February 13, 2007

The Joy of Science

Zuska of Thus Spake Zuska has started an informal, online course in the feminist philosophy of science that she's calling Feminist Theory and the Joy of Science or just The Joy of Science for short.

It's based on a real-world course she wanted to run at one point. Here's her course description:

This course explores the existence of pleasure, intellectual excitement, and desire as an important component of theorizing and doing science and engineering. We will examine the presence and/or absence of accounts of pleasure/desire in feminist theories of science, and in mainstream science and engineering texts and pedagogy. We will also examine feminist accounts of what might be termed the diversity challenge in engineering, and how feminist theories of science and pleasure can inform this issue. The implications for an adequate feminist theory of science, and for attracting members of underrepresented groups to science and engineering, will be a focus of the course.

And the syllabus, again based on a real-world course:
  • There are two videos listed on the syllabus to which I don't have access. I won't be discussing them, unless by chance I find I way to get hold of them in time.
  • Since I only have one student (me), I won't be having the group presentations each week. However, I do have readers - that's you! And we do have a comments section. If you've done the readings and the theoretical analysis, you may have some insights you want to share with the world at large. Even if you haven't, you may read my take on the week's readings, and decide you have something to say about that. The comments section will, I hope, function as a sort of class discussion.
  • I won't be assigning final papers - though I may write one myself.
  • The course was designed assuming that mostly non-scientists and non-engineers would be taking it. The final project, taking apart a hand mixer and describing its workings and their experience in taking it apart, was intended to let them encounter a simple, everyday, technological object from a new viewpoint. I wanted students to explore how well the feminist theory they'd been reading about applied - or did not - to their experience. Perhaps at the end I'll ask you, the reader, to talk about your encounters with simple, everyday technology. I'll have to do some more thinking on this one.
  • Oh, and no grades! THAT ought to get me a good rating on RateMyProfessor.com!

It's a very cool idea, running a course for blog readers to follow along with. Of course, like any course there's a reading list, some introductory material, as well as lectures and discussion for week one.

The various posts are all linked via Zuska's Joy of Science tag, with links to the initial posts at the bottom of the list. There are aleady 11 posts in the series, most of which I've already linked. It seems like it's going to be a very worthwhile exercise to follow along with the course, even if you don't get around to doing the actual readings. I know I probably won't do most of the readings myself, since being on sabbatical means not having quick access to the books in our collections.

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