Course syllabus

TEK226 Technology and society, study period 3, spring term 2020 (7.5 hp)

The course is offered by the division of Science, Technology and Society, at the department of Technology Management and Economics.

Contact details

Course content

The course discusses the social, ethical, political, and economic issues of science and technology through the lens of a number of case studies. The course is structured on the basis of real world examples that highlight the many challenges that arise from the intertwining of science, and technology with society.

The course is structured along five main themes:

  • Introduction: Society, science, and technology—some problems and questions
  • Theme 1: The battle for detecting gravity waves—and other war stories from the frontlines of science
  • Theme 2: The power of technology and the threat of determinism—the social burden of the engineer
  • Theme 3: Racist algorithms, pandemic detection, and hidden databases—the invisible politics of digitalization
  • Theme 4: In experts we trust? Anti-vaccers, AIDS patients, and Nuclear Accidents—trust and mistrust in expertise
  • Theme 5: Oil spills, fish quotas, and Aye Ayes—the politics of counting and valuing the world
  • Wrap-up


Course literature

All readings for the course will be supplied by the teacher as extracts posted on Canvas.

  • There are obligatory readings on the themes that will be presented and contextualized by the tutor during the lectures.
  • There are also optional readings, which will be discussed in class, but are not mandatory.
  • Students are encouraged to acquaint themselves with the readings before the session.

Course design

The weekly cycle: Study questions, group exercises, lectures

In the course students will be encouraged to first reflect individually on specific themes, then share their reflections with a small group of other students, and finally hear the the tutor discuss take-aways in a lecture-like format. This implies that the students will go through a three-step process that repeats five times, on a weekly basis.

  • First, they will be given study questions relating to a specific theme, and be encouraged to digitally submit their notes regarding these questions before the group exercise each week.
  • These notes will form the basis for further discussion with other students, in group exercises, which are scheduled on Mondays.
  • The themes will then be further discussed in the lectures, pre-recorded by the tutor. During these sessions, the tutor will also introduce the key reading for the week.

The course starts on Monday 18 January. The students may then answer questions on Canvas - the answers are to be submitted before the first group exercise will be held, on the subsequent Monday. The lectures will be put online, to be viewed sometime during the Thursday or Friday of the week. In order to complete this exercise, students will answer quiz questions on the material from the lectures.

Office hours

Students who wish to ask questions in real time about material from the weekly cycle can do so during office hours.


In the course, students will form groups and write a short essay about the problems and ideas discussed in class. The essays are to be written by groups of 4-5 students, and should be between 1000 and 2000 words. Essays are due on Friday the 12th of March. This is done via uploading digital versions (preferably formatted as pdf-files) of the text onto Canvas.

Changes made since the last occasion

This is a brand new version of the course. The course structure is the same, but the content and literature is brand new.

Examination and evaluation

The students will be assigned individual grades, on the basis of

  • Class participation in group exercises (handing in notes and attending Zoom exercise on Mondays),
  • Completion of quizzes in relation to the lectures (Thursdays - Fridays),
  • The merits of the above-mentioned essay

Grading details

The grading is structured in the following way: A student can attain a maximum score of 100 points.

For each of the five weekly cycles described above, students are encouraged to prepare a 100 – 300 word note before the session. Students who prepare and submit such a note – and attend the subsequent group exercise on Zoom in order to share and discuss their answers – will be awarded 6 points for that particular session. The maximum score for class participation, then, is 30 points. Note: Preparing notes, and participating in group exercises, is not mandatory. Moreover, students who wish to prepare notes and attend sessions do not have to do it for all of the five weekly cycles listed above.

When viewing the lectures, the student will be able to complete quizzes on Canvas. The questions will relate to the material presented in the online lecture. Students can gain a maximum of 5 points for each weekly quiz. Thus, the maximum score from this activity is 25 points.

The essay is awarded with a maximum of 45 points. The report is assessed on the basis of content (do the propositions and arguments reflect the issues discussed during the course?) and form (are propositions and arguments clearly and succinctly communicated?).

The points are added up into a total score. Scoring 40 – 59 points yields grade 3, scoring 60 – 79 points yields grade 4, and 80 – 100 points yields grade 5.

Course aims

The overarching aim of the course is to foster:

  1. Abilities to make judgments with respect to relevant social and ethical aspects, and demonstrate awareness of ethical aspects of research and development.
  2. Insight into the possibilities and limitations of technology, its role in society and people’s responsibility for how it is used, including social and economic aspects.

Specifically, the course invites the student to transpose knowledge of key technological fields into the domain of society. Thus, it seeks to deepen the conceptual understanding of central technologies, while simultaneously developing the student’s ability to analyse societal processes. The course also endeavors to expand the student’s awareness of how the engineering and natural sciences are conceptually and historically intertwined with the social sciences and humanities.

Learning objectives

  • Describe theories of how societies function.
  • Describe the function of different technologies, and separate these functions from their technical context.
  • Identify conceptual symmetries between the function of different technologies, on the one hand, and theories about how society functions, on the other.
  • Reconstruct the interconnection between the emergence of technologies and the emergence of theories of society.
  • Evaluate and critique the proposition that society can be understood as a machine.

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