HSTS 4460: Technology in America

Spring 2010

Course Description and Goals: 
This course is both a chronological and thematic survey of the role of technology in American life from colonial times to the present.  Although some parts of this course may examine the technical aspects of inventions and systems, we will mainly discuss how technology and society interact with each other.  We will discuss how technology and systems affected the development of the nation, how they affected social conditions, how new technologies came about, and how they became part of American society.  This course will provide students with an understanding of the basic facts and concepts of this aspect of American history through the assigned readings, lectures, class discussion, and multimedia presentations.  In-class exams will measure understanding of the aforementioned facts and concepts, and out-of-class writing assignments will help students develop critical-thinking skills.

Carroll Pursell, The Machine in America: A Social History of Technology

Martin V. Melosi, Thomas A. Edison and the Modernization of America

JoAnne Yates, Control through Communication: The Rise of System in American Management

Rudi Volti, Cars & Culture: The Story of a Technology

Grading Scale: 
A         94-100
A-        90-93
B+       87-89
B         84-86
B-        80-83
C+       77-79
C         74-76
C-        70-73
D+       67-69
D         64-66
D-        60-63
F          0-59

Exams: 40%
Book Reviews: 45%
Journal articles: 15%

Exam Policy: 
There will be two in-class exams given during the semester—a midterm and a final.  Test questions may include information from class lecture, discussion, multi-media presentations, the textbooks, and other assigned readings.  These questions may include any combination of the following formats: essay, short answer, and identification.

Writing Assignments: 
There will be several out-of-class writing assignments that make up a substantial portion of your final grade.  1) Each student will write reviews of 900-1200 words (3-4 pages) for three of the required texts, which should be submitted via email to scott.billingsley@uncp.edu according to the course schedule below.  These should be typed, double-spaced, and have appropriate citations for additional sources consulted.  You should use The Chicago Manual of Style 15/E for your style guide; copies of CMS are located in Mary Livermore Library.  Further instructions for writing book reviews are located on the course Blackboard site.  2) For each journal article or book chapter assigned, you will be required to submit to me a 600-700 word essay, which identifies the thesis, summarizes the supporting arguments, and assesses the validity of the argument.  Instructions for writing article reviews are also located on the course Blackboard site.  These essays should be submitted via email to scott.billingsley@uncp.edu according to the course schedule below.  3) As always, I expect each student to keep up with the weekly readings from the Pursell textbook.  I may also assign primary source documents from time to time, which you will be expected to read and discuss in class.  I reserve the right to add pop quizzes to the syllabus to ensure that you are reading these chapters and documents.
Attendance Policy: 
Students are expected to attend class regularly and be on time.  You are responsible for getting any information from class lecture and discussion that you might miss due to your absence before the next class meeting.  Please consult the section on Class Attendance Policy in the catalog (http://www.uncp.edu/catalog/pdf/acad_pol.pdf) for official University policy.

Make-up Policy: 
Students should provide me with an approved written excuse (doctor’s note, jury notice, obituary, etc.) if they must miss an exam.  Make-up exams will be in identification and/or essay formats.  Outside writing assignments must be turned in on the date due.  Students will lose ten points for each calendar day the assignment is late.

Code of Conduct:
Students are expected to be familiar with and adhere to the University’s Code of Conduct outlined in the student handbook (http://www.uncp.edu/sa/handbook/html/rights.htm).  Disruptive behavior in the classroom, including extraneous talking and the use of electronic devices, will not be tolerated and may result in expulsion from the class.

Communication Policy:
Students should regularly check their University email accounts and the Announcements section of the Blackboard site for information about the course. It is the students’ responsibility to consult these sources and be aware of any announcements or revisions to the course schedule.

Students with Documented Disabilities: 
Any student with a documented disability needing academic adjustments should speak directly to Disability Support Services and the instructor during the first two weeks of class.  All discussions will remain confidential.  This syllabus is available in alternative formats upon request.  For assistance, please contact Mary Helen Walker, Office of Disability Support Services, D. F. Lowry Building, (910.521.6695) or visit the Office of Disability Support Services website (http://www.uncp.edu/dss/).

Withdrawal from the Course: 
The last day you may drop this course with a grade of “W” is Monday March 15, 2010.

Academic Honesty: 
Academic misconduct in any form will not be tolerated.  It is your responsibility to recognize and understand the various types of academic misconduct, including plagiarism.  Please consult the Academic Honor Code in the Student Handbook or at UNCP’s Division of Student Affairs website (http://www.uncp.edu/sa/pol_pub/honor_code.htm) for official guidelines regarding the definition and handling of academic misconduct.  You may also consult the following websites for more information regarding plagiarism:



Grade Notification: 
To protect the confidentiality of student records, I will not discuss grades via the telephone or email.  Please see me personally or consult Blackboard or Braveweb if you wish to know your grades.

Course Schedule:

January 12: Course Introduction

Topic 1: The Tools Brought Over: Pursell Introduction and chapter 1

Topic 2: Importing the Industrial Revolution: Pursell chapter 2

Topic 3: Improving Transportation: Pursell chapter 3
Richard Deluca, “Against the Tide: The Unfortunate Life of Steamboat Inventor John Fitch,” Connecticut History 44 (Spring 2005): 1-31.  Due by midnight on Sunday January 24.

Topic 4: The Mechanization of Farming: Pursell chapter 5
Joseph M. McFadden, “Barbed Wire: A Story of the West, the East, and American Ingenuity and Entrepreneurship,” Journal of Illinois History 3 (Winter 2000): 285-302.  Due by midnight on Sunday January 31.

Topic 5: The Expansion of American Manufactures: Pursell chapter 4

Topic 6: Creating an Urban Environment: Pursell chapter 6
Martin V. Melosi, Thomas A. Edison and the Modernization of America.  Due by midnight on Sunday February 14.

Topic 7: Westward the Course of Industry: Pursell chapter 7

February 25: Midterm Exam

Topic 8: Export, Exploitation, and Empire: Pursell chapter 8

Topic 9: The Coming of Science and Systems: Pursell chapter 9
JoAnne Yates, Control through Communication: The Rise of System in American Management.  Due by midnight on Sunday March 14.

Topic 10: The Decade of Prosperity and Consumption: Pursell chapter 10
Susan Smulyan, “Introduction” and “The Rise of the Network System” in Selling Radio: The Commercialization of American Broadcasting, 1920-1934 (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994), pp. 1-10, 37-64.  Due by midnight on Sunday March 28.

Topic 11: Depression: Study and Subsidy: Pursell chapter 11

Topic 12: Wars and the American Century: Pursell chapter 12
Rudi Volti, Cars & Culture: The Story of a Technology.  Due by midnight on Sunday April 18.

Topic 13: Challenge, Defense, and Revolution in a Postmodern World: Pursell chapter 13

May 4: Final Exam (1:30-4:00)


    Updated: Monday, December 14, 2009