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anthr_of_comp2 - 21A.350 SP.484J STS.086 The Anthropology...

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21A.350 / SP.484J / STS.086 The Anthropology of Computing Fall 2004 MIT Introduction to the class This is ANTHROPOLOGY OF COMPUTING — and what that means is that we’ll be looking at computers as cultural artifacts, and at the idea of computing itself as connected to wider social, political, economic, ideological, and cultural contexts. In other words, another name for this course would be CULTURES OF COMPUTING. Think of CULTURE as the beliefs, ideas, ideologies that organize people’s ways of life and that are also built into the technologies, infrastructures they use and inhabit. I’ve organized this class roughly historically, at least to begin — since understanding how ideas about computation, calculation, cognition have changed can afford insight into the various ways that computers have come into being. We will also pay attention to different cultural genealogies, heritages for computing, particularly in reading we do about African mathematical systems in November. Why culture? “It is a good thing to know something of the customs and manners of various peoples in order to judge our own more objectively and not think everything which is contrary to our ways ridiculous and irrational, as those who have seen nothing are in the habit of doing” (Descartes, 30) This course is cross-listed with Science Technology and Society. It’s also cross-listed with Women’s Studies, since some of the cultural contexts we read about in this class have quite a bit to do with gender — ideas and social structures organized around perceived differences between the so-called sexes. This will become particularly relevant, for example, when we read about the early history of Artificial Intelligence and ask whether the MIND as the AI folks modeled it contained assumptions about the relation between gender and reason. Why is it always MAN versus MACHINE? Course Logistics A word about presentations: Students will give a presentation exploring the social meaning of an artifact from contemporary computing not covered in our reading — e.g. the iPod, XBox, Google. As I calculate it, we have 5 sessions in which it will make sense to do this — times when a paper isn’t due, or we don’t have a guest speaker, or its too early to make you freak out. Given that there are X people in the class, that means X/5 per session. We’ll start the time after next. I’ll create a sign up sheet for that and we can talk in more detail then.
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MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE COSMOLOGY AND CLOCKWORK Lecture 2. September 20 I’ll speak today about the emergence of early models of the mind in coordination and calibration with particular Christian cosmologies, particularly in medieval and Renaissance Europe. Several important figures in the early history of mathematics and logic turn out to have had mutually informing investments in ideas about the cosmos , about God, and about the place of humans in understanding the order created by God, whom they imagined, in line with much Christian theology, as omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent.
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