Thomas Hart Benton's 'Instruments of power'
Thomas Hart Benton's, "Instruments of Power" from the "America Today" murals, originally New School for Social Research, now Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1930-31.

"Automation is information and it not only ends jobs in the world of work, it ends subjects in the world of learning.
It does not end the world of learning. The future of work consists of earning a living in the automation age.
This is a familiar pattern in electric technology in general. It ends the old dichotomies between culture and technology,
between art and commerce, and between work and leisure. Whereas in the mechanical age of fragmentation
leisure had been the absence of work, or mere idleness, the reverse is true in the electric age. As the age of information demands
the simultaneous use of all our faculties, we discover that we are most at leisure when we are most intensely involved,
very much as with the artists in all ages."
- Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964), p. 378.

Thomas Hart Benton's 'America Today'

Technology, Power & Social Change
School of Media Studies
The New School
Fall 2021

Instructor: Peter Asaro asarop AT
NMDS: 5333 CRN: 11100
Time: Mondays, 6:00 - 7:50 pm (ET)
Location: Synchronous Online (ZOOM)

Course webpage is here:

Course blog is here:

Course Description

The notion that technologies are drivers of social change is widely held, but the reality is far more complicated. In this course we will examine the relationship between technology and society, and between technology and culture, inquiring into the values and assumptions that shape them and the conflicts that they in turn give rise to. We will focus in particular on work that has emerged in the last quarter century on the impact of digital media technologies on social relations and on cultural debates. Topics range from how users interact with technologies to ideas of the posthuman, from the impact of the Internet on journalism to the changing nature of work, from how we construct relationships to the virtues of the virtual. Students have the option of writing a research paper or developing a research-based project on a social change movement. Students will be required to make regular blog entries based on the assigned readings, participate in online class discussions via Zoom, and write one 6-12 page paper, or create short multi-media presentation, during the course of the semester.


Class Attendance & Participation 30%
Blog Entries & Comments: 30%
Paper or Media Project Proposal 10%
Paper or Media Project Presentation 10%
Final Paper or Media Project: 20%

Class Attendance and Participation: 30%

You are expected to have thoroughly and thoughtfully read the assigned texts, viewed the assigned videos, and to have prepared yourself to contribute meaningfully to the class discussions. For some people, that preparation requires taking copious notes on the assigned readings; for others, it entails supplementing the assigned readings with explanatory texts found in survey textbooks or in online sources; and for others still, it involves reading the texts, ruminating on them afterwards, then discussing those readings with classmates before the class meeting. Whatever method best suits you, I hope you will arrive at class with copies of the assigned reading, ready and willing to make yourself a valued contributor to the discussion, and eager to share your own relevant media experiences and interests. Your participation will be evaluated in terms of both quantity and quality.

As this is a seminar, regular attendance is essential. You will be permitted two excused absences (you must notify me of your inability to attend before class, via email). Any subsequent absences and any un-excused absences will adversely affect your grade.

If you must take the class "asynchronously" due to scheduling or time-zone conflicts, you must make arrangements with me for your class participation at the beginning of the semester. In most cases this will consist of watching the posted videos of the weekly discussion, and posting an additional weekly blog entry with your reflections on the week's topic and readings (approx. 1 page or 500 words).

Blog Entries & Comments: 30%

You will be required to make weekly blog entries commenting on the assigned readings and any additional related material you discover on your own and wish to share with the class.

You will be required to create an account on WordPress (if you do not already have one), and will receive an email invitation to be added as an author to the private collective course blog. Everyone will be posting to a common blog page, and this will be readable by your classmates, but not by people outside of the class. When writing and making comments, you are expected to treat other students with the same respect and courtesy as you should in the classroom, and to cite the sources of any text or quotes you use in accordance with academic honesty policies.

You are also expected to read the posts of your classmates, and encouraged to comment on other people's posts each week. Posts will not be graded but I, and other students, will read them and occasionally comment on them. There will be 12 posts worth 2 Points (on-time) or 1 point (late) required through the semester (not required on days when papers/projects are due), thus 24 points, plus 6 points for comments on the posts of other students, totalling 30% of your grade.

