Field Description

UC Berkeley offers a rich and diverse set of undergraduate courses across campus to pursue the multiple intersections of science, technology and society (STS). The ISF Research Field in STS is the only place at Berkeley where undergraduates can pursue a research program in this subject.  Students in this field study not only the social preconditions for scientific investigation but also the social consequences of scientific and technological developments and the ways in which these processes are themselves shaped by society. STS is premised on a specific demarcation problem--not the classic demarcation of science from non-science but the difficulty, if not impossibility, of demarcating science and technology as autonomous activities and objects, independent of the society out of which they arise and presumably serve.

Students studying STS will find challenging courses in Anthropology, English, ESPM, ERG, Geography, History, Political Science, Rhetoric and Women's Studies as well as in many of the Science Departments themselves.  The range of topics covered in STS is capacious and includes: the social history of the scientific revolutions; the contexts of discovery and the rhetorics of justification for scientific developments; the social determinants of technological pathways; the cultural aspects of new probabilistic modes of rationality and explanation; the traffic between political economy and the biological sciences in the long nineteenth century; the uses to which science was put in defense of apartheid and Empire and the naturalization of sexual differences; how and why the social sciences often become mathematized and positivistic in nature; the responsibilities of scientists in the Atomic Age; how the Cold War shaped the development of science and technology; the political and legal dimensions of pharmaceutical and stem cell research; the use and misuse of tests of statistical significance in the study of climate change; the ways in which Big Data change and even create social phenomena; the politics of transition in energy systems; the exploration of what speculative and science fiction says about the hopes and anxieties about bioengineered post-humans and "amortal" cyborgs; and the normative and empirical study of the ways in which science is, or should be, held accountable to democratic procedures.