Midterm alternative: Paper

(1) Students can submit a paper instead of a midterm exam. The description of the paper topic is below. We think you’ll get a lot out of the exercise, but be warned it will probably involve more work than preparation for the exam will. If opt to do the paper and then decide at the last minute that you can’t, you can always take the midterm.  However, if you do not turn in a paper topic by March 5, and an outline by March 11, you cannot select the paper option.

(2) March 5: Notify the instructors by either via email or in office hours of your intention to do a paper, and specify the topic.

(3) March 11: submit a paper proposal consisting of (ungraded):

(a) short (3/4 page) outline

(b) list of the sources you will use for the paper.  The list of sources should include sources from the class syllabus (required and optional reading) as well as three scholarly sources not on the syllabus.  Please read the guidelines on the selection of scholarly sources.

(4)March 18 at 8am: paper is due.  No extensions will be granted, and no late papers will be accepted.  Please submit one electronic copy submitted via bSpace in the following format: FIRSTNAME-LASTNAME-103.doc and one paper copy to the box outside 203A South Hall or to one of us in person before this time.  Please read the guidelines very carefully for instructions for turning in your paper.

(5) TOPIC. The paper will have three parts:

(a) A careful description of two contrasting positions on the notion of technological determinism, based on the Heilbroner reading and the Bijker article “King of the Road.” Alternatively, you may choose another scholarly source to stand in for one of the two positions.

(b) An application of one or the other of these positions relative to either the development of writing, printing, the postal system, or the telegraph — how well does the position on technological determinism hold up when evaluated against the effects of these technologies? The discussion should draw on the class readings (required and suggested), the class discussion, and external scholarly sources. How well does the position you have chosen to elaborate hold up when measured against the effects of the technology you have chosen? Be specific in discussion these effects.

(c) Finally, present your own view on the relation of technology to social and cultural change.  This should account for the examples you have talked about in section (2).

(6) Suggestions for a 30-point essay:

  • A great essay will address (a), (b) and (c) above supported by readings from the class and outside sources.  It will have a central argument/thesis. You may also use the material in lectures to support your arguments (properly cited as a lecture). Including facts, quotes, or media references from lectures would make useful supplements to arguments found in the readings.
  • The essays will include thoughtful analysis of all of the relevant readings and lectures in the class (properly cited). If you make an argument that addresses a topic that is mentioned in a reading and you don’t mention that reading, we will wonder why not.
  • Please do not give us personal opinions or feelings which are not grounded in, or supported by the source materials. These are great for future conversations, but not what we are looking for in a scholarly essay.
  • At all costs, avoid writing a book report which contains no argument and no analysis.
  • Make sure that you get your history right!
  • Proofread and use consistently formatted citations.
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