Blog posts will be due before the start of each class. They are time stamped when you post them, and late posts will only receive half credit (1 point). There is no specific assignment for each post, but they should express your reactions to and reflections on your readings and the topic for that week.

Paper or Media Project Proposal 10%
Paper or Media Project Presentation 10%
Final Paper or Media Project: 20%

There will be no final exam.

A research project is required for the semester, which will developed and presented in stages. There are 2 options for the project: Research/Analysis Paper Option, and Media Project Option.

Paper or Media Project Proposal Due: October 11
Paper Length: 1000-3000 words (approx. 2-6 pages), Media Projects of equivalent effort

Paper or Media Project Presentation Due: December 6 or 11
Presentation Length: 10 minutes + 5 minutes for questions/discussion (approx. 5-10 slides if used)

Final Paper or Media Project Due: December 17
Paper Length: 3000-6000 words (approx. 6-10 pages), Media Projects of equivalent effort

Project topics can address any aspect of the topics and materials discussed in class. Projects should include materials beyond what is directly covered in class, as appropriate for your topic. In other words, they should require research, which can include action research and direct participation. Ideally you should focus on a social problem, or effort at social change, that addresses the roles of power and technology. You may pursue this as an outside observer, or bettter as a participant-observer in an effort directed towards social change. You should examine the underlying social problem, the challenges facing social change, strategies for overcoming those challenges, and the theory of change which are guiding the movement, or how you think these could be improved.

Research Paper Option
This will take the form of a 3000-6000 word (approx 6-12 pages, Times New Roman, 12pt font, double spaced) term paper. You should draw upon sources from the course readings as well as beyond the course readings. You should cite your sources properly.

Media Project Option
Media Projects can take the form of film and video pieces, audio documentaries, websites, interactive media, performance pieces, infographics, a social media campaign strategy, or other ideas. In addition to the actual media product, you will need to submit a short written piece explaining your project, its motivations, methods and what you did to realize it.

Papers should be submitted to me in electronic form by email (Word Perfect, MS Word, PDF, HTML and plain TXT are all fine). All assignments are due at 6pm at the start of class on the day they are due. Late final papers will not be accepted, as I must turn in grades shortly thereafter.


All readings will be available electronically, via the web, in PDF, MS Word, HTML, or similar format. You are welcome and encouraged to buy any of the books used.


All of the Zoom lecture/discussion sessions will be recorded. Recordings will only be made available to members of the class through a Google Drive.

NOTE: By attending this class you consent to being recorded.

Weekly Topics & Readings

Week 1: August 30
Course Introduction

Course Syllabus Overview

Student Introductions

How to create a WordPress Account, and make a Blog Entry

Discuss in Class (please Watch and Explore BEFORE class):

Watch: Werner Herzog, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, 2016, 98 min.

Explore: Jon Huang, Karl Russell and Jack Nicas, "Apple's Value Hit $1 Trillion. Add Disney to Bank of America and... You're Halfway There," New York Times, August 2, 2018.

Labor Day
Week of September 6

Week 2: September 13
What is Technology?


"Techne," Wikipedia.

"Episteme-Techne," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Jacques Ellul, "Selections: pp. 1-21, 79-148," The Technological Society, Vintage Books, 1964.

Norbert Wiener, "The First and the Second Industrial Revolutions," in The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1950: 136-162.

Langdon Winner, "Do Artifacts Have Politics?," Daedalus, Vol 109, No 1, Modern Technology: Problem or Opportunity?, Winter 1980,, pp. 121-136.

Bruno Latour, "A Collective of Humans and Nonhumans," in Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999: 174-215.


Langdon Winner, Autonomous Technology: Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme in Political Thought, MIT Press, 1977.

Bruno Latour, Aramis: or The Love of Technology, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.

Siegfried Giedion, Mechanization Takes Command, Norton, 1948.

Week 3: September 20
The Luddites


Maurice E. Stucke and Jathan Sadowski, "I'm a Luddite. You Should Be One Too," The Conversation, August 9, 2021.

