Course syllabus


TEK226 Technology and society, study period 2, autumn term 2023 (7.5 hp)

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

Contact details

Examiner and teacher: Karl Palmås, associate professor,

Course aims

The overarching aims of the course is to

a) foster abilities to make judgments with respect to relevant social and ethical dimensions, and demonstrate awareness of ethical challenges in research and development, and

b) provide insight into the possibilities and limitations of technology, its role in society and peoples responsibility for how it is used, including social and economic aspects.

More specifically, the course seeks to deepen the students understanding of the interrelation between scientific, technological, and social development. By introducing theoretical concepts within the social sciences and humanities, and applying them in the context of science, engineering, and design, the course aims to train students in engineering-related judgement. Further, the course endeavors to expand the student's awareness of how engineering and the sciences are intertwined with social development.

Course content

The course
  • introduces key concepts from the social sciences and the humanities,
  • relating them to concepts within science and technology.
Further, it applies these concepts in the context of societal problematics encountered within engineering, and the design sciences more broadly.

Learning objectives

The course will enable the student to:

- Describe theories of technology, science and society.
- Identify central themes in the relation between technological and social development.
- Reconstruct the interconnection between technology and society.
- Evaluate different approaches to manage the social outcomes of engineering design.
- Evaluate and critique theories about the relations between society, technology, and the sciences.

Link to the syllabus on Studieportalen: Study plan


Tuesday 31 October, 15.15-17.00    Introduction lecture: JUDGEMENT IN ENGINEERING
Location: SB-H8                               

Thursday 2 November, 13.15-15.00 (Section A) or 15.15-17.00 (Section B)   Group exercise: “LET NO ONE IGNORANT OF GEOMETRY ENTER”
Location: SB-Multisal

Monday 6 November-Friday 10 November   Online lecturette: “LET NO ONE IGNORANT OF GEOMETRY ENTER”
Location: Canvas                                  

Tuesday 14 November, 13.15-15.00 (Section B) or 15.15-17.00 (Section A)    Group exercise: "MANTENERE LO STATO"
Location: SB-M500

Thursday 16 November-Friday 17 November   Online lecturette: "MANTENERE LO STATO"
Location: Canvas   

Tuesday 21 November, 13.15-15.00 (Section A) or 15.15-17.00 (Section B)    Group exercise: "NASTY, BRUTISH AND SHORT"
Location: SB-Multisal

Thursday 23 November-Friday 24 November   Online lecturette: "NASTY, BRUTISH AND SHORT"
Location: Canvas                               

Tuesday 28 November, 13.15-15.00 (Section B) or 15.15-17.00 (Section A)    Group exercise: AVANCEZ!
Location: SB-M500              

Thursday 30 November-Friday 1 December  Online lecturette: AVANCEZ!
Location: Canvas                                                     

Tuesday 5 December, 13.15-15.00 (Section A) or 15.15-17.00 (Section B)    Group exercise: "STOP AND THINK"
Location: SB-Multisal                         

Thursday 7 December-Friday 8 December    Online lecturette: "STOP AND THINK"
Location: Canvas       

Monday 11 December-Friday 15 December   Online wrap-up: JUDGEMENT IN ENGINEERING REDUX
Location: Canvas                                 

Course literature

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

  • Firstly, there are key readings in the form of introductions from “classics” in social thought and will be presented and contextualized by the tutor during the online lectures.
  • Secondly, the course will draw upon specific chapters from a textbook: Ethics, Technology and Engineering: An Introduction, by van de Poel and Royakkers.
  • Thirdly, the advanced track on "education for judgement" will feature three readings composed by the tutor.

There are also additional readings, which will be discussed in class, but are not mandatory. Students are however encouraged to acquaint themselves with the readings before the session.

Note: All of the texts will be available on Canvas - there is no need to buy course literature.


Atkinson, Helen (2016) "The beginnings of wisdom: Challenges in engineering education", Engineering.


Plato (2007 {375 BC}) The Republic. London: Penguin Classics.

Weekly cycle 2: "MANTENERE LO STATO"

Machiavelli, Niccolo (2014 {1532}) The Prince. London: Penguin Classics.

Weekly cycle 3: "NASTY, BRUTISH AND SHORT"

Hobbes, Thomas (2017 {1651}) Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil. London: Penguin Classics.

Weekly cycle 4: AVANCEZ!

Tocqueville, Alexis (2000 {1840}) Democracy in America (Book 1). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Marx, Karl & Engels, Friedrich (2015 {1848}) The Communist Manifesto. London: Penguin Classics.

Weekly cycle 5: "STOP AND THINK"

Arendt, Hannah (1958) The Human Condition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Course design

The weekly cycle: Study questions, group exercises, online lectures

This course encourages the students to approach ideas from the world of engineering, and transpose them onto theories about society. The idea is to start from concepts that the students are familiar with, and then strive to stretch this knowledge and imagination into the world of social theory. Students will be encouraged to first reflect individually on specific themes, then share their reflections and experience an exercise with a small group of other students, and finally hear the the tutor discuss possible take-aways from the exercise 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.

