School of Social and Political Science

Technology in Society


This course provides an introduction to a fast growing area of academic enquiry, drawing on Edinburgh’s longstanding strengths in Science and Technology Studies.

‘Technology’ is seen as one of the distinguishing characteristics of modern societies. The promotion of technological innovation figures centrally in economic and public policy. In recent years there has been extensive debate and public discussion about the social implications of particular technologies for work, for the quality of life, for health and the environment. But what is technology? How does it arise? How does it affect us? Technology in Society explores these issues.

The course examines different ways of analysing and understanding technology in society. It explores both the consequences of technical innovation for society and the ways technology is itself shaped by cultural, economic, political and organisational factors. We introduce a range of analytic perspectives on Technology in Society – drawing upon history, economics, and the sociologies of gender, organisations and science & technology themselves. We explore the relevance of these perspectives to understanding particular areas of technological activity in work and everyday life. Students are then invited to apply these insights to technologies and topics of particular concern to them through project work.

Themes Include:

  • Technological determinism
  • The Social Shaping of Technology
  • National systems of innovation
  • Lock-in and critical mass
  • Managing technology transitions
  • Design and the user
  • Technology and development
  • Gender and technologies

Students will develop a critical understanding of the social character and implications of technology in modern society. This will include a critical understanding of the different theories that have emerged to address the technology-society relationship and how these have been applied in a range of empirical settings. Through student-centred learning activities at the end of the course, students will be encouraged to apply concepts and methods from ‘technology studies’ to analysing particular technologies and issues that are of concern to them. 

This is a level 8 course with 20 credits

There will be 1 lecture and 1 tutorial per week in Semester 2

Student centred learning: In the second half of the course, students will apply these concepts in studying a technology of their choice.