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Autumn Quarter 2015

BISSTS 307 A & B (2 sections): Science, Technology, and Society

Tuesday and Thursday (section A)
11:00 am - 1:00 pm

Tuesdays and Thursdays (section B)
3:30 pm - 5:30 pm

In this introduction to the field of Science and Technology Studies, we will study historical, sociological, and anthropological accounts of scientific knowledge-making and technological development in order to learn more about the ways in which science and technology are inherently social and political.  This is the core course for the major in Science, Technology, and Society.

STSS 591: Science, Technology, and Society Studies in Action (2 credits, C/NC)
Leah Ceccarelli

1:30 pm - 3:20 pm

This course introduces graduate students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to Science, Technology & Society Studies (STSS) as an interdisciplinary area of study. It orients students enrolled in the STSS graduate certificate to the expectations of the program, especially the design of their STSS portfolio. Each week, a different member of the STSS core faculty will introduce an area of active research interest. Examples of themes include gender and science, ethical issues in scientific research, science and public policy, and postcolonial science studies.

INTSCI 200: Controversies in Science and Society (3 credits)
Brian Buchwitz

Tuesdays and Thursdays
12:30 pm - 1:50 pm
SIG 225

In INTSCI 200, we will focus on societal controversies that emphasize intersections among science communication, education, policy, and research. For example, why do parents choose to vaccinate, or not vaccinate, their children? How should genetically-modified organisms be regulated?

First-year Interest Group (FIG) students should register for section B; all other students should register for section A. If you have any questions, please feel free to email the instructor at:


Winter Quarter 2016

COM 539: Theories of Technology and Society (5 credits)
Gina Neff

Tuesdays and Thursdays
1:30 pm - 3:20 pm

CMU 242

This course focuses theories useful for studying the internet and other new communication and information technologies of our present moment. This course contextualizes current communication tools and technologies into longer trajectories of histories of ideas and comparisons to “old” media. We also look at the impact of technological innovation more generally (for example, technologies of the body, the turn to “new materialisms”, and the role of “protocol” as social control).

This course will provide a theoretical foundation for further study in the communication department’s core area of technology & society. The course is also appropriate for graduate students in areas of the social sciences and humanities who are interested in a grounding their research in theories of the social, political, and cultural contexts for and implications of technological change. As it addresses key ideas from the technology half of science and technology studies, it is appropriate for students interesting in UW’s Science, Technology and Society Studies certificate (and counts as a course in that certificate program). At the end of the course, students should be able to

1) Identify key literatures, topics, and debates in the area of technology & society from a broad multidisciplinary perspective and locate their own research interests within these debates;

2) Use the theoretical basis of this course to ground further research, prepare for qualifying exams, and do continued coursework in the technology & society area in communication or within their home departments and programs;

3) Develop an extended paper on a topic of their choice related to course material; and

4) Begin independent, professional-quality research in the area of technology & society.

HCDE 548: Advanced Topics in HCDE: Foundations of Science and Technology Studies (4 credits)
David Ribes

Tuesdays and Thursdays
1:30 pm - 3:20 pm

Experts speak in the name of our societies' most powerful institutions, such as science, engineering, medicine, and finance. They make and disseminate knowledge and technologies, shaping how we all see and act in the world. How have experts come to play such an important role in our society and what are the consequences?

This course is an introduction to Science and Technology Studies (STS), a lively interdisciplinary field dedicated to studying the social worlds of experts. We will draw from approaches such as the sociology of knowledge, actor-network theory and social shaping of technology in order understand today's most challenging issues, such as climate change, financial crises or revolutions in biotechnology.

This is ‘classic’ seminar style course, focused on closely discussing  readings of key texts. The course begins from STS’ foundations in sociology, philosophy and history and works its way forward through the advances and debates in topics, concepts and methods to arrive at the contemporary field. The final project is a group based literature review of a new or old topic, issue, theory, or method within STS.

