R1B - 003 | CCN: 22146

The Craft of Writing

Fictions of Technology, Science and Society

Instructor: Kfir Cohen

4 Units

In this course we will develop research and argumentative skills through exploring theoretical and imaginative texts that revolve around technology, science and social order. In one part of the class we will build on the skills already acquired in the R1A course and introduce new skills for conducting research, evaluating and engaging with outside sources, and composing progressively longer papers that cite those sources.

In the other part, we will read and discuss texts that take up the questions of artificial intelligence and human attachment (Ex-Machina), the relation between justice and techniques of scientific prediction (Foundation, Minority Report), and time travel (The Time Machine) among others. We will watch several contemporary films and read a variety of texts from different historical periods and cultural traditions, focusing specifically on sci-fi and utopian/distopian fiction. The following questions will underlie a few of our discussions: can humans attach to inanimate machines and, if so, what do such attachments teach us about human-to-human relationships? Why are we both fascinated by and deeply anxious about the possibility of artificial intelligence such as that possessed by cyborgs and robots? Why are science and scientific innovation used as models to imagine perfect societies and why do such models usually fail? How do sci-fi texts encode implicit utopian wishes and why is the genre a fruitful site for such social thinking?

Writing assignments will include short in-class writing exercises, peer-review, a midterm paper and 10-page final paper. The midterm and the final papers will include a research component for which students will need to independently consult and engage with secondary materials outside of the course reader.