You are on page 1of 8


Fall 2015 (08/24/15-12/9/15)
Tuesdays and Thursdays
Section 001
Section 002
Harvill Bldg Room 240
Dr. Victor Braitberg
Assistant Professor
Honors Interdisciplinary Faculty
The Honors College
University of Arizona
Office Hours
Mondays Noon-3PM
Slonaker House 211
And by Appointment
Office Tel.520-621-0175

From the world of industrial machines to the world of digital devices, the changing
landscape of technology in our everyday lives has a profound effect on how we think
about and experience our bodies. Using historical and cross-cultural perspectives
alongside out-of-the-classroom research we will explore how a wide range of social
and cultural groups experience and make sense of the relationship between bodies
and machines. Using the frameworks of phenomenological, political-economic, and
discourse analysis, students will analyze body-machine relationships that they will
have studied through first-hand research.
All required and recommended articles and book chapters will be made available
through the D2L course site.

1. Identify and describe how visions and techniques for technologically
transforming the body articulate human values, beliefs, and desires.
2. Describe the political, economic, and cultural contexts for scientific and
technological modifications of the human body.
3. Evaluate how technological bodies transgress existing social and political
arrangements, or conversely, how they reinforce and normalize them.
4. Evaluate the similarities and differences between contemporary and
historical imaginaries of bodies and machines.
1. Increased understanding of how ideas about science, technology, the body
and society are related to one another.
2. Increased understanding of the historical relationships between science,
technology, the body and social thought.
3. Improved ability to think critically about social and political beliefs and their
relationship to understandings of science, technology, and the body.
4. Increased understanding of qualitative research methods.
5. Expanded proficiency in carrying out qualitative research.
6. Expanded proficiency in expository writing.
7. Improved ability to interpret qualitative research data using social theory.
The following methods will be used to explore course topics:
Instructor lectures
Out of class research
Online discussions
Class discussions
Final Paper
Pop Quizzes
D2L Discussion

200 pts | 20%

300 pts | 30%
500 pts | 50%
Total: 1000pts

= (1000-900)
= (890-800)
= (790-700)
= (690-600)
= (below 590)

COURSE ACTIVITIES AND ASSESSMENT (Rubrics will be posted in D2L)


POP QUIZZES 20% Of Grade (200PTS)

Pop quizzes will be based on assigned readings for the week and will be
unannounced. Format will be multiple-choice. They will be held in class. Except for
cases of illness and family emergencies, make-up quizzes will not be offered.
D2L DISCUSSION 30% of Grade (15 x 20PTS =300 PTS)
Prompts will be posted on Thursdays and will be due the following Monday
by 5pm.
The aim of this class is to create an environment where you can learn to think
holistically about bodies and machines. This means being able to observe, analyze,
and identify patterns between things that may, at first, not seem to be related. It
means being able to make connections between the past and the present, between
society and the individual, between fantasy and reality, between the personal and the
Prompts for D2l discussion appear each week in the Table of Contents of our D2L site .
They will vary from week to week. Some prompts will ask you to engage with an
argument being made by one of our authors or to discuss with examples a concept
that has been introduced in class discussion. In some cases you will be asked to
respond to a video, a photograph, a poem, or other cultural artifact. In some cases
you will be asked to interview someone, observe social behavior, or perform an
experiment on yourself and share what you discovered.
Excellent postings those receiving an A will not only engage fully with the prompt
but succeed in using specific examples to make relevant and thought provoking
connections with two or more of the following-- our readings, films, current events,
course assignments, class discussion, other classes, etc
The most important assignment for this class is the ethnography. Ethnography
involves the analysis of a particular culture through hands on field research that will
take place outside of the classroom. Your ethnography will be a contribution to our
understanding of how people experience and make sense of the relationship between
bodies and machines.
This assignment will be made up of five separate assignments that will culminate in a
7-10 page paper that you will be due at the end of the semester. Each assignment
will be graded on a pass/fail basis. If you turn it in you will receive full credit. Only the
final ethnography will be graded on the basis of a rubric that will be provided by the
third week of classes. Each of the assignments leading up to the final paper will be
discussed in class and you will have opportunities to form working-groups with your
peers to share ideas and strategies for completing each assignment.
Examples of papers from previous semesters will be posted to the content area of
Assignment 1: Background research (50pts)
Assignment 2: Field Notes (50pts)

Assignment 3: Draft of Ethnography (50pts)

Assignment 4: Class Presentation (50pts)
Assignment 5: Final draft of Ethnography (300pts)
You will use three scholarly perspectives to analyze your data.

