Information Technology, Society, and Culture

Fall 1999Course # STSS 2550T R  2:00 - 3:50. Instructor: Ron Eglash


This course will examine the social and cultural ramifications of information technology, focusing on race, sex, and class. While advances in communication, computation and control technologies have dramatically transformed many aspects of society, impoverished living conditions and diminished social power still exists for many individuals and communities. How might information technology be deployed in ways that address these problems? 

To contact instructor:

Office Hours: Thurs 12:00-2:00 and by appointment, 5114 Sage. Email:, phone: 276-2048. course webpage:


Evaluation will be based on the two exams (30% each), the research project (30%), and class participation (10%). You are required to bring the reading to class so that we can discuss the texts in detail. 

The research project:

The research project for this quarter will address a problem on the relation between IT and social problems. You may approach this in one of three ways:

1)A design project – create a software or hardware system

2)An ethnographic project – conduct your own empirical study 

3)A library project – synthesize existing research to create a new analysis


Eglash, R. African Fractals: modern computing and indigenous design.

Harcourt, W. (ed) Women@Internet: creating new cultures in cyberspace. London: Zed Books 1999.

Donald A. Schon (Editor), Bish Sanyal (Editor), William J. Mitchell (Editor). High Technology and Low-Income Communities : Prospects for the Positive Use of Advanced Information Technology. Cambridge:MIT Press 1999
Course Schedule:

Part I: Biological determinism: mythologies of genetic superiority in race, sex and class.

Jan 11: Lecture – the biological origins of human culture; the cultural origins of human inequality.

Jan 13 A short history of biological determinism in the USA.

Jan 18 film: GATTACA (Bioinformatics/Genomics as the new determinism)

Part II: Anti-racist applications of information technology

Jan 20 African Fractals ch 1-2

Jan 25 African Fractals ch 3-4

Jan 27 African Fractals ch 4-5

Feb 1 African Fractals ch 5-6

Feb 3 African Fractals ch 7-8

Feb 8 African Fractals ch 9-10

Feb 10 African Fractals ch 11-12

Feb 15 African Fractals ch 13-14

Feb 17 First exam

Feb 22 no class -- follow Monday schedule

Part III: Anti-sexist applications of information technology

Feb 24 Women@Internet“Cyborg Melody,” ch 1-2

Feb 29 Women@Internetch 3-5

Mar 2 Women@Internetch 7-9

Mar 7 Women@Internetch 10-11

Mar 9 Women@Internetch 12-13

Mar 14 no class – spring recess

Mar 16no class – spring recess

Mar 21 Women@Internetch 14-15

Mar 23 Women@Internetch 16-17

Part IV: Anti-classist applications of information technology

Mar 28 High Tech/Low-Income ch 2-3

Mar 30 High Tech/Low-Income ch 4-5

April 4 High Tech/Low-Income ch 6,8

April 6 High Tech/Low-Income ch 9,10

April 11 High Tech/Low-Income ch 11,12

April 13 High Tech/Low-Income ch 13,14

April 18 High Tech/Low-Income ch 15,16

April 20 Second Exam 

April 25 Student presentations

April 27 Student presentations