Human - Object - Tool
Toward an anthropology of technology

Finn Sivert Nielsen

Week 37: Understanding and living with technologies

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Day 1: Tuesday 11 September
General introduction (Lecture)
The lecture will introduce the course and its problematique - the relationship between society and technology - using the short online paper by Nielsen (below) as a point of departure. The rest of the articles in this section will be discussed as paradigmatic understandings of "the tool"; some of the literature listed under Days 2-3 will also be touched on. 
Nielsen, Finn Sivert. 2001. "Human - Object - Tool," Paper read at the Institute of Anthropology, Copenhagen, November 18, 2001.
Pfaffenberger, Bryan. 1992. "Social anthropology of technology," Annual Reviews of Anthropology, Vol. 21, p.491-516
Takács-Sánta, András. 2004. "The Major Transitions in the History of Human Transformation of the Biosphere," Human Ecology Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, p.51-66.
Sharp, Lauriston. 1952. "Steel Axes for Stone-Age Australians," Human Organization, Vol. 1.
Gell, Alfred. 1992 [1995]. "The Technology of Enchantment and the Enchantment of Technology," in Anthropology, Art and Aesthetics. Oxford: Clarendon, p.40-63.
Crawford, T. Hugh. 1997. "Networking the (Non) Human: Moby-Dick, Matthew Fontaine Maury, and Bruno Latour," Configurations Vol. 5, No. 1, p.1-21.
Wigley, Mark. 2002. "Insecurity by Design," in M. Sorkin & S. Zukin. eds. After the World Trade Center. New York: Routledge, p.69-85.
Day 2: Wednesday 12 September
Day 2 will focus on three student presentations, based on the course materials grouped below under the headings: Cases 1-3. The three cases treat three specific technological fields. Case 1: the evolution of human tool-use and its relationship to the evolution of human cognitive faculties (particularly language); Case 2: the development of "well-tempered" tuning schemes in 18th century European keyboard instruments (harpsichord, piano, organ); Case 3: the early history of automobiles. Each student presentation will focus on a series of questions formulated by the course teacher, which will be made public on this website well before the start of the Fall semester 2007. After the presentations, there will be time for discussion and for a final lecture that sums up the three cases and suggests possible conclusions.
Case 1: The evolution of human tool use (Student presentation)
Gibson, Kathleen. 1991. "Tools, language and intelligence: Evolutionary implications," Man (N.S.), Vol. 26, p.255-264.
Graves, Paul. 1994. "Flakes and Ladders: What the Archaeological Record Cannot Tell Us about the Origins of Language," World Archaeology, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Oct.,1994), p.158-171.
McPherron, Shannon Patrick. 2000. "Handaxes as a Measure of the Mental Capabilities of Early Hominids," Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 27, p.655-663.
Lockman, Jeffrey J. 2000. "A Perception-Action Perspective on Tool Use Development," Child Development, Vol. 71, No. 1, p.137-144.
Stout, Dietrich. 2002. "Skill and Cognition in Stone Tool Production: An Ethnographic Case Study from Irian Jaya," Current Anthropology, Vol. 43, No. 5, p.693-722.
de Beaune, Sophie A. 2004. "The invention of technology: Prehistory and cognition," Current Anthropology, Vol. 45, No. 2, p.139-162.
Case 2: Bach and well-tempered tuning (Student presentation)
Loy, Jim. 1999. "The Well-Tempered Scale." Further reference unavailable.
"Well-Tempered Clavier." From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
"Johann Sebastian Bach." From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Lehman, Bradley: "Bach's extraordinary temperament: our Rosetta Stone," Early Music, Vol. 33, No. 1, p.3-23.
Jencka, Daniel. 2006. "The Tuning Script from Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier: A Possible 1/18th PC Interpretation," Revised June 2nd, 2006, after original essay of 3-3-05. Further reference unavailable.
Case 3: Automobiles (Student presentation)
Featherstone, Mike. 2004. "Automobilities: An Introduction," Theory Culture Society, Vol. 21, No. 1, p.1-24.
Geels, F. W. 2005. "The Dynamics of Transitions in Socio-technical Systems: A Multi-level Analysis of the Transition Pathway from Horse-drawn Carriages to Automobiles (1860–1930)," Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, Vol. 17, No. 4, p.445-476.
Borg, Kevin. 1999. "The 'Chauffeur Problem' in the Early Auto Era: Structuration Theory and the Users of Technology," Technology and Culture Vol. 40, No. 4, p.797-832.
Franklin, Karl J. 2003. "Some Kewa Metaphors: Body Parts as Automobile Parts," SIL International 2003.