Phenomenology of bodies and machines

How do we experience our technologies in relation to our bodies? How do we
live our technologies? What kind of world do they create for us? How do they
empower us and how do they constrain us in our activities?

Political economy of bodies and machines

How are technologies developed and used to transform bodies in ways that will
create profit in the context of the market economy. How is this justified,
rationalized, and carried out? How does this involve conflict between different
social groups over interests, values, and beliefs?

Discourses of bodies and machines

How are forms of expertise used to promote and explain particular couplings of
bodies and machines? How are body-machine relationships justified and


Deadlines: D2L posts and Papers must be turned in by the time indicated in the
syllabus. 5% of total points for the assignment will be deducted for each day it is
Readings: This is a reading-intensive class. You will be expected to read between
30-50 pages every week. Please do not take this class if you feel that this is too
much reading. All readings must be completed prior to the class meeting for which
they are scheduled. You are expected to bring the scheduled readings with you to
class since we will be making reference to them during class discussions. You will
be expected to cite relevant passages. You will also be asked to read aloud from
passages in the assigned reading.
Attitude: This class is devoted to a thorough and complete exploration of the
relationship between bodies and machines. When I say "bodies", I mean all aspects of
the human body.

Be aware that our readings, films, and class discussions will

sometimes include topics that some people may find offensive and/or
disturbing (for example attitudes and behaviors related to sex and
sexuality, gender, race, violence, religion, politics, etc).
As a cultural anthropologist, I consider it indispensable to study all aspects of the
human experience-- experiences that range from what some might consider the
sublime and solemn to the depraved and disgusting-- and everything in between. This

means that you will sometimes need to adopt an attitude of critical detachment
regarding your own values and beliefs to get the most out of this class.
Accordingly, for the duration of this class you will be expected to adopt the attitude of
a cultural anthropologist. This will mean being non-judgmental (ethnocentric) about
the behaviors and beliefs that we will read about and discuss. You will be expected to
try and understand foreign behaviors and beliefs from the perspective of those who
hold them. The point here is to strive for understanding, not evaluation and judgment
according to your own values and beliefs, but according to the values and beliefs of
the individuals and groups under consideration- what some anthropologists refer to
as "the natives point of view."
Community: Bodies and Machines has a Facebook page and a YouTube channel that
you will be expected to utilize for class discussion and research purposes. The YouTube
channel has numerous videos that deal with a wide range of topics related to the class
ranging from Cartesian philosophy and robotics, to post-humanism and cell phone
commercials. The Facebook page contains a wide range of resources that relate to the
YouTube playlist can be found @

Facebook community page can be found @


I will be giving you my undivided attention during our time together in the
classroom and I expect you to do the same. This means that I will expect you to
refrain from engaging in activities during class time that are unrelated to the course
(for example texting or writing notes to your classmates, updating your Facebook
page, doing work for other classes, reading the newspaper, playing cards, doing
crossword puzzles, watching movies, listening to music, etc.) This will be
considered disruptive behavior and a violation of item 5 in the University of
Arizonas Code of Academic Integrity. This item of the code prohibits "failing to
observe rules of academic integrity established by a faculty member for a particular
I take a violation of this expectation very seriously.
You will receive a verbal warning for the first occurrence and any
recurrence will result in a deduction of (10% off of your final grade).

Please follow classroom rules regarding food and beverages in the classroom.

In that this is a safe environment for sharing and generating unique ideas,
please try to be open to diverse perspectives and learn from others who may pose

