May 22: Introduction
In this introductory class, we will lay out some of the important themes and concepts of this course. We will focus on discussions about the role of technology in poverty alleviation, examining the ways in which these discussions have changed and how they have remained the same in the past five decades or so. In particular, we will discuss two key threads that come into play in discussions of technology and poverty: the spectrum between technological and social determinism (does technology drive society or does society drive technology); and that between social structure and agency (are people’s actions determined by existing social structures or do their actions determine social structures). We will discuss why these threads are useful to follow and how they will help us frame our discussions of various technologies and their use by the poor. We will also discuss the course outline, schedule, readings, and assignments.