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Introduction: Booting Up

Lecture Outline: 

Cultural Context of Technology

Defining Technology

Technology is a system that contains:

Machine/process (artifact)


A distinct mode of organization

The Way that technological systems evolve:


Innovation (adaptation)

Diffusions (commercialization)

Four Patterns characterize the relationship between American society and Technology

Technology has made our age unique

Long history of associating technological innovation with progress

new technology will be diffused or commercialized far more quickly than actually occurs

Unintended consequences


  • Introduction: What Does Digital Mean and How does Digitizing America work?
  • The Cultural Context of Technology


  • Nicholas Negroponte, "The DNA of Information," in Being Digital, ch. 1, 11-20 DNA of Information
  • **Spar, Debora L. Ruling the Waves : Cycles of Discovery, Chaos, and Wealth From the Compass to the Internet. New York: Harcourt, 2001, Prologue, 1-22; “Echoes and Refrains,” 117-123; “Ruling the Waves,” 183-189; ch. 8, "Surfing the Barbary Coast," 367-383.
  • Thomas P. Hughes, “From Deterministic Dynamos to Seamless-Web Systems,” in Sladovich, Hedy E. Engineering As a Social Enterprise. (Washington: National Academies Press), n.19, pp. 7-25.
  • Gertner, Jon. The Idea Factory : Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation. New York: Penguin Press, 2012, ch. 7, "The Informationist."


  • Desk Set (1957), directed by Walter Lang (1957; CA: 20th Century Fox, 2004).  We have arranged for all films to be available through streaming. To view, visit and log into the Digitizing America Collab site and select "Kaltura Media Gallery" on the left side menu.


  •  Write a one-page report on the person in your section whose name follows yours in the alphabet [TAs will e-mail list of section names by Tuesday night]