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Complex Problems Courses | Technology

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Are You a Digital Citizen

GNED 130
Jill Klein
W 11:20 – 2:10pm 

Digital Citizenship broadly describes what it means to live in our networked world. The Internet fundamentally improves the economic and social life of anyone who gains access. But every click leaves a trace of our digital footsteps. What does this mean to us as individuals, as a community and as a global society? And what about those less fortunate, who may never experience the power of the Internet? How should we seek to engage these individuals? Our class will raise more questions than it answers but will heighten our understanding for the evolving challenges and opportunities on our digital planet.


GNED 140
Lauren Weis
MTh 12:55 – 2:10pm

In our society, divided by inequality and ideology, many demand civil discourse to solve the problem of incivility. This course will challenge our assumptions about incivility and “civil discourse.” Course themes may include how ideals of civility connect to language and emotion; how the normalization of civility connects to colonialism, imperialism, and globalization; whether movements employing ‘uncivil’ practices (suffrage, labor, civil rights, feminist, LGBTQ, disability rights, Occupy, Black Lives Matter) reject civility as an ideal and/or challenge us to think more deeply about truly “civil discourse.” Students will read texts from disciplines such as literature, philosophy, political science, anthropology, technology studies, gender studies, and sociology; engage in collaborative projects; visits to Congress, Belmont-Paul National Monument, National Museum of African American Culture; and observe or participate in a protest action in Washington, DC.

Plagues, Plots, and People

GNED 250
Sarah Marsh
TF 9:45 - 11:00am 

Diseases, we say, are caught, transmitted, and contracted in many different ways: miasmas, bugs, germs, and vectors--to name just a few. So what do the things we say about illness teach us about what we think makes us sick? This class will study historical, scientific, and popular accounts of illness to explore this question and others: Does disease create immunity or result from lack of it? Do class, sexuality, race, gender, or geography protect against disease, or expose people to it? How do biomedical narratives of illness inflect cultural practices and social relations? And how have the life cycles of pathogenic microorganisms shaped human history? This course's materials include science writing, theory, film, and literature--as well as images and objects from the National Library of Medicine and the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology at the Smithsonian Institute.

Playing With Genes

GNED 250
Sarah Marvar
MTh 4:05 - 5:20pm

We will explore divisive bioethical issues surrounding our growing ability to analyze and manipulate genes in humans, animals and plants. Students will be introduced to the basics of the human genome, the technology such as CRISPR that allows for genetic manipulation and the possibilities that provides in health and understanding genetic disease. Students will discuss selected readings, films and complete creative writing assignments while exploring the bioethical side of genetic manipulation, gene therapy, cloning and reproductive technologies, such as three parent babies. With the professor, guest speakers and their peers, students will consider personalized medicine and it’s impact on healthcare, in addition to genetic engineering of animals in the fight against disease (eg. Zika) and genetically modified foods.

The Material World

GNED 250
Nathan Harshman
TF 11:20 - 12:35pm 

This course will explore the matter that has mattered to humans, from stone and bronze through semiconductors and nanostructures. Cultures, economies, and nation‐states flourish and decline based in part on the material resources and technology which they can access and control. This course is half about material science, investigating the atom-stuff that we and our world are made of, and half a critical investigation of materialist theories of culture, history, economics, and politics. The primary student assessment is a portfolio demonstrating an integrated understanding of scientific and technical material (pun intended) into social, historical, artistic, economic, philosophical and political contexts.

Understanding Constructions of the Self and Other through Contemporary Technology

GNED 130
Zoe Charlton
T 5:30 - 8:00pm 

Establishing one’s identitie(s) is both real and invented. How one reads other’s projected identitie(s) in a multi-platform culture is complicated, not only by how people adorn themselves, but by our media choices. From avatars on social media (Instagram, YouTube, Tinder) to online simulation platforms (Open Simulator and SecondLife), and from fan conventions (Otakon, Comic Con) to festivals (Afropunk), notions of the constructed self destabilizes conventional models of the singular identity. Using an interdisciplinary and inter-media approach, Understanding Constructions of the Self and Other through Contemporary Technology introduces the ways people shape their identities across a variety of cultural perspectives. Readings and Class Discussions are central to the experience of this course.

Visual Identities

GNED 140
Andrea Pearson
MTh 9:45 - 11:00am 

Drawing on museum collections in D.C., “Visual Identities” explores how visual images constructed, claimed, and sometimes contested identities across the geohistorical spectrum. How do images convey identities tied to cultural conceptions about politics, religions, race, gender, disability, and sexuality? What can such works teach us about visual strategies for conveying identity, past and present? In what ways are these strategies culturally distinctive or analogous? To answer these questions, images will be analyzed comparatively, in a case-study approach across specific cultures. Individual and group projects will develop critical thinking, writing, and presentation skills.