Day 3: Thursday 13 September
Day 3 will be a dialogue between students and teacher that attempts to arrive at general conclusions based on the materials discussed during Days 1 and 2. The day will be introduced and concluded with short mini-lectures by the teacher. The discussion will attempt to arrive at a sensible preliminary definition of what a tool is, and what consequences this definition has for our understanding of technology and society.
Week 40: Understanding and living with information technologies
During Week 40 there will be four student presentations - one on Day 1 (Tuesday 2 October) and three on Day 2 (Wednesday 3 October). Both days will also include a lecture component. The third day (Thursday 4 October) will be a continuous lecture and discussion, where the final conclusions of the course will be drawn. There will be two student presentations based on the texts in Part 1 of this week's reading list, and two presentations based on the texts in Part 2. No less than 5 texts from the Part on which the presentation is based should be explicitly referenced in each student presentation.
Part 1: Understanding and managing information systems
Gentner, Donald R. & Jonathan Grudin. 1990. "Why good engineers (sometimes) create bad interfaces," Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems: Empowering people, The ACN Digital Libary, p.277-282.
Purgathofer, Peter. 2000. "Design and the software engineer," Exchange Online Journal, Issue 1.
Ciborra, C. U. & O. Hanseth. 1998. "From tool to Gestell: Agendas for managing the information infrastructure," PrivaVera Working Paper, No. 98-03, Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam.
Birukou, Aliaksandr. 2006. "Implicit Culture as a Tool for Social Navigation," Technical Report DIT-06-018, Informatica e Telecomunicazioni, University of Trento: eprints.
Ash, Joan et al. 2004. "Some Unintended Consequences of Information Technology in Health Care: The Nature of Patient Care Information System-related Errors," Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, Vol. 11, No. 2, p.104-112.
Ngwenyama, Ojelanki K. & Allen S. Lee. 1997. "Communication Richness in Electronic Mail: Critical Social Theory and the Contextuality of Meaning." MIS Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 2. (Jun., 1997), p.145-167.
Lévy, Pierre: "Toward Superlanguage." Downloaded from readings for course syllabus published by historian Mark Poster, at: Further reference unavailable. 
Kendall, Gavin. 2004. "Towards a sociology of nonhumans: technology and creativity," in Bailey, C. and Cabrera, D. and Buys, L., eds. Proceedings Social Change in the 21st Century Conference. Queensland University of Technology: Centre for Social Change Research.
Jordà, Sergi. 2004. "Digital Instruments and Players: Part II - Diversity, Freedom and Control," Proceedings of the 2004 conference on New interfaces for musical expression, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan, The ACN Digital Libary, p.59-63.
Part 2: Technologies, communities, identities
Johnson, Christopher M. 2001. "A survey of current research on online communities of practice," Internet and Higher Education, Vol. 4 (2001), p.45-60.
Wilson, Samuel M. & Leighton C. Peterson. 2002. "The anthropology of online communities," Annual Reviews of Anthropology 2002, p.449-467.
Calvert, Sandra L. et al. 2003. "Gender differences in preadolescent children’s online interactions: Symbolic modes of self-presentation and self-expression," Applied Developmental Psychology, Vol. 24 (2003), p.627-644.
Haraway, Donna. 1983. "The Ironic Dream of a Common Language for Women in the Integrated Circuit: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s or A Socialist Feminist Manifesto for Cyborgs." Submitted to Das Argument for the Orwell 1984 volume. Downloaded from:
Stone, Allucquére Rosanne. 1994. "Split Subjects, Not Atoms; or, How I Fell in Love with My Prosthesis." Configurations, 2.1 (1994), p.173-190.
Sacks, Oliver. 1995. "The case of the colour-blind painter," in An anthropologist on Mars: Seven paradoxical tales. London: Picador, p.1-38.
Larkin, Brian. 2004. "Degraded Images, Distorted Sounds: Nigerian Video and the Infrastructure of Piracy," Public Culture, Vol. 16, No. 2, p.289-314.
Kantaris, Geoffrey. 2006. "Cinema and Urbanías: Translocal Identities in Contemporary Mexican Film," Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol. 25, No. 4, p.517-527.
Leaver, Tama. 2004. "'The Infinite Plasticity of the Digital': Posthuman Possibilities, Embodiment and Technology in William Gibson's Interstitial Trilogy." Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture, 4, p.1-8. Downloaded from: