The ISAT program focuses on the use of science and technology to solve human problems. Social context refers to any of a variety of issues – political, economic, sociological, regulatory/legal, and cultural – that arise when applying science and technology to the solution of real-world problems.
Knowledge of the social context is an essential tool for practicing technologists and managers because purely technical solutions almost never wholly solve the problems that they face in their daily work. Thus, social context courses provide very practical information that enables ISAT graduates to excel after graduation.
Studying social context also raises broader questions about the appropriate role of science and technology in our society. It challenges students to think critically about the decisions we make about science and technology policy, appropriate use of technology, ethics, the nature of scientific and technological knowledge, and the challenges posed by the rapid evolution of science and technology in the context of a shrinking globe.
The social context curriculum therefore seeks not only to help guide students through the social context in which science and technology emerge and are applied, but also to challenge society’s norms, values, and preconceptions as well.
As Freshman and Sophomores, all students majoring in ISAT take a sequence of two Social Context courses:
- Technology, Science and Society (ISAT 131)
- Political Economy of Technology and Science (ISAT 231)