Contact Information

  • My office is in the Humanities Center, HUM 154. You'll find it in the English and Humanities departmental space.

  • My e-mail: dweiss@ycp.edu

  • My office phone: 717-815-1513

  • My office hours:

    • MWF 12:00 - 1:00 PM

    • T/Th 1:00 - 2:00

    • and by appointment

PHL 390

Philosophy

& Technology

Course Description

Our world is largely a constructed environment; our technologies and technological systems form the background, context, and medium for our lives. Technology conditions and permeates virtually every human experience. But because technology is everywhere we look, we are not always able to see it. We need to render our technological experiences more visible, to sharpen the conceptual tools with which we can explore the many meanings of technology, and to advance the development of a common technological vocabulary. Our task in this course is to become more critically aware of the technological background of everyday life.

David Kaplan offers the following succinct account of what philosophy of technology is:

The philosophy of technology examines the nature of technology as well as the effects and transformation of technologies upon human knowledge, activities, societies, and environments. The aim of philosophy of technology is to understand, evaluate, and criticize the ways in which technologies reflect as well as change human life, individually, socially, and politically. It also examines the transformations effected by technologies on the natural world and broader ecospheres. The assumption underlying the philosophy of technology is that devices and artifacts transform our experience in ways that are philosophically relevant. That is to say, technology not only extends our capacities and effects changes but it does so in ways that are interesting with respect to fundamental areas of philosophical inquiry. Technology poses unique problems of epistemology, metaphysics, moral philosophy, political philosophy, philosophy of science, and environmental philosophy, to name just some of the topics in philosophy affected by technology. The task for a philosophy of technology is to analyze the nature of technology, its significance, and the ways that it mediates and transforms our experience. (Readings in the Philosophy of Technology)

The goal of this course is to help us critically examine the impact of technology on our lives and address several key questions about technology, thereby arriving at a more reflective understanding of the nature of technology. Key questions we will consider include:

  1. Is technology an autonomous force in culture and society, subject to its own laws?

  2. Does technology help us progress or is it a hindrance to our social and cultural development?

  3. Does technology have an essence or must we deal with particular technological artifacts?

  4. What is the impact of technology on our social, cultural, and political lives?

  5. What is the relation between culture and technology?

Catalog Description

Philosophy of technology is a critical, reflective examination of the nature of technology as well as the effects and transformation of technologies on human knowledge, activities, societies, and environments.  The aim of this course is to understand, evaluate, and criticize the ways in which technology reflect as well as change human life individually, socially, and politically. Prerequisite: FCO 105  

Generation Next

Satisfies Constellations - Satisfies Science & Technology for “Generation Next”

Constellations are groupings of courses around broad themes that can be addressed using multi- and interdisciplinary perspectives. Constellations build upon the skills acquired in the Foundations courses and the base of knowledge and methodologies acquired in the Disciplinary Perspectives courses.  Constellations will allow students to apply higher-level thinking and communication skills while increasing the breadth and depth of their education.  The Constellations will be structured to help students integrate ideas from different disciplines, as well as the co-curricular, in an intentional way.  They will allow students see the connections between what they have learned in different general education courses, as well as help them make connections between the general education curriculum and their major. Students will take courses in a Constellation from minimum of three disciplines.

The student learning outcomes for Constellations include:

  1. Evaluate alternate, divergent, or contradictory perspectives or ideas.

  2. Engage in inquiry that provides new insight or insight that crosses disciplinary boundaries.

  3. Apply knowledge and methods from two or more disciplines to a single issue or problem.

  4. Make connections or create a synthesis that links two or more seemingly dissimilar contexts.

  5. Engage in critical reflection on their work and the process of its creation.

  6. Demonstrate appropriate collaborative work skills, and the ability to work responsibly alone or in the context of a group as required.

  7. Present themselves and their work professionally.

Required Texts

  • There is one required text for this course: Culture and Technology: A Primer Second Edition, by Jennifer Slack and J. MacGregor Wise (Peter Lang, 2015).  

  • I will also be posting documents to Moodle and the Course Assignments page. You should download these documents to your hard drive and be able to access them in class without use of YCP wifi.

  • My expectation is that you will have read assigned texts prior to coming to class and that you will be able to access them while in class, either as a hard printed copy or as an electronic document.

  • If you choose to access course documents electronically, you should do so on a device other than a smart phone (a pad or laptop). You should also know that, "In a review of educational research published by SAGE Journals in July, Singer and University of Maryland professor Patricia Alexander discovered that readers may not comprehend complex or lengthy material as well when they view it digitally as when they read it on paper." READ THE ARTICLE HERE

  • Philosophical writing is usually complex and lengthy, so whether you are accessing our course documents in print or electronic form, you should acquire good practices of annotation. Work on learning how to annotate, both in print and digital forms. There are many good pdf annotators available (I use and like PDF Expert) and you should avail yourself of one.

