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TECHNOLOGY, THE ECONOMY, AND SOCIETY

ECO 4346, Spring, 2006

Instructor: Dan O'Brien email: obri@utdallas.edu


Office hours: Thursday 5-6.30 PM phone: 972-883-4700
or by appointment office: GR 3.824

TA: Raina Hossain email: rzh051000@.utdallas.edu


Office hours: Tuesday 5-6 PM phone: 972-883-2935
or by appointment office: GR 2.822

This course explores the ways technological innovation, economic dynamics and societal
contexts shape one another. We will examine the ways in which society and markets have
historically influence technical advances and how these advances, in turn, have impacted
economic and social activities. The course will include theoretical and research findings from
economics, sociology, engineering, and management. We will apply historic lessons to identify
potential positive and negative impacts of technologies on society and the economy. Special
emphasis will be devoted to understanding how advanced technologies are transforming the
workplace including the growth of outsourcing and emergence of the knowledge economy.

Scholastic Integrity

Scholastic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Each of you is responsible for knowing what
constitutes scholastic dishonesty and its consequences (see
http://www.utdallas.edu/student/slife/chapter49.html)

Reading Resources

Course readings will be drawn from a variety of sources. In addition to the books listed below, a
variety of articles and related instructional materials will be posted to WebCT. You can access
WebCT using your UTD email user ID and password. Plan on checking WebCT regularly, as
that will be my primary way of communicating with you between class sessions.

The required texts listed below have been ordered for this course by the UTD bookstore and Off-
Campus Books.

1. Nye, David E., Electrifying America: Social Meanings of a New Technology.


Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1995. Some new technologies are so fundamental that they
are capable of defining historical eras during which their broad applications sweep through society
spontaneously and change everything permanently. Such was the harnessing of the electron that we
know
as electricity. Nye’s account covering the 1880-1940 period describes how electricity was drawn into
use
throughout U.S. society, why, and with what effects. For our purposes, this account is meant to
illustrate
how technical advance has its origins within - and its influences shaped by – contemporary social
contexts.
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2. Volti, Rudi, Society and Technological Change. New York: St. Martin's
Press, Third Edition, 1996. This book offers a survey and overview of a series of
issues related to technology and technological change generally. We will use it to provide a
general introduction to these issues before turning to illustrate selected ones using the actual
findings of empirical research studies. I want you to see how scholars pursue research
questions, develop data, and interpret them in light of what has gone before, thereby
contributing to our knowledge.

3. Schumpeter, Joseph A. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. Harper & Row


1984. This classic text located innovation at the center of the capitalist economic system, thereby
offering a very different perspective on economic performance and prospects than that which dominated
conventional thought through much of the 20th century.

4. In addition, each student will be required to have access to the Wall Street Journal.
This resource will be of special use in developing your course paper.

COURSE ADMINISTRATION AND GRADING

This course will generally follow a lecture-discussion format. This means that each student
should be prepared to add to the group discussion on issues covered in the class. Please be
prepared to initiate and participate in class discussions.

We will use an evaluation process to accomplish the following:

1) Provides you with early and multiple scores so you will know how well you are
doing;
2) Eliminates the need for a make-up exam and give you the opportunity to compensate
for a poor exam showing by dropping the lowest exam grade.
3) Reward class participation by recognizing your contribution to in class discussions.
4) Give you a head start on a senior honors or future academic paper by considering
numerous topics and through development of a paper during the semester.

We will have three in-class exams and a written paper/project. In-class examinations will be short
essay-style. Your course grade will be computed by dropping your lowest exam grade. The
remaining two exam grades will be worth 30 percent each. The course paper will be worth 35
percent of your grade. The remaining five percent will be based on class participation and an
occasional beginning-of-class quiz to test your preparation for class. There will be no make-up
exams.

Because your paper and class preparation will require access to academic articles, the Wall Street
Journal, the Economist magazine and other sources, we will devote part of one class to a guided
instructional tour of the UTD Library. Students will be instructed how to gain internet and
hands-on access to the UTD library and worldwide resources provided through the library.

Advanced Writing Requirement: The writing assignment -- and the process used to develop a
high-quality intellectual product -- satisfies the advanced writing requirement of this university.
All students enrolled in this course will be required to comply with the AWR process
expectations. This means that writing topics will be selected and refined in consultation with the
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instructor. The final product will be evaluated on the basis of technical detail – grammar, spelling,
paragraph development, and conclusion – in addition to the logic, organization, and coherence.
The final paper must be fully footnoted and include a well-developed bibliography. It is expected
that once the initial draft is turned in, it will be evaluated and then returned with suggestions for
improvement. Students must rework any deficiencies before receiving a final grade. Final
versions of the paper will be at least 15 pages in length, not counting appendices, footnotes, and
bibliography.

Attendance and Missed Classes

If you plan to do well in the course, regular attendance is necessary. I will take attendance and
hold a beginning-of-class quiz several times randomly during the semester just to reward
attendance and preparation. Students are responsible for all material assigned. Most of the
examination questions will be based on material from the assignments and will be covered in
class. However, the exams may include topics discussed in class that are not part of the readings
as well as assigned readings that are not fully discussed in the class. You are expected to bring to
class any questions/insights you may have on any and all assigned material. I do not provide
class notes. These you must generate for yourselves.

If you experience a problem or have questions at any time, contact me promptly. In addition to
office hours we will discuss in class, I am ready to arrange to meet with you at almost any other
mutually agreeable time. However, it will be necessary for you to contact me before/after class or
by e-mail to make an appointment so that we can reserve the time. The best way to communicate
with me promptly is via e-mail.

