Session 18
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Session 18. Scoping Your Final Paper Topic & Argument (revisiting Heilbroner’s ‘Soft Determinism’) Outlining Exercise. ScopING your TOPIC + argument. Revisiting Heilbroner ’s “Soft Determinism”. Do Machines Make History?.

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Session 18

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Session 18

Session 18

Scoping Your Final Paper Topic & Argument (revisiting Heilbroner’s ‘Soft Determinism’)

Outlining Exercise


Scoping your topic argument

ScopING your TOPIC + argument

Revisiting Heilbroner’s “Soft Determinism”


Do machines make history

Do Machines Make History?

  • “that machines make history in some sense—that the level of technology has a direct bearing on the human drama—is of course obvious” [….BUT…..]

  • How to “say something systematic” and “order the problem so that it becomes intellectually manageable” [SCOPE THE CLAIM IN ORDER TO MAKE IT MORE CREDIBLE]


Heilbroner scope

Heilbroner - Scope

  • Possibilities for examining this claim that machines make history:

    • The political course of history – i.e. technologies of war

    • The social attitude underlying history – i.e. effects of radio or TV

    • The content of life – its texture and substance as connected to tech order

    • “the effect of technology in determining the nature of the socioeconomic order” – specifically “technologies of production” (i.e the hand mill, steam mill)


Heilbroner argument

Heilbroner - Argument

  • Initial Claim – there is a fixed sequence to technological development

    • Evidence: innovations happen at the same time (without connection btwn)

    • Evidence: inventions are evolutionary (no sudden leaps)

    • Evidence: we seem to know what is coming next (general predictions)


Heilbroner argument1

Heilbroner - Argument

  • Initial Claim – there is a fixed sequence to technological development

    • Evidence: innovations happen at the same time (without connection btwn)

    • Evidence: inventions are evolutionary (no sudden leaps)

    • Evidence: we seem to know what is coming next (general predictions)


Heilbroner more scoping

Heilbroner – More Scoping

  • Initial Claim – the impact on “society” is on “relationships of production”

    • Specifically – composition of the labor force (skilled vs. unskilled, at home vs. at factory site)

    • Specifically – orders of supervision and coordination (men-manager confrontations, industrial managers)


Heilbroner qualifications

Heilbroner - Qualifications

  • Heilbroner makes clear his case is one of a SOFT Determinism

    • Qualification 1: there is a social element in the design of technology – “the machine will reflect…the social relationships of work”

    • Qualification 2: technological progress is a social activity that not all societies puruse

    • Qualification 3: the course of tech advance is responsive to social directions

    • Qualification 4: tech change must be compatible with existing social conditions


Heilbroner problem space

Heilbroner – Problem Space?

  • Not entirely clear.

  • Perhaps – the very question of scoping and arguing this claim “do machines make history?”

    • “to see if there is an empirical content—in the idea of technological determinism…”

    • “see if we can place the salvageable elements of the theory in historical perspective—”

  • What do we mean by problem space?


Session 18

  • Topic: anonymity

  • Problem space:

    • How does anonymity either foster or inhibit community building?

    • How is ‘community’ possible given extreme full anonymity?

      • Case: 4chan

    • What do we gain or lose from different forms of anonymity or pseudonymity in online spaces?

      • Case: 4chan

      • Case: World of Warcraft


Readings how to read

Readings /How to Read


Assignment 2 part ii

Assignment 2 – Part II


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