STS-UY 3904 B, Spring 2020
Prof. Arlene Ducao, arlduc [at] nyu.edu
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00-3:50 PM
5 Metrotech Center, Rogers Hall, Room 213
What does diversity mean in the context of technology? Do we need diversity in technology? Why?
Especially in the midst of movements like Black Lives Matter and MeToo, these questions become important as technology increasingly drives rapid societal and political change. Demographic shifts are also increasingly changing the notion of diversity in our local, regional, national, and global societies.
Through historical surveys, case studies, site visits, and even some hands-on experiments with new technologies, this course will explore the relationships between many kinds of technology and many kinds of diversity. Students will be required to write weekly reflections, build a small technology project, write a short paper, and develop a final project that examines not only how diversity has and hasn’t impacted technology, but also how technology has and hasn’t impacted social movements toward diversity, intersectionality, and inclusion.
Recommended preparation: students are recommended (but not required) to have some experience in tinkering with digital technology. This includes (but is not limited to) web page coding, mobile app development, hardware prototyping, and/or CAD-based fabrication.
- Discuss various definitions of “technology” in the context of diversity, and various definitions of “diversity” in the context of technology;
- Examine and critique modes of technological production in a socio-historical setting. Discuss both diversity and technology in the U.S. and International context.
- Deploy one or more modes of technology production to understand the experiential context of technology and diversity.
- Combine goals 1, 2, and 3 to explore, via your own personal history and culture, what diversity and technology means to you.
This is an approximate plan; guests, site visits, assignments, and readings are subject to change.
Phase 1: Looking Back
- Week 1: Introduction
- Class agreements, codes of conduct, ground rules, and definitions: a collaborative document
- Axes of Diversity, Axes of Oppression, Axes of Technology
- Keywords and Terms
- Assignment 1: Mix n Match (to be revealed in Session 1)
- Assignment 2: Take a training (e.g. at the Makerspace).
- Readings: excerpts from Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary and Keywords for American Cultural Studies
- Week 2: Medical Tech.
- Historical topics include Tuskegee Syphilis Study, Henrietta Lacks, Nazi studies, Gynecological discrimination
- Contemporary topics include Assistive reproductive technologies, Gene editing and ableism, Race-based medicine, Opiod crisis and bias, Epidemics and bias: influenza and malaria, Work by Barbara Ehrenreich
- Assignment 1: Pick a piece of pop culture that you think propagates the biases that derived from historical medical discrimination. (Hint: Medical dramas and superhero stories can be a good place to start.) We will have a viewing and discussion party.
- Assignment 2: How do practitioners avoid medical discrimination today? Does it work?
- Reading: Excerpt from Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology
- Week 3: Work Tech, Ed Tech.
- Topics include IBM and Nazi support, Apple & supply chain, Amazon & ICE, Universities and a history of slavery, Makerspace technologies, prototyping technologies, ableism and BCI, ableism and the academy, ageism and Silicon Valley
- Assignment: Create a looks-like, feels-like, or works-like prototype for a new kind of work or ed tech. We will playtest in class and iterate for Assignment 2.
- Reading: Excerpt from Diversity and Design: Understanding Hidden Consequences and Culture, Learning, and Technology: Research and Practice
- Week 4: Social Tech & Home Tech.
- Topics include Grindr, Gaydar, HIV, Twitter and Facebook (part 2), Google Photo, Amazon Alexa & Rekognition, Gendering of AI, Public transit and ableism
- Assignment 1: go be “social!” Track your social media diet, consider your social media network, and be prepared to discuss it in class.
- Assignment 2: Go test drive a “smart home” technology you haven’t yet used and write a scenario for how it could be (mis)used for oppressive purposes.
- Reading: Excerpt from Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism and UC Berkeley researchers find that lending algorithms discriminate against ethnic minorities
- Week 5: Political Tech, Prison Tech.
- Topics include Forward.us, Facebook/Twitter (part 2), Aramark, Taser, Stanford Prison Experiment
- Assignment 1: Determine the closest prison or political office in or to your home town. Try to determine 1-2 technologies it uses, and which vendors are used to acquire those technologies. Document this process.
- Assignment 2: Research a prototyping machine in advance of Week 6.
- Reading: excerpt from Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor
- Week 6: Prototyping Week
- Topics include Makerspace field trip (an observational) study; Makerspace field trip (an engineering excursion).
- Assignment 1: use a makerspace machine to make something physical. You don’t have to design it—downloading a design from the internet is okay.
- Assignment 2: Expand on one of the previous assignments in preparation for Mid-Term week.
- Reading: https://anatomyof.ai
- Week 7: Mid-Term
- Prototype Considerations. Be prepared to present an expanded prototype and self-reflection. What did you expand upon? Why? What in your life experience made it a compelling project? What about other peoples’ life experiences might make it less compelling?
- Context Considerations: Be prepared to lead a discussion on the context of your prototype, including a one-page reading assignment for the class to read before your presentation. Prepare a 1200 word essay about your prototype and its context.