"Luddite," Wikipedia.

"Neo-Luddism," Wikipedia.

E. P. Thompson, "Time, work-discipline and industrial capitalism," The Past and Present Society, No. 38 (December 1967), pp. 56-97.

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, , 2011.


"United States v. AT&T", Wikipedia.

Week 4: September 27
What is Power?


Hannah Arendt (1959) "Chapter 1: The Human Condition," and "Chapter 2: The Public and the Private Realm" The Human Condition.

Jason Stanley, "The Philosophy of Fascism", The Philosopher, vol. 107, no. 2 ('Us and Them').


Hannah Arendt (1958) "Chapter 12: Totalitarianism in Power" The Origins of Totalitarianism.

Week 5: October 4
Control & Protocol


Michael Foucault, "III. Discipline, 3. Panopticism," in Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, New York: Vintage Books, 1975 (translated from the French by Alan Sheridan, 1977): 195-228.

Alexander R. Galloway and Eugene Thacker, "Protocol, Control, and Networks," Grey Room, 17, Fall 2004: 6-29.

Week 6: October 11
First Paper/Project Due (no blog post)
Authority, Knowledge, Expertise & Power


Micheal Foucault (1980) "Chapter 6: Truth and Power," and "Chapter 8: Eye of Power"Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977.

Jean-Francois Lyotard (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge.

Week 7: October 18
Surveillance Capitalism & The Attention Economy


Shoshana Zuboff, "The Coup We Are Not Talking About," New York Times, January 29, 2021.

Kate Klonick, "Clearly, Facebook Is Very Flawed. What Will We Do About It?," New York Times, October 1, 2021.

Ryan Mac and Cecilia Kang, "Whistle-Blower Says Facebook ‘Chooses Profits Over Safety’," New York Times, October 3, 2021.

Shoshana Zuboff, "The Big Other: Surveillance Capitalism and the Prospects of an Information Civilization," Journal of Information Technology, 30(1), 2015, pp. 75-89.

Watch: Jeff Orlowski, The Social Dilemma NetFlix, 2020, 94 min.

Watch: 60 Minutes, "Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen: The 60 Minutes Interview," You Tube, October 3, 2021, 14 min.

Watch: VPRO Documentary, "Shoshana Zuboff on surveillance capitalism," You Tube, December 20, 2019, 50 min.

Watch: Tristan Harris, "How a handful of tech companies control billions of minds every day," TED, July 28, 2017, 17 min.

John Lanchester, "You Are the Product," London Review of Books, August 17, 2017.


Watch: U.S. Congressional Testimony, Senate Commerce Subcommittee, "Facebook Whistleblower Testifies on Protecting Children Online," CSPAN, October 5, 2021, 177 minutes.

Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, Public Affairs, 2018.

Antonio Garcia Martinez, "I Helped Create Facebook's Ad Machine. Here's How I'd Fix It," Wired, September 22, 2017.

Watch: Tim Wu, "Talks at Google: The Attention Merchants" YouTube, December 16, 2016, 35 min.

Tim Wu, The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads, Vintage Books, 2016.

Watch: Tim Wu, "The Attention Merchants", 2017 Grafstein Lecture in Communications, University of Toronto Law School, YouTube, April 13, 2017, 88 min.

Week 8: October 25
What is Social Change?


Hannah Arendt (1959) "Chapter 5: Action" The Human Condition.

Hannah Arendt (1963) "Chapter 1: The Meaning of Revolution" On Revolution.

Fred Turner (2017) "Don't Be Evil: Fred Turner on Utopias, Frontiers, and Brogrammers," Logic, Issue 3, December 1, 2017.

Martin Robbins (2012) "The trouble with TED talks," New Statesman, September 10, 2012.

Watch: Pat Kelly, "Thought Leader," CBC Comedy, June, 2016, 4 min.

Watch: Will Stephen, "How to sound smart in your TEDx Talk," TEDx Talks, January 15, 2015, 6 min.