INSTSCI 200: Controversies in Science and Society (3 credits)
Brian Buchwitz

Tuesdays and Thursdays
12:30 pm - 1:50 pm

In INTSCI 200, we will focus on societal controversies that emphasize intersections among science communication, education, policy, and research. For example, why do parents choose to vaccinate, or not vaccinate, their children? How should genetically-modified organisms be regulated?  If you have any questions, please feel free to email the instructor at:

INTSCI 403/HONORS 392: Science in Context (5 credits)
Brian Buchwitz

Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays
1:30 pm - 2:50 pm

This course is typically co-taught by a scientist and a social scientist with an interest in science from an ethical or societal perspective, and will focus on a case study examination of how science operates within broad social, political, and ethical contexts. Discussion topics vary, but may include the growth of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research, the societal impact of scientific results and developed technologies, the political environment surrounding scientific practice, ethical responsibilities of scientists, the acceptability of censorship, the complex mechanisms for funding scientific research, and the power inherent in claims to knowledge. Topics for case study may include global climate change, evolution, stem cell research, or other topics.

LAW H520/PHG 523: Law and Genetics
Anna C. Mastoianni

Tuesdays and Thursdays
1:30 pm - 3:10 pm

This course explores legal aspects of genetics in diverse contexts:

  • Reproductive decision-making
  • Parenting
  • Research (from bench science to the marketplace, including intellectual property)
  • Privacy and confidentiality
  • Workplace
  • Insurance
  • Courtroom uses (forensics, and criminal prosecution and defense)
  • Direct-to-consumer marketing

The course will examine the response of the law and the legal system to advances in genetic information and technologies and posit what the response should be in the future. Law and Genetics is open to all graduate students interested in learning about legal aspects and implications of genetics and genomics. No prerequisites.


Spring Quarter 2016

ARCHY 574A: Meta-Archaeology - Evidence
Alison Wylie

5:30 pm - 7:20 pm

This is a seminar about evidence: what counts as archaeological evidence and as best practice reasoning with evidence in archaeological contexts. We’ll be reading selections from Material Evidence: Learning from Archaeological Practice (ed. Chapman and Wylie 2015), juxtaposed with philosophical accounts of evidential reasoning that bring into focus several different ways of conceptualizing the nature and role of evidence in empirical inquiry. The approach we’ll take is resolutely case-based; the central aim of this seminar is to tease out the assumptions about evidence that underpin archaeological debate, and to build a framework for thinking critically and constructively about evidential reasoning in archaeological practice.

BIS 490: Advanced Seminar: The History and Politics of HIV
Johanna Crane

Tuesdays and Thursdays
8:45 am - 10:45 am

This advanced seminar is an immersion into the history, politics, culture and science of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic from the early 1980s to the present.  By paying particular attention to questions of sexuality, race, gender and poverty, we will explore how social relations of power have shaped disease risk, prevention, science, and access to treatment. This class requires completion of an advanced research project related to the course material.

B H 421 / DIS ST 421: History of Eugenics
Joanne Woiak

Tuesdays and Thursdays
1:30 pm - 3:50 pm

The eugenics movement of the early 20th century proposed and implemented a variety of policies for “improving the hereditary quality of the race” by controlling human reproduction. The history of eugenics illustrates the interplay between social values and science and medicine, especially involving the social construction and meanings of human differences such as disability, race, class, gender, and sexuality. We will examine the development and authority of eugenic science; policies and practices such as sterilization and immigration restriction; public responses and connections to other social movements; and impacts on communities. By reading primary and secondary sources, we will address the intersections and tensions between the history of eugenics, disability studies, and bioethics. What are the legacies of eugenics for health care, scientific research, reproductive rights, and social justice? How is eugenics remembered and forgotten?

HSTCMP 410A: Medicine, History and Society
Laura Harkewicz

Mondays and Wednesdays
3:30 pm - 5:20 pm

In the last few decades, medicine and the life sciences have become the locus for some of society’s most extravagant hopes and acute anxieties. Medicine, History, and Society is aimed at students who would like to uncover the history behind the headlines and take the "longer view" of some of these issues. It will cover some basic facts and concepts, featuring three broad themes: 1) medical ways of knowing, 2) technological contributions, and 3) the effects of existing philosophies, paradigms, or political/social/cultural conditions. We will discuss a variety of characters from the history of medicine and consider their contributions to the medical field. We will investigate the origins of aspects of contemporary life familiar to us all, from the vitamins we take daily to giving birth in a hospital, bringing a historical perspective to bear on topics such as the politics of pharmaceutical patents, the emergence of the new genetic determinism, and ways cultural representations of medicine and doctors inform our health care decisions.