The following schedule provides a course outline and timing of exams and readings. It is subject
to change based on how quickly we cover the material and the possible inclusion of guest
speakers. Please keep abreast of course changes by checking your UTD email account and/or
accessing WebCT.

COURSE OUTLINE AND READINGS

I. Introduction and Overview (1/10 - 1/12)


What is technology? How can we place conceptual boundaries around a given technology? What
attributes are important for characterizing a given technology…why? Why do we seek to identify/
anticipate impacts and outcomes, facilitating factors, sources of resistance? Identify and be able to
discuss key issues/themes in Volti.

1. "The Nature of Technology," Chapter 1 in Volti.


2. Ogburn, William F., "The Influence of Invention and Discovery," Chapter III in
Report of the President's Research Committee on Social Trends," Recent Social
Trends in the United States, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1933. (Skim)

II. Economic Perspectives on Technological Innovation: Theoretical Foundations (1/17 -


1/26)
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How do societies deal with scarcity and choice? How do these micro activities shape
macroeconomic outcomes like growth and productivity? The influence of “technology” in shaping
these outcomes has long been acknowledged in economic theory; however, the centrality of its role
has varied dramatically. We will retrace the evolving role “technology” has played in economic
theory over time.

1. Formaini, R.L. (2001). “The Engine of Capitalist Process.”


2. Kirchhoff, B.A. (1999). “The Dynamics of Economic Growth,” pp. 1-5.
3. Kirchhoff, B.A. (1999). “Dynamic Capitalism’s Conflict with General Equilibrium
Economics.”
4. Schumpeter, J.A. (1942). “Can Capitalism Survive? (Part II), pp. 59-163 in Capitalism,
Socialism and Democracy.

Exam I - January 31

III. Technological Change: Sources and Sequences (2/7 - 2/16)


Why is it important to distinguish between invention as a conceptual breakthrough and innovation
as a
commercial one? How do infrastructures emerge, become integrated and support innovation
potential? Can innovation be routinized? Distinguishing strategic from spontaneous innovation.
What role does innovation play in our economy? Where do new industries come from?

A. Spontaneous Origins – Endogeneity


1. "The Sources of Technological Change," Chapter 3 in Volti.
2. “Preface,” “Middletown Lights Up” (Chap. 1) in Nye.
3. “The Electrification of the United States,” National Academy of Sciences
4. “Scientific Knowledge and Technological Advance,” Chapter 4 in Volti.
5. To view timelines associated with a variety of discoveries, go to the following
National Academy of Sciences website, and click on “Timelines.”
http://www.beyonddiscovery.org/articleindex.asp

B. Strategic Origins – Investment


1. “A Survey of Innovation in Industry, The Economist, February 20, 1999, pp. 1-28.

2. "Scientific Knowledge and Technological Advance," Chapter 4 in Volti.

IV. Work and Wealth Creation: Productive Arrangements in Transit (2/21 - 2/28)
New foundational technologies are capable of sweeping through the nation’s industrial base and
reworking dramatically its capacity for wealth creation, occupations, the mix of industries, and even
the substance of work itself. Here we will look back to the electrification of the U.S. industrial
base beginning more than a century ago and compare/contrast it with the spread of new
foundational/ infrastructural technologies through economic sectors retail, entertainment, etc –
today.

1. “Flexible Factory” (Chapter 5) in Nye.


2. Additional readings to be determined

Exam II - March 2
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Spring Break March 7 - 9

Paper Topic - March 14

V. Technology Transforms Economic Outcomes: Employment and Earnings Effects


(3/14 - 3/23)
This topic extends the logic of the previous one by mapping out the industrial/economic impacts of
Technological innovation to the level of work and related indicators of economic performance such as
employment and earnings growth.

1. "Technological Change and Life on the Job," Chapter 9 in Volti.


2. R. D. Atkinson, “Revenge of the Disintermediated,” Policy Paper, Progressive Policy
Institute, January 2001.
3. Judy, Richard W. and Carol D’Amico, “Changes in Work, Compensation, and
Occupations,” Chap 2 in Workforce 2020: Work and Workers in the 21st Century,
The Hudson Institute: Indianapolis, Indiana, 1997.
4. Additional readings to be determined

Paper Outline and Annotated Bibliography - March 23

VI. Technology and Territoriality (3/28 - 3/30)


What roles do new technologies play in globalization? What is the relationship between globalization and
localization?

1. “Engines of Economic Growth,” BankBoston.


2. Porter, Michael E., pp. 117-124 in The Competitive Advantage of Nations, New York:
The Free Press, 1990.

Exam III - April 4


Paper Draft - April 11

VII. Well-Being and World-views: Social and Cultural Arrangements in Transit (4/6 -
4/18)
What does a focus on technological advance tell us about the relationship between wealth and welfare? That is,
how can a nation’s or people’s capacity to create wealth influence the standards it uses to measure well-being?

1. "Winners and Losers," Chapter 2 in Volti


2. Drucker, Peter, "The Age of Social Transformation," The Atlantic Monthly,
November
1994, pp. 53 ff.
2. “The Electrifying Future,” Chapter 8 and “Conclusion,” Chapter 9 in Nye.
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VIII. Overview and Conclusion (4/20)


Here we will review unifying themes and defining dynamics around which our discussions have been
organized.

Papers Due 4/25