After a brief set of introductory readings on technology and culture, we began exploring a set of classic American texts for traces of the technologies in which they had been embedded: Franklin's Autobiography and Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia, Thoreau's Walden, Dreiser's Sister Carrie, Hammet's The Dain Curse and Pyncheon's The Crying of Lot 49. At each point, the objective was to uncover the ways in which the technologies coming on line were changing economic structures, altering social relations and political arrangements, and re-shaping individual consciousness.
At that point, each student was asked to choose a particular technology and to create a web project that would explain its cultural impact. Their choices ranged from the transformation of the west through the introduction of barbed wire to the transformation of the experience of nature by the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway. They included consideration of the transformations effected by the telephone, radio, the automobile, film and television, and even that remarkable collection of technologies, the department store.
As always, the reader will have to judge the success of these projects
for him or herself. As their instructor, I am unrepentantly biased.
I find them wonderful in what they reflect of the students' energy and
imagination and understanding of the subject.
Alan B. Howard