Whitney, Catherine Green and the Cotton Gin: Textiles & Industrialization in America

–    Discussion of reading & wiki entries

–    Smith and Clancey, 26-41, 62-87, 103-130, 144-151.

Jan. 27 –  John Hall & the American System: The Hall Rifle & Interchangeable Manufacturing

Jan. 29 In-class WordPress session w/Jim Groom – Bring your laptop to class

Discussion of reading & wiki entries

Smith and Clancey, 153-172, 182-189.

POST TEST BLOG POST WITH A PICTURE BY CLASS TIME ON TUESDAY (FEB. 3)

Feb. 3 – Railroads & the Transportation Revolution

Feb. 5 – The Bessemer Steel Process: A Tale of Two Inventors & One Businessman

Discussion of reading & wiki entries

Smith and Clancey, 172-182, 191-202; Susan Danly, The Railroad in American Art, 1-50 (see readings page).

PROJECT PROPOSAL WITH ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY POSTED TO YOUR PROPOSAL BLOG BY THE BEGINNING OF CLASS, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12.

Feb. 10 – McCormick’s Reaper & the Mechanization of American Agriculture

Feb. 12 – The Watch, Railroad Time, & Scientific Management

Discussion of reading & wiki entries

–    Smith and Clancey, 151-152, 221-232, 267-289

Feb. 17 – Edison’s Electric Light:  The Light Bulb & the Birth of the Electrical System

Feb. 19 – The Brooklyn Bridge & American Urbanization

–    Discussion of reading & wiki entries

Nye, 29-132, 138-142, 182-184, 287-291, 304-307, 314-317, 322-338

Feb. 24 – The Skyscraper & American Urban Technology

Feb. 26MIDTERM – BRING BLUE BOOK(S)

SPRING BREAK!

Mar. 10 –  Mass Production of Food & the Mechanization of Food Processing

Mar. 12 –  “Mr. Watson, Come Here, I Need . . . a Dozen Eggs”:  Americans & the Telephone

–    Discussion of reading & wiki entries

Smith and Clancey, 233-266.

SKELETON OUTLINE, LIST OF MEDIA, AND KEY IMAGE FOR YOUR RESEARCH SITE DUE BY THE BEGINNING OF CLASS, THURSDAY, MARCH 19, POSTED TO YOUR RESEARCH BLOG  (Note: See http://hist325.umwblogs.org/project for details about assignment and naming of this new blog.)

Mar. 17 –  Image & Reality:  George Eastman & the Kodak Camera

Mar. 19 –  Henry Ford & the Mass-Produced Model T

–    Discussion of reading & wiki entries

Geoffrey Bennett, The Story of Popular Photography, 128-153; Smith and Clancey, 312-328, 337-345; Nye, 133-137.

Mar. 24 – Plastic & American Culture

Mar. 26 – Radio & Mass Culture

Discussion of reading & wiki entries

Smith and Clancey, 355-364; Ruth Cowan, A Social History of American Technology, 201-219 (See readings page).

COMPLETE RESEARCH PROJECT DONE BY THE BEGINNING OF CLASS, THURSDAY, APRIL 2 [Don’t make any changes to your Project Blog from class start on April 2 until after class on April 9 so that your reviewers have a chance to comment on a stable site.]

Mar. 31 – The Manhattan Project:  The Development of America’s Atom Bomb

Apr. 2 – Movie:  Atomic Cafe

Discussion of reading – No comments/questions needed this week

–    Smith and Clancey, 427-441, 448-453.

PEER REVIEWS DUE VIA EMAIL BY START OF CLASS, THURSDAY, APRIL 9.

April 7 – “More Work for Mother”:  The Electric Washer & Industrializing the Household

April 9 – A Man on the Moon:  The Space Race & America’s Apollo Program

–    Discussion of reading & wiki entries

–    Nye, 238-86.

REVISED WIKI RESEARCH PROJECT DUE BY THE BEGINNING OF CLASS, THURSDAY, APRIL 16.

Apr. 14 – “Accidental Empires”:  The Rise of the Personal Computer

Apr. 16Discussion and presentation of projects

Discussion of reading & wiki entries

–    Smith and Clancey, 441-448, 454-462, 471-515.

Apr. 21 – The “World Wide” Web?:  The Rise of the Internet

Apr. 23Discussion and presentation of projects

– NO READING THIS WEEK

EXAM – Tuesday, April 28, 8:30-11 AM

—  Bring Blue Book(s)