Cultural History of Technology

A black and white photograph of Jim Tillma in the electrical engineering laboratory. University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Jim Tillma in the electrical engineering laboratory, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.  (Photo courtesy of John Vachon. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection, [reproduction number:  LC-USW3- 003058-D].)


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Spring 2005



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Course Description

Course Features

Course Description

The subject of this course is the historical process by which the meaning of "technology" has been constructed. Although the word itself is traceable to the ancient Greek root teckhne (meaning art), it did not enter the English language until the 17th century, and did not acquire its current meaning until after World War I. The aim of the course, then, is to explore various sectors of industrializing 19th and 20th century Western society and culture with a view to explaining and assessing the emergence of technology as a pivotal word (and concept) in contemporary (especially Anglo-American) thought and expression.

Note: In the interests of freshness and topicality we regard the STS.464 syllabus as sufficiently flexible to permit some — mostly minor — variations from year to year. One example of a different STS.464 syllabus can be found in STS.464 Technology and the Literary Imagination, Spring 2008.

Other Versions

Other OCW Versions

This subject's syllabus varies from year to year, in the interests of freshness and topicality.

Related Content

Leo Marx, and Rosalind Williams. STS.464 Cultural History of Technology. Spring 2005. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

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