How much technology do you use in a day? For starters, how about the device you are reading this on? Or the app you used to check what time the bus was coming this morning? Did you put your cereal bowl and cup in the dishwasher? Or use the stove to make bacon and eggs?

The amount of technology we use in a day is mindboggling when you take a second to think about it. The relationship we, as a society, have with technology, the way in which it shapes our culture, and the way our culture can shape it, is even more difficult to wrap your head around. These are just some of the ideas that will be explored in CUOL’s upcoming web course, Technology, Culture, and Society, taught by Professor Carlos Novas.

The course aims to introduce students to the relationship between technology and society. It does this by analyzing the role of technology in our everyday lives: technologies that are encountered in the home (such as appliances), indispensable technologies like mobile phones, those used for making and listening to music, and other devices such as surveillance cameras.

Novas, whose own career is built on this specialized area of study, says it is important for students to learn about technology and society because of its pervasive effect on our everyday lives and its ability to shape social change.

“I think that is is especially important in an era of rapid and continuous technological change that students take some time to think about how they use technology,” he says.

From a young age, Novas was interested in science and technology. His father was a contractor, so he was introduced to tools early in life. Wanting to understand the mechanics behind his toys, he would take them apart and rebuild them, “which I think sparked my interest in science and technology,” he says.

After completing his master’s degree at the Institute of Political Economy at Carleton University, he learned that he was able to combine his interest in the social sciences with his long-standing fascination with all things scientific and technological.

Even today, Novas realizes how he extensively uses – and even relies – on technology; he will be instructing this web course from Chile, which is part of the reason he is teaching online.

Not only will the course focus on technology’s impact on society, but Novas says he wants to make students aware of their ability to influence the design of technologies, rather than just passively accept technological change.

“One of the aims of this course is to dispel the myth that technology is an autonomous force and that there is nothing we can do as individuals or as a society to shape the pace of technological change,” he says.

In fact, one of the main things Novas hopes his students know prior to enrolling in his class is that technology is not a murky, autonomous or “out of control” force over which humans have little say.

To learn more about the course, see the calendar listing.

For more articles, see CUOL’s story archive.

By Bianca Chan

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