  • As readers in this course, we want to become more careful and critical readers. Harvard University has a good website I highly recommend you review: Interrogating Texts

I grade using a point system. Throughout the semester, I will ask you to complete many informal and some formal assignments, each of which will be worth a set number of points. At the end of the semester, I will simply add up the points you have earned and award you the appropriate grade.

Daily Micro Essays

You should immediately purchase a small package of 4x6 index cards (no smaller). With each new reading assignment, prior to that reading being discussed in class, I will ask you to write a brief, "micro" essay, usually analyzing some aspect of that day's reading assignment. Sometimes I will simply ask you to record your philosophical reactions to the reading. These micro essays serve a number of purposes: they motivate you to complete the reading and come to class, help to focus your reading, provide a study guide for your midterm and final, and stimulate class discussion. You should be prepared to share your micro essays with other members of the class during our class discussions. Your essays should be approximately150 words in length. Each day I will collect your card, review your essay to determine that you have adequately completed the assignment, record your having completed it, and return them to you the following class day. At the end of the semester I will award up to 100 points for these micro essays, deducting five points for each one you failed to turn in. 

What if I miss class? You can miss up to two micro essays with no penalty. You should count on saving these "misses" for days that you are sick or otherwise not able to make it to class. If you are sick or have to miss class for some other reason, you don't need to provide me with an excuse. You'll simply receive no credit for that day's micro essay. 

  • Micro essays must be completed before coming to class. 

  • No micro essays completed at the start of class or during class will be accepted. 

  • Essays can only be turned in on those days that you attend class. 

  • You cannot have other students turn your essays in for you. 

  • You can miss two micro essays without penalty.

  • If you miss no micro essays during the semester, I will award you 10 points for your good performance.

Short Essays

Four times over the course of the semester we will engage in debates over technology featured on Intelligence Squared Debates. Our four debates are:

  1. Is Smart Technology Making Us Dumb, Sept. 5

  2. Social Media and Dating, Sept. 24

  3. Technology and Privacy, Oct. 17

  4. Social Media and Democracy, Nov. 14

You will need to select three of these debates and write a 750 - 1000 word position paper addressing the issue raised in the debate. You'll find worthwhile examples of such position papers in the statements prepared by the Intelligence Squared debates. Essays are due on the day we discuss the debate in class. Late essays will be accepted up to one week past the due date but will be penalized 5 points for each day late. 

For background on writing a position paper, you might check out some of these resources:

Long Essay

You will need to select one of our debating topics and prepare a longer, researched essay addressing a well-defined issue related to that debate. This essay should be approximately 2500 - 3000 words. You will be writing this essay in stages, including defining your issue, producing an annotated bibliography, writing a draft and having it peer reviewed, producing a polished final draft. You are free to discuss with me an alternative focus of your longer essay on a theme related to our course that is not featured in one of our class debates (i.e., drone technology, automation, biotechnology, etc.). More information on this longer essay will be provided.

Course Reflection on Technology and Culture

At the start of our course, I will ask you to reflect on your and your parent's experiences of technology and culture, especially in the context of being a college student. At the end of the semester, I'll ask you to revisit and reflect on your initial thoughts in light of our course work over the semester.

Grading Rubric for Philosophy Essays
Course Engagement

In her article "Feminist Epistemology" Naomi Scheman argues that it is misleading to think of epistemic agency as ideally exercised in solitude. Knowing and coming to know, Scheman contends, are social and interactive. "They are things we do, and things we are appropriately held responsible for doing, in social and cultural settings that variously help and hinder our doing them well." I wholeheartedly agree with Scheman that knowing is a practice that ideally occurs in a social setting. Each of us is responsible for participating in a variety of communities of knowers and it is a responsibility we ought to take seriously. Our class is one such community, a community in which we must actively participate in the social practice of knowing. To encourage your participation in this community of learners and to encourage you to come to class prepared to discuss that day’s issues, at the end of the semester, you will receive a grade based on your class participation throughout the semester. The grade you receive will be based on, among other things, your regular attendance, your improvement over the course of the semester, and, to the greatest extent, your willingness to contribute in a meaningful way to the daily class discussion. Other indices of an engaged student include:

  • Your willingness to engage the texts and issues associated with the course in the spirit of learning more about yourself and the world you live in.

  • Your ability to respect a diversity of opinion as demonstrated by conducting yourself in a civil manner and by refraining from interruptions and ridicule of others.

  • Your ability to listen and participate during class.

  • Your ability to offer relevant, on-topic commentary.

  • Your ability to arrive at class on time and prepared.

  • Your ability to focus on class during class time. Habitual entrances and exits during class sessions will result in a grade penalty, as will holding private discussions during class and disruptions arising from cell phones, watches, pagers, and the like.

  • Your ability to avoid complaining and asking questions whose answers have already been provided (e.g., “Can I make up the quiz?” and “What is the response for next time?”).

  • Your ability to let me know ahead of time if you have to miss an appointment or conference.

 

Course Engagement Rubric: This engagement rubric details how you can assess your preparation and participation in the course and how I will award you points at the end of the semester.

