Media, Technology, and the History of Thinking
General Catalog Course Title:
Rhetoric, Culture, and Society
Terms Offered:
Spring 2016
Spring 2012
Spring 2011
Course Thread: 
Sciences and Society
Bates, David
Marianne Constable

This course will explore the ways in which new technologies and new forms of cultural media have profoundly influenced the way humans think – about themselves and about the world, first of all, but also literally, in that these new technologies change the way our minds actually work. We will focus on some crucial historical moments when revolutions in the “material” world disrupted thinking in the social, political, and cultural world, for better and some times for worse. Examples will include the printing press, coffee, factories, telegraphs, railroads, electricity, photography, recording technology, military weapons, computers, and digital information networks. We will try to avoid any sense of technological determinism by emphasizing the numerous possibilities unleashed by each of these new media technologies, and by asking what kinds are human thinking are valued (and which are not) in these different historical transitions. Our readings will include primary sources, historical accounts, and theoretical reflections on the relationship between thinking and technology. The class will be structured as a combination of informal lecture and seminar-style discussion and presentation. There will be several short writing assignments on the assigned readings, a take-home midterm and a take-home final paper.

For more detailed information about classes, please visit the UC Berkeley Online Schedule of Classes.