Technical Cultures of 19th- and 20th-Century America





This seminar addresses three major themes in the history of 19th- and 20th-century American technology: mechanization, mass consumption, and integration. Examples are drawn from a wide range of technologies over a 150-year period, from photography and telegraphy to Bakelite and the personal computer. Throughout the course students examine the development of technical cultures. Cultural norms specific to technologies affected critical decisions about investment, regulation, and implementation; this extends the study to include, for instance, artists’ depictions of factories as representations of modernity. The readings survey various historical approaches to technology, with special attention paid to the significance that scholars have granted to material culture. 3 credits.