  • Before the start of the week, students will be given study questions relating to a specific theme, and be encouraged to digitally submit their individually written notes regarding these questions during lunchtime on Tuesday, 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 Tuesday afternoons. (The first exercise will, however, be held on a Thursday afternoon.) The class is divided into two sections for this exercise.
  • The groups working together during the group exercises may digitally submit a short note based on work during the group session. This note (200-400 words) should address the take-aways from the group exercise, and be handed in by the end of Wednesday. (The first note should be handed in by the end of the subsequent Friday.)
  • The themes will then be further discussed in the online short lectures - lecturettes - which are pre-recorded and posted on Canvas by the tutor on Thursday. During these sessions, the tutor will also introduce the key "classic" reading for the week. Along with the lectures, students will also find quiz questions related to the lecturette on Canvas. Students have until the end of the week to complete this exercise.

The first weekly cycle starts after the introduction on the 31st of November. The students may then answer study questions on Canvas before the first group exercise. The lecturettes will be posted on Canvas during the subsequent working week, to be viewed whenever the student can find the time. In order to complete this exercise, students will answer Canvas-based quiz questions on the material from the lecturettes.

Advanced track: "Education in judgement"

Aside from the weekly cycle, the course also features an advanced track of readings and lecturettes. These prompt the student to reflect on the broader objective of training the judgement of engineering students. These readings and lecturettes are posted thoughout the course, on three occasions.

1. Judgement and Bildung - readings, lecturettes and quiz available Monday 6 November to Friday 10 November.

2. Judgement and realism - readings, lecturettes and quiz available Tuesday 21 November to Friday 24 November.

3. Judgement and thinking - readings, lecturettes and quiz available Tuesday 5 December to Friday 8 December.

Final report

Towards the end of the course, students are invited to write reports about their take-aways from the course. This is done in groups of 4-5 students, and the text should be between 1000 and 2000 words. Reports are due by the end of Friday 15th of December. This is done via uploading digital versions (formatted as pdf-files) of the text onto Canvas.

Changes made since the last occasion

The course content is broadly based on previous years' "covid edition" of the course, during which the content has been brought online. The course is now a hybrid course, with students participating through Canvas as well as through physical group sessions.

The main change of this year's edition is the addition of an advanced track of readings and lecturettes that reflect on issues the wider objective of training judgement.  This features additional readings, as well as additional lecturettes and quiz questions, made available on three occasions during the course. More specifically, these additions go under the headings of "Bildung", "realism" and "judgement".  This change is introduced in response to requests made by the student representatives of the previous edition of the course.

Following trials from the previous year's edition, this course session will rely less on written assignments. From last year on, the objective of the written assignments has shifted: The written texts are no longer used to assess the understanding of the readings, but instead oriented towards encouraging the students to explicate take-aways from group exercises, and from the course as a whole. As such, the written assignments are now used as a means to

  • aid the students in making sense of the course themes, and
  • as a means for the tutor to get a sense of where the students are in their learning, thus facilitating a dialogue between students and tutor.

Aside from this change in the course design, there are also minor changes in the course content (notably the last weekly cycle on Arendt).

Examination and evaluation

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

  • handing in individual responses to study questions before the group exercise on Mondays,
  • participation in group exercises on Mondays,
  • handing in optional group notes about take-aways from group exercises,
  • completion of quizzes in relation to the lectures (Thursdays - Fridays),
  • the merits of the above-mentioned final report

Grading details

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

In preparation for each of the group exercises described above, students are encouraged to prepare a 100 – 200 word note before the session. Students who prepare and submit such a note will be awarded 2 points per assignment - in total, a maximum of 10 points.

Attendance and participation in the group exercise sessions is awarded with 5 points per session - in total, a maximum of 25 points.

Groups who submit a note after having attended the group session will be awarded 4 points per session - in total, a maximum of 20 points.

Students who view the online lecturettes and complete the quiz will be awarded up to 4 points per lecturette - in total, a maximum of 20 points.

Students who participate in the advanced track on "Education for Judgement" - reading the texts, viewing the online lecturettes and completing the quiz - can be awarded up to 4 points per theme; a maximum of 12 points.

The final report is assessed on the basis of content (does the text respond to the essay question?) and form (are propositions and arguments clearly and succinctly communicated?). It is assessed on a pass-or-fail basis; a text that passes the examination is awarded with 13 points.

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.

Some details regarding the evaluation:

  • None of the particular activities are mandatory. Students who wish to pass must nevertheless reach the required number of total points.
  • Students who wish to prepare notes and attend sessions do not have to do it for all of the five weekly cycles listed above.
  • A student does not have to work with the same group during each weekly cycle.