PHIL 416 / ENVIR 416: Ethics and Climate Change
Stephen Gardiner

Tuesdays and Thursdays
1:30 pm - 3:20 pm

Several politicians and scientists have said that climate change is the most important international problem facing the world today. This course will investigate many of the philosophical issues relevant to this problem. Such issues include: What can economic analysis tell us (and not tell us) about problems with a long time horizon, such as climate change? Is climate change a commons problem? If so, what kind? What would constitute a just allocation of the burdens of climate change? Can our pollution harm future generations when their very existence might depend on our decision to pollute? What are we individually required to do about global and intergenerational problems of this sort?

PHIL 460: Introduction to the Philosophy of Science
Andrea Woody

Mondays and Wednesdays
1:30 pm - 3:20 pm

This course serves as an introduction to contemporary philosophy of science and will have a survey format (that is, we’ll try to get a feel for the “landscape”). Philosophy of science is concerned generally with what makes science a distinctive enterprise and what makes the claims of science and the activities of scientists epistemically respectable, if they are. Attempts to address these issues have tended to focus attention on a few key concepts, which we will discuss and analyze throughout the term. Topics will include explanation, confirmation and the nature of evidence, theory development, and issues concerning theory interpretation, e.g. realism/anti-realism debates. Where possible, these topics will be illustrated through contemporary and historical episodes of actual scientific practice. Classes will be a mixture of lecture and discussion. Students will be required to write several short papers aimed, first and foremost, at clear, concise explication of the philosophical issues. In effect, students will be introduced to both the "content" and the "methods" of modern philosophy of science.

PHIL 560: Seminar in the Philosophy of Science - OBJECTIVITY
Alison Wylie

3:30 pm - 5:20 pm

SAV 130

Of all the epistemic ideals that have come in for critical reassessment in recent decades, ‘objectivity’ is perhaps most sharply contested. What counts as objectivity has been shown to have a history, to be contingent and changeable depending on context, interest, and the specific types of epistemic failings it is meant to counteract, and sometimes to mask the operation of the very distorting interests researchers are meant to transcend in the name of objectivity.  The aim of this seminar is to take stock of this epistemic ideal and assess what is at issue in debates that turn on claims of ‘objectivity’. We will begin with two retrospective accounts: Kitcher’s philosophical assessment in Science, Truth and Democracy (2001), and Daston and Galison’s social history of Objectivity (2007). We then turn to a close reading of contemporary philosophical accounts of objectivity as informed, on one hand, by analysis of scientific methodology and, on the other hand, by debate about the role of values in science.  Philip Kitcher is the 2016 Stice Lecturer; he will join the seminar meeting on April 7.

POL S/ENVIR 385: Political Ecology and the World Food System
Karen Litfin

Tuesdays and Thursdays
12:00 pm - 1:20 pm

This course will address these questions and more: How does what we eat reflect the interpenetration of science, technology, economics, culture and politics? Who wins and who loses in the global food economy? To what extent are non-state actors altering the world food system? How is climate change likely to impact the world food system? How does our planetary food web challenge our sense of personal identity and ethical responsibility? In particular, we will focus on the pivotal role of petroleum in the world food system, the global carbon and nitrogen cycles, the questions of meat and genetically modified food, and new food movements around the world.


Summer Quarter 2016

ANTH 473: Anthropology of Science and Technology
Celia Lowe

Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays (A-term)
9:40 am - 12:20 pm

Since the early 1990s, anthropologists have joined scholars from other disciplines who are interested in examining science and technology as much more than a window on the natural world. While science can give us purchase on describing and understanding the physical and biological world around us, it is also a rich field of cultural and social production. In the process, both “nature” and “society” are revealed as outcomes of the practice of science rather than precursors. This kind of engagement with science and technology as culture is part of a new anthropological interest in understanding elite cultures, or, in other words, “studying up.” After a brief introduction to the field of STS (science and technology studies), we will pursue three exemplary themes: endangerment; the human; and science and its publics. These themes will provide a rich series of cases documenting the social life of science and technology, and where studies of science have provided new methods for elaborating older fields of study in anthropology. We will use these themes to understand the general idea that science and technology are social through and through.



History and Philosophy of Science - Major (UW Seattle)

Science, Technology and Society - Major (UW Bothell)

Comparative History of Ideas - Major (UW Seattle)