- Reading: more excerpts from Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary and Keywords for American Cultural Studies
Phase 2: Going Forward
- Week 8: Revisiting Key Concepts and Goals
- Documenting practices and accountability: what do we do in our daily lives? How do we hold technical institutions accountable? What kind of technology do we use?
- What are the movements and who are the people that keep us accountable? What/who are some examples of this from Part One of this class?
- Assignment 1: List the axes of diversity with which you identify. List the axes of identity in which you may be privileged. Do any patterns emerge?
- Assignment 2: Reflect on the CMEP training. Write out one accountability goal for the rest of the semester.
- Assignment 3: Name additional prototyping technologies you’d like to explore in the second half of the semester.
- Week 9. Case Studies: U.S. Contexts
- Topics include CSforAll, CodeNext, LibrePlanet, FAT, Grace Hopper, NSBE, Tapia, Bushwick VR.
- Assignment 1: Write a profile of a person or group working on diversity and technology issues in the U.S. context. Explain why you chose this person/group.
- Assignment 2: Write a profile of one person/group working on diversity and technology in the context of New York City. How does the New York context differ from the larger U.S. context?
- Readings: Excerpt from The Autobiography of a Transgender Scientist
- Week 10. Case Studies: Non-U.S. Contexts.
- Topics include Non-English Technologies, Global Computation & Craft, Global Action Project: the Immigrant and Undocumented, Why We Rise, NYU Data Visualization for Human Rights
- Assignment 1: Write a profile of one person/group working on diversity and technology in the context beyond the U.S.. How does the non-U.S. context differ from the U.S. context?
- Assignment 2: Discuss how your work and interests, either inside or outside of class, might serve one of the persons/groups you’ve learned about. Be as specific as you can.
- Reading: Latino or other non-English programming language.
- Week 11. Targeted Prototyping Workshops, Part 2
- Topics include additional tutorials based on student requests
- Assignment 1: Draft a plan for how your prototype(s) might be refined to serve the person(s) or group(s) you wrote about last week.
- Assignment 2: Start to prepare for your final deliverable. Iterate on your prototype(s) and/or research writing toward this goal.
- Readings: Parable of the Polygons
- Week 12. Speculative Week.
- Topics include Ursula LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Octavia’s Brood, Zombies, Ken Liu, Black Mirror, Jorge Luis Borges, Cory Doctorow
- Assignment 1: Find a piece of speculative that depicts some of the ways your prototype may be used for either/both utopian and dystopian purposes. Write a reflection on this.
- Assignment 2: Continue preparing for your final deliverable. Iterate on your prototype(s) and/or research writing toward this goal.
- Readings: See above; and The Weird Events That Make Machines Hallucinate
- Week 13. Critical Consciousness and Self-Work
- Topics include: Workshop time, Final reflections, Mindfulness walk
- Assignment 1: Reflect on the mindfulness walk through any kind of medium (writing, an audiovisual recording, etc.). How can mindfulness be a tool of accountability?
- Assignment 2: Prepare for your final deliverable. Iterate on your prototype(s) and/or research writing toward this goal.
- Reading: How Mindfulness Helped a Workplace Diversity Exercise
- Week 14. Final Roundtables. Feel free to invite guests. Dumplings included.
- You will be expected to lead a 15-minute roundtable discussion on your final project, including 1-2 discussion questions that you will facilitate. You will also be graded on your participation in all of your classmates’ roundtable discussions.
Course Books (to be discussed in Class 1)
- Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, by Virginia Eubanks (St Martins Press)
- Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary, Edited by The Keywords Project, Colin MacCabe, and Holly Yanacek (Oxford University Press)
- Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology, by Deirdre Cooper Owens (UGA Press)
- The Autobiography of a Transgender Scientist, by Ben Barres (MIT Press)
- Diversity and Design: Understanding Hidden Consequences, Edited by Beth Tauke, Korydon Smith, Charles Davis (Routledge, e-book accessible through NYU library)
- Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, by Safiya Umoja Noble (NYU Press, e-book accessible through NYU library)
- More Work For Mother: The Ironies Of Household Technology From The Open Hearth To The Microwave by Ruth Schwartz Cowan (Basic Books)
- Race, Rigor, and Selectivity in U.S. Engineering: The History of an Occupational Color Line by Amy E. Slaton (Harvard University Press)
- Technology Choices: Why Occupations Differ in Their Embrace of New Technology By Diane E. Bailey and Paul M. Leonardi (MIT Press, e-book accessible through NYU library)
- Dominance by Design: Technological Imperatives and America’s Civilizing Mission by Michael Adas (Harvard University Press, e-book accessible through NYU library)
- Culture, Learning, and Technology: Research and Practice, Edited by Angela D. Benson, Roberto Joseph, Joi L. Moore (Routledge, e-book accessible through NYU library)
- A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet Washington (Little, Brown Spark)
- The Senses: Design Beyond Vision (design book exploring inclusive and multisensory design practices across disciplines) by Ellen Lupton
- Design Meets Disability by Graham Pullin (MIT Press)
- Plutopia: Nuclear families, atomic cities, and the great Soviet and American plutonium disasters by Kate Brown (Oxford University Press)
Supplemental And Possibly Recommended Books
- Gender and Diversity in STEM: An Introduction to the Intersection of Gender, Race, and Sexuality within Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math by Deena Murphy, Ashley Simons-Rudolph (Kendall Hunt Publishing)
- The Aesthetics of Equity: Notes on Race, Space, Architecture, and Music
- Designing for Diversity: Gender, Race, and Ethnicity in the Architectural Profession
- Driven by Difference: How Great Companies Fuel Innovation Through Diversity by David Livermore
- The Souls of Yellow Folk: Essays 1st Edition by Wesley Yang
- Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Oppression and Social Injustice
- Is Science Racist? (Debating Race)
- The Urban Commons: How Data and Technology Can Rebuild Our Communities
- Diversity and Equity in Science Education: Research, Policy, and Practice (Multicultural Education Series)
- Defined by Design: The Surprising Power of Hidden Gender, Age, and Body Bias in Everyday Products and Places by Kathryn H. Anthony, foreword by Eric Schmidt (Penguin Random House)
- Diversity in the Knowledge Economy and Society: Heterogeneity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Edited by Elias G. Carayannis, Aris Kaloudis and Åge Mariussen (Edward Elgar Publishing)
Tuesday and Thursday by appointment, preferably before class. E-mail arlduc [at] nyu.edu to make an appointment.
