Bibliographic resources
Bibliography mandatory
Bibliography not mandatory
Summary Teaching Assignment
Academic Year 2022/2023
Type of Teaching Doctorate
Professor Volonte' Paolo Gaetano
Cfu 5.00 Type of Course Mono-Disciplinary Course

Phd Programme From (included) To (excluded) Course

Detailed program and learning outcomes

What is the social impact of technology? How is technology tied to gender, race, and disability? What does "structural” or “institutional racism” mean? How does it involve technology? Should technology fix disability, racism, or gender inequality? And can it fix it?

The objective of this course is to allow Ph.D. students to answer questions like these, by making them aware of unexpected and unwanted social impacts of their work, and technological development in general. 

Drawing from research in Science and Technology Studies (STS), Feminism, Race Studies, Disability Studies, and Media Studies, the course aims at looking at the social and political dimensions of technology, with a particular focus on the multiple forms of inequality that can be embedded in technological devices and infrastructures, both at the moment of development and at the moment of implementation and use. The course will explore technology through an intersectional approach, focusing on different social positions (gender, ‘race’/ethnicity, disability, global North and South) and their overlapping.

At the end of the course, Ph.D. students will be able to develop arguments about the relationship between technology and inequalities and apply critical thinking to their own Ph.D. research activity.

Detailed program:

  1. Intro to the course: In this lecture, we introduce the course and give basic coordinates for orienting in the two disciplinary approaches of the course: Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Feminism. STS is the discipline concerned with the cultural and social study of science, technology, and their relationship with society. Thus, we discuss a few concepts concerning the sociology of science and technology. Feminism is both a global social movement for gender equality and a scholarly discipline using a specific methodological lens to understand inequality and injustices related to gender. We also discuss the recent use of the concept of intersectionality to show how feminism has broadened its scope beyond analysing just gender.
  1. The STS critique of technological determinism (guest lecturer: Judy Wajcman, London School of Economics): Does technology really prompt social change, for better or for worse? As our cultural surroundings are full of marketing, media, and common-sense claims about how a certain technology has ruined or fixed a social aspect of our life, in this lecture we will question whether this causal claim has sense and uses an STS lens to understand how technology is implicated in our social world.
  1. Gender and technology (guest lecturer: Judy Wajcman, London School of Economics): Technologies can be gendered, i.e., classified and developed according to the opposition between male and female characteristics. Often gender biases can be identified in technological development, design, and use. Technological artifacts, ranging from washing machines and vacuum cleaners to contraception and obstetric tools, are not neutral with respect to gender distinctions, inequalities, and discrimination.
  1. Globalisation and the digital revolution (guest lecturer: Gabriele Balbi, Università della Svizzera Italiana): How is the so-called “digital revolution” defined on a global scale? Whom is the revolution for? What parts of the world are involved in it? In this lecture, we dive with Prof Gabriele Balbi into the global inequalities produced by the digitisation of media technologies, from the digital divide to the different involvement of the global north and south in the production and consumption of ICT.
  1. Race and technology (guest lecturer: Chris Hesselbein, Politecnico di Milano): Emerging technologies, such as AI and facial recognition algorithms, are constantly told to be biased with respect to race, besides other identities such as gender and class. They often discriminate against non-white ethnicities when used for predictive policing, hiring processes, health monitoring etc. 
  1. Disability and technology: Can technology fix disability? Or can it increase disability-based discrimination? As disability is being understood less from its medical facets and more from its cultural and social significance, in this lecture we inquire about the role of technology in aiding and challenging disabled bodies from a cultural perspective, as well as the historical role of science (medicine and statistics) in defining disability. As cochlear implants and artificial limbs are technological artifacts, what is the role of their implementation and maintenance on the cultural phenomenon of disability?



Notes on methods of assessing

Evaluation will consider active participation to group works during the classes (25%) and a final essay of approx. 3000 words (75%).

The literature list below is just indicative of the course contents.

Teaching activities
Start date
End date

Schedule planning

The course will be held in the Workshop Room of the Design Dept. at Bovisa Campus, building B7, via Durando 10.

It will be articulated into 6 meetings of 4 hours each, composed of a 2-hour lecture and a 2-hour exercise related to the lecture. All meetings will be held in the afternoon on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.

A reading list will be provided to the Ph.D. students. Some readings will be supplied during the classes. Teaching tools (ppt presentations, in-class group work, etc.) will be used.

3 October - Lecture 1: Introduction to the course: topic and organization. Introduction to the sociology of science and technology. Introduction to feminism and intersectionality

4 October - Lecture 2: Science and Technology Studies (STS) and critique of technological determinism. Group exercise and case study

5 October - Lecture 3: Gender and technology. Group exercise and case study

10 October - Lecture 4: Ideologies and digital media. Group exercise and case study

11 October - Lecture 5: Race and technology. Group exercise and case study

12 October - Lecture 6: Disability and technology. Group exercise and case study

Risorsa bibliografica facoltativaSismondo, S., An introduction to science and technology studies , Editore: Wiley-Blackwell, Anno edizione: 2010
Risorsa bibliografica facoltativaMacKenzie, D. A., and Wajcman, J. (Eds.)., The social shaping of technology , Editore: Open University Press, Anno edizione: 1999
Risorsa bibliografica facoltativaWajcman, J., TechnoFeminism, Editore: Polity, Anno edizione: 2004
Risorsa bibliografica facoltativaBenjamin, R., Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, Editore: Polity, Anno edizione: 2019

Software used
No software required

Didactic forms
Type of didactic form Teaching hours
computer laboratory
experimental laboratory
project laboratory

Information in English to support internationalization
Course offered in language English

Note Professor
schedaincarico v. 1.8.4 / 1.8.4
Area Servizi ICT