The best thing about being a taught masters student is the other students. They make seminars so rewarding. In seminars with undergraduates you would often find lots had not done the reading, didn’t talk and seemed to be totally unwilling to engage with the subject. Many times I went to seminars expecting a rewarding and interesting discussion about the subjects raised only to sit in silence for what seemed like hours. Some seminar tutors filled the void with talking, others expected us to do so. Being a masters student and attending a seminar is bliss. The readings have been done, opinions are voiced and a proper discussion happens where people bring new interpretations and ideas to the group.
Yesterday I had a seminar on the social construction of technology. It was great. I felt this was the experience that I had been looking for during my undergrad years.
Technology and science do not follow a linear path towards progression. People interact with science and technology and interpret them using their own knowledge, experience and bias.
Scientific discoveries and technological advancements can sometimes take a long time to be accepted or used.
For example, the theory of evolution. We all know there are people who prefer creationism to Darwinism. They believe despite the evidence that humans were created by God. They believe this over a century after ‘The Origin of the Species’ was published. One day mankind will come to a consensus on the issue, just like they did over the earth being flat and the sun revolving around the earth. Future generations will look back and only see the two points, one day mankind believed God made the earth a la Adam and Eve, the next they realised it was not so. We can sometimes assume the same of past scientific discoveries and forget the confusion and doubt that they may have bought.
It is the same with technology. Technology is not the result of a long genius coming up with an idea, he needs support and help from his peers. In order to invent the lightbulb Edison need electricity to be utilised and stored, something which others had been working on for centuries. There also had to be a social need for electric light. If electric light was so fantastic Edison would not have needed to ensure the price of the bulb was so cheap in order to lure others away from gas lighting.
A big thanks to my web science colleagues for making my seminar so enjoyable.