Week 9: November 1
Participatory Methods and Theory of Change


Davydd J. Greenwood, "Theoretical Research, Applied Research, and Action Research: The Deinstitutionalization of Activist Research," in Engaging Contradictions: Theory, Politics, and Methods of Activist Scholarship, Charles R. Hale (ed.), Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 319-340.

Asaro, P. (2000). "Transforming Society by Transforming Technology: The Science and Politics of Participatory Design,"" Special Issue on Critical Studies of Information Practice, Accounting, Management and Information Technologies, 10 (4), pp. 257-290.

United Nations Development Group (2017) Theory of Change, Companion Guidance Document.


"Participatory Design", Wikipedia.

"Theory of Change", Wikipedia.

Week 10: November 8


Julia Kirschenbaum and Michael Li (2021) "Gerrymandering Explained," Brennan Center for Justice, August 10, 2021.

Siobhan Roberts (2021) "Mathematicians are deploying algorithms to stop gerrymandering," Technology Review, August 12, 2021.

Sam Levine (2021) "‘From dark art to dark science’: the evolution of digital gerrymandering," The Gaurdian, August 22, 2021.

Hannah Fried (2020) "The Problem of Voter Purging — and Where We Go from Here," The Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, January 30, 2020.

Tom McCarthy (2019) "Alarm over voter purges as 17m Americans removed from rolls in two years," The Guardian, August 1, 2019.

Dan Merica (2020) "Democrats roll out new tool to combat voter purges," CNN, June 16, 2020.

Shamika Ravi (2019) "How electronic voting machines have improved India’s democracy," Brookings Institute, December 6, 2019.

Daniel Lohrmann (2020) "Could Estonia Be the Model for Secure Online Voting?" Government Technology, September 25, 2020.

Teresa Carey (2020) "The top seller of voting machines is inviting hackers to fish around for security vulnerabilities," Brookings Institute, August 9, 2020.

Miles Parks (2021) "The Push For Internet Voting Continues, Mostly Thanks To One Guy," NPR, September 30, 2021.

Watch: Amna Nawaz, (2021) "Stacey Abrams: Voting rights not a question of partisanship, but of ‘peopleship’," PBS Newshour, May 4, 2021, 6 min.

Watch: Lisa Cortes and Liz Garbus, (2020) All In: The Fight for Democracy, 2020, 102 min.


Watch: June Cross, (2020) "Whose Vote Counts,"PBS Frontline, October 20, 2020, 54 min.

"Gerrymandering", Wikipedia.

"Gerrymandering in the Unuted States", Wikipedia.

Week 11: November 15
Guest Lecturer: Nick Lee-Romanoglo, Amazon AWS Education Outreach



Rebecca Bellan (2021) "We’re Burying Our Kids in Debt (Just Not the Way You Think)," New York Times, August 27, 2021.

Dylan Matthews and Byrd Pinkerton (2019) "Mark Zuckerberg wanted to help Newark schools. Newarkers say they weren’t heard." Vox, July 3, 2019.

Listen: "Move Fast and Break Schools," Future Perfect Podcast, July, 2019, 28 min.

CREDO, "2021 CITY STUDY: Newark,", 2021.

Victoria Cain and Adam Laats (2021) "It’s tempting to replace teachers with technology, but it would be a mistake," Washington Post, March 24, 2021.

Erik Brynjolfsson, Tom Mitchell, and Daniel Rock (2018) "What Can Machines Learn and What Does It Mean for Occupations and the Economy?," AEA Papers and Proceedings, Special Issue on Economic Consequences of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, Volume 108, pp. 43-47.

Explore: "Answers to the key questions about the talent in your organization," WorkHelix.

Alejandro J. Ganimian, Emiliana Vegas, and Frederick M. Hess (2020) "Realizing the promise: How can education technology improve learning for all?" Brookings Institute, August, 2020.

Nancy Hoffman, Joel Vargas, Kyle Hartung, Lexi Barrett, Erica Cuevas, Felicia Sullivan, Joanna Mawhinney, and Avni Nahar (2021) "The Big Blur: An Argument for Erasing the Boundaries Between High School, College, and Careers—and Creating One New System That Works for Everyone," JFF Report, June, 2021.