A Note on Moodle and Grades

Most of our course documents and course information is available through this webpage and an additional webpage (linked at the top of this page) that has our daily assignments on them. I will occasionally use Moodle but don't use it daily. I especially won't be uploading grades to Moodle. I believe that as adult critical thinkers, you should be able to track and monitor your progress in this course, and that includes keeping track of your performance and your grades. And therefore I won't post grades to Moodle.

E-Mail Addresses

You are expected to have an active York College e-mail address and to check it regularly during the semester. I will send e-mail only to your ycp.edu address. If you wish to use other addresses, such as private internet service provided addresses, you should set up your YCP address so that it automatically forwards your mail to that address.

Attendance

Attending class is a key factor in college success. Not only does regular attendance help you succeed, it also helps the class work well and succeed. As my course engagement guidelines make clear, a classroom is a community of learners in which we are all engaged in mastering material. It's far easier to do that when everyone attends regularly. When you fail to attend class, you lose points for your missed homework, your course engagement grade suffers, and your classmates lose out on the opportunity to collaborate with you on the day's coursework.

 

While I won't be taking roll in class each day, your homework will provide me with a record of your attendance. Attending class is a key factor in college success. Not only does regular attendance help you succeed, it also helps the class work well and succeed. As my class participation guidelines make clear, a classroom is a community of learners in which we are all engaged in mastering material. It's far easier to do that when everyone attends regularly. When you fail to attend class, you lose points for your missed homework and your class participation grade suffers. Additionally, if you miss the equivalent of one's week's classes, your final grade may be lowered by one-half grade (.5). If you miss the equivalent of two weeks of classes, your final grade may be lowered by one full grade. If you miss any class, please be responsible for getting class notes, assignments, etc. from another student in class. It may help to have available telephone numbers or e-mail addresses of one or two classmates.

 

Activities outside of regular class hours

As part of the regular course requirements, you will be expected to occasionally participate in events outside of the regular class hours. You may be asked to watch videos on your own time and attend evening events. Additionally, as part of the English and Humanities Department's efforts to encourage student participation in college cultural activities, I will ask that you attend two cultural events during the semester. These cultural events can include lecture and film series, theatrical or music events, galley exhibitions, disciplinary lectures or events. You can find information on the College's cultural events on my.ycp, on the College's website, and through other information access points. Following your attendance, you should write a brief 250 word reflective analysis of the event you attended describing what event you attended and your reflective thoughts about it. This should ideally be turned in within one week of the date of the event, so that you don't forget the details. You will receive 10 points for each of the two events you attend and write-up.

Electronic Submissions

Please note that I do not accept electronic submissions of assigned work unless otherwise detailed in specific course assignment instructions. You are responsible for insuring that I receive a hardcopy of your work by the assigned deadline.

Late Submission of Course Materials

All my courses require extensive reading, writing, and speaking, with overlapping assignments; please keep tabs on the syllabus so that there are no surprises. I do not accept late work, unless you and I have already made arrangements.  If you will be absent, you must make arrangements with me to submit any assignments before class begins.

Laptops in the Classroom

Your use of a laptop in class is a privilege and not a right. You are required to bring your readings to class and some of these readings are available electronically. I have no objection to your bringing your laptop to class in order to access the readings electronically or take notes during class (thereby cutting down on printing costs). You should know, however, that a number of studies have indicated that students who use laptops in class often perform poorly in comparison with students who do not. Laptops also are a source of constant distraction which take away your focus from the class and diminish your engagement with the course. For this reason, if I feel that your laptop use is undermining your engagement in the course or if I discover that you are using your laptop for other than class purposes, your laptop privileges will be immediately and permanently revoked for the rest of the semester.

Your Responsibilities

Please review YCP Academic Policies so that you better understand the standards that we will adhere to in this course.

It is your responsibility to remain apprised of all assignments and any changes in the syllabus or grading policies. I reserve the right to make changes to class policies and the syllabus as I deem necessary. I expect that you will be in class daily, having prepared your work and ready to discuss the material. 

You should obtain the names and contact information from several of your fellow classmates so that you have someone to contact if you must miss class. You should not depend on either e-mailing or phoning me to learn what you missed in class or find out your assignment for the following class.

I do not post grades to Moodle. It is your responsibility to track your performance in this course. Keep track of your graded assignments and track your performance in completing homework assignments.

You should strictly observe the following policies:

  • Attendance is not optional but strictly required.

  • Class begins promptly at the appointed time. Don’t be late.

  • Students should come to class prepared, having read and completed the day’s assignment, ready to discuss it.

  • You should bring the day's readings with you to class each day.

  • There is to be no sleeping in class. Stay awake and alert.

  • Do not leave the room during the class period without prior permission.

  •  Do not carry on private conservations while class is in progress.

  • Treat all class members with respect and civility.

  • Make sure that all cell phones and other electronic equipment is turned off.

If you are interested in studying Philosophy at York College, please check out the brochure I have prepared:

Studying Philosophy at York College

Office Hours:

MWF 12:00 - 1:00, T 2:00 - 3:30, and by appointment