views that differ from your own. At times, course material might seem offensive,
but try to wrangle with new ideas and consider a variety of perspectives instead of
simply rejecting ideas posed in course-related discussion. When sharing your own
ideas, do not subject others to inappropriate language or problematic assumptions
about social groups.
Rules on academic dishonesty will be strictly enforced. Plagiarism is literary
thievery, taking the words or ideas of another and representing them as your own.
Do not copy another students work, pull text from online sources, or turn in the
same work for this class that you have used in another class. All work turned in
must be original and specific to this course. Students who violate University rules
on scholastic dishonesty are subject to disciplinary penalties (e.g., failing grade or
removal from the University). Students are encouraged to share intellectual views
and discuss freely the principles and applications of course materials. However,
graded work/exercises must be the product of independent effort unless otherwise
instructed. As previously mentioned, students are expected to adhere to the UA
Code of Academic Integrity .
Arrangements can be made if you have a physical challenge or condition that could
impair your participation and/or performance in this course. Please notify the
instructor immediately if you need accommodation, and register with Disability
Resources so that I can make accommodation: Disability Resources Center, 1224
East Lowell Street, Tucson, AZ 85721, (520) 621-3268, FAX (520) 621-9423, email:, You must register and request
that the Center or DRC send me official notification of your accommodations needs
as soon as possible. Please plan to meet with me by appointment or during office
hours to discuss accommodations and how my course requirements and activities
may impact your ability to fully participate. The need for accommodations must be
documented by Disability Resources.
The Arizona Board of Regents Student Code of Conduct, ABOR Policy 5-308,
prohibits threats of physical harm to any member of the University community,
including to ones self. See:
All student records will be managed and held confidentially.
Information contained in the course syllabus, other than the grade and
absence policy, may be subject to change with advance notice, as deemed
appropriate by the instructor.



-----------------------------------------------------------------------------Week 1

READ| Sherry Turkle (2006) Tethering. From Caroline Jones, Ed.

David Cevetello, The Elite Glucometer, 64-68. From Evocative Objects.
WATCH| Performance Artist Sterlac
ABC News Segment on Bodies and Machines
------------------------------------------------------------------------Week 2|
Ways of Studying Bodies and Machines
READ| Sherry Turkle, Introduction: Reading the Inner History of
Devices (Read 2-4 closely, skim the rest)
Alicia Kestrell Verlager, The Prosthetic Eye, 32-40
Marsha H. Levy-Warren, Computer Games, 77-85.
Anne Pollock, The Internal Cardiac Defibrillator, 98-111.
--------------------------------------------- ----------------------------Week 3|
Anthropology of Bodies and Machines
READ| Excertps from: Luke Eric Lassiter (2009) A Invitation to
Anthropology 3rd Edition.(Read pages 41-65 for Tuesday and 77-88 for
Horace Miner (1956), The Nacirema
WATCH| Doing Anthropology
TURN IN TO DROPBOX| Background Research Friday by 10PM
-------------------------------------------------------------------------Week 4|
Defining Technology
READ| Excerpts from: Rudi Volti (2014) Society and Technological Change,
7th Edition.
Excerpts from Howard F Stein (1990) American Medicine as Culture.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------Week 5|
Defining the Body
READ| Excerpts from: Alexandra Howson (2013) The Body in Society.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------Week 6|
Ethnography of Nuclear Weapons Designers
READ| Excerpts from: Hugh Gusterson (1995) Nuclear Rites: A Nuclear
Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------Week 7|
Ethnography of Video Poker Machines
READ| Excerpts from Natasha Dow Schull (2012) Addicted by Design:
Machine Gambling in Las Vegas.

TURN IN TO DROPBOX| Fieldnotes Friday by 10PM

-------------------------------------------------------------------------Week 8|
The Politics of Technology
READ| Eric Katz (2005) On the neutrality of technology: the Holocaust
death camps as a counter-example, Journal of Genocide Research, 7:3,
-------------------------------------------------------------------------Week 9|
The Body at Work
Excerpts from Shoshana Zuboff (1984) In the Age of the Smart machine:
The Future of Work and Power.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------Week 10| The Body and Power
William Stapes (2014) Excerpts from Everyday Surveillance: Vigilance
and Visibility in Postmodern Life.
TURN IN TO DROPBOX| Draft of Ethnography Friday by 10PM
-------------------------------------------------------------------------Week 11|
Ethnography Presentations
-------------------------------------------------------------------------Week 12|
Ethnography Presentations
-------------------------------------------------------------------------Week 13|

Ethnography Presentations

-------------------------------------------------------------------------Week 14| Histories of the Body

WATCH| Excerpts from Race: The Power of an Illusion AND
Fit: Episodes in the History of the Body
-------------------------------------------------------------------------Week 15| Rethinking Bodies and Machines
---------------------------------------------------------------------------Week 16|
Wrap Up
TURN IN TO DROPBOX| Final Ethnography Friday by 10PM