Joshua Kim (2018) "Is Technology Driving Educational Inequality? How digital learning concentrates higher ed privilege," Inside Higher Ed, October 10, 2018.

Hugo Aguirre (2021) "Will technology solve education inequality?" Tech Radar, October 4, 2021.

Week 12: November 22


Carissa Veliz, Privacy is Power: Why and How You Should Take Back Control of Your Data, Melville House, 2021, Intro, Chapters 3, 4, 5 & 6.

Russell Brandom, "Everything you need to know about GDPR," The Verge, May 25, 2018.

Mozilla, "46 Gadgets Slapped with *Privacy Not Included Warning Labels in Mozilla’s Annual Holiday Shopping Guide," Mozilla, November 16, 2021.

Watch: "Apple vs Facebook: The Privacy Battle" Tech Vision, December 26, 2020, 6 min.

Jim Dempsey, Chris Jay Hoofnagle, Ira Rubinstein, Katherine J. Strandburg, "A Broader Look at Privacy Remedies," Lawfare, April 7, 2021.

Shoshana Zuboff, "You Are the Object of a Secret Extraction Operation," New York Times, November 12, 2021.

Farhad Manjoo, "OK, but What Should We Actually Do About Facebook? I Asked the Experts," New York Times, November 4, 2021.


"California Consumer Privacy Act," Wikipedia.

Robert Föehl, "Police use of Ring doorbell cameras — poor ethics or public good?," The Hill, September 12, 2019.

Joseph Jerome, "Alexa, is Law Enforcement Listening?," Center for Democracy & Technology, January 4, 2017.

Week 13: November 29
The Environment & Climate Change


David Austin and and Molly K. Macauley, "Cutting Through Environmental Issues: Technology as a double-edged sword," Brookings Institute, December 1, 2001.

Pallab Ghosh, "Climate change: Scientists test radical ways to fix Earth's climate," BBC News, May 19, 2019.

Marlowe Hood, "Fixing the environment: when solutions become problems," New York Times, January 14, 2019.

"IPCC report: ‘Code red’ for human driven global heating, warns UN chief," United Nations Press Release, August 9, 2021.

Jenny Gross, "Greta Thunberg Says Climate Talks Are Becoming a ‘Greenwash Campaign’," New York Times, November 4, 2021.

Katya Schwenk, "Our broken tech is fueling an environmental crisis, and tech companies are sitting on the solution," Insider, September, 2021.

Paola Rosa-Aquino, "Fix, or Toss? The ‘Right to Repair’ Movement Gains Ground," New York Times, October 23, 2020.

Vianney Vaute, "Right To Repair: The Last Stand In Checking Big Tech’s Power Grab," Forbes, February 18, 2021.

Watch: Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore, Planet of the Humans,, YouTube, 2020, 100 min.

Cathy Cowan Becker, "Michael Moore’s environment film a slap in the face on Earth Day," Medium, April 26, 2020.

Films For Action, "Films For Action's Statement on Planet of the Humans Why we took it down. Why we ultimately decided to put it back up (including this note). Plus our critiques and thoughts on the film," Films For Action, April 25, 2020.

Bill McKibben, "Response: Planet of the Humans Documentary,", April 22, 2020.

Jeff Gibbs, "Response to Bill McKibben regarding Planet of the Humans,", April 30, 2020.


Watch: Rick Young, Laura Sullivan, Emma Schwartz, and Fritz Kramer, Plastic Wars,, PBS Frontline, March 31, 2020, 54 min.

Watch: Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim, An Inconvenient Truth, 2006, 96 min.

Elizabeth Kolbert, "How Much of Your Stuff Belongs to Big Tech?," The New Yorker, March 8, 2021.

Explore: "Advocacy,", 2021.

"Electronics Right to Repair," Wikipedia.

Week 14: December 6
Final Presentations
No Blog Entry, Work on Final Projects

Week 15: December 13
Final Presentations
No Blog Entry, Work on Final Projects

Submit (electronically) Final Paper/Projects Due by 8pm ET, Friday, December 17.