- 30% Midterm Project:
- Demonstration of prototype & 1000-word write-up.
- 35% Final Project: EITHER
- Final prototype, 1100-word write-up, & MLA-formatted bibliography OR
- 2100-word research article & MLA-formatted bibliography.
- 20% Class participation.
- 15% Blog posts based on class discussion and project development. At least twenty short posts are required for the semester (ten posts per class phase), not including your Midterm and Final projects.
- Please label each post with the Phase Number and Post Number, e.g. “Phase 1, Post 4: My Fourth Blog Post.”
- Please label your Midterm Project Post “Midterm Project” and your Final Project Post “Final Project.”
Extra Credit Options (to be discussed in class)
- Additional blog posts. If you are writing a blog post to make up for an unexcused absence, then 1500 words are required for every class missed. I will pro-rate for missing partial classes.
- Video documentation of an approved field trip you take on your own. Please email me for field trip approval. If you are creating a video to make up for an to unexcused absence, then at least 5 minutes are required for every class missed.
- Final project web site
- Conference paper
- Other options: to be discussed on a case-by-case basis
Attendance to all class sessions is mandatory. Class starts at 2:00 PM sharp, with a 15-minute grace period for late entry. (The grade period will be 25 minutes on field trip days.) Excused absence requests, i.e. for a religious holiday or a conference, must be made at least 3 business days ahead of the scheduled absence. Emergency absences must be accompanied by official documentation, i.e. a doctor’s note or MTA notice. One letter grade drop will occur for every four unexcused late arrivals or early departures (-2.5 points per unexcused lateness/departure) or two unexcused absences (-5 points per unexcused absence). For additional NYU School of Engineering Academic Policies and Requirements, please consult this link.
Technology Use in the Classroom: Participation, Engagement, Respect!
- General Policy: Laptop computers and other mobile devices are invaluable tools when used responsibly. However, this technology can also be incredibly distracting, especially in the classroom. When in class, you may use your laptops and other devices for any activities pertaining to the course: taking notes, researching material relevant to our readings and discussions, working on projects, making class presentations, etc. However, if I sense that technology use is occurring at the expense of participation, engagement, and respect, I will require that all laptops and phones be stowed away. Also, during class screenings, discussions, and presentations, your electronic devices should not be used.
- Grading Policy: One (1) point will be deducted from the final grade for electronic devices that are not stowed away during “Device-Free Periods.” This includes
- Screenings, discussions, and presentations (unless you are the presenter at the podium)
- Any other time that your professor announces a “Device-Free Period.”
All work for this class must be your own and specific to this semester. Any work recycled from other classes or from another, non-original source will be rejected with serious implications for the student. Plagiarism, knowingly representing the words or ideas of another as one’s own work in any academic exercise, is absolutely unacceptable. Any student who commits plagiarism must re-do the assignment for a grade no higher than a D. In fact, a D is the highest possible course grade for any student who commits plagiarism. Please use the MLA style for citing and documenting source material.
If you are student with a disability who is requesting accommodations, please contact New York University’s Moses Center for Students with Disabilities at 212-998-4980 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You must be registered with CSD to receive accommodations. Information about the Moses Center can be found at www.nyu.edu/csd. The Moses Center is located at 726 Broadway on the 2nd floor.
If you find yourself needing additional intrapersonal, professional, emotional, and/or other kinds of support in the course of this semester, I strongly encourage you to contact Deanna Rayment at the Office of Student Affairs. If you have more than one unexcused absence, I may contact you with a direct referral to the Office of Student Affairs, in order to help manage your process of catching up in this course. The NYU Office of Student Affairs (or other official NYU staff group) must contact me directly on your behalf in order for me to count an absence as excused without documentation.