Technology and Society

Program Offerings

Offering type
Certificate

One would be hard-pressed to find any aspect of society today that is not influenced by evolving technology in a significant way. Similarly, technology does not develop in a vacuum; by virtue of its applied nature, it is shaped by the needs and desires of individuals and the societies in which they live. Society and technology co-evolve, so that you cannot fully understand one without knowing something about the other. This cross-disciplinary certificate program is targeted to students, both engineers/scientists and humanists/social scientists, who are interested in exploring this intersection in depth. Graduates who earn this certificate will be effective contributors to the shaping, development and deployment of technological solutions for the benefit of society.

The intersection of technology and society is broad, touching on a wide range of technologies and on a variety of societal issues and concerns. To ensure depth, individual programs of study are offered along two technology tracks: Information Technology and Energy.

The Information Technology track is offered in partnership between the Keller Center and the Center for Information Technology Policy. Information technology (IT) broadly covers the computation and communication technologies that permeate virtually all aspects of corporate and social activity. The products and services enabled by it have had a major impact on the world economy and on social interactions. As we look to the future, emerging technologies in IT continue to address critical societal challenges such as economic development, health care, politics, education, productivity, government and social organization. At the same time, these technologies raise new challenges in security, law enforcement, privacy, economic stability and justice.

The Energy track is offered in partnership between the Keller Center and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment. Provision and use of energy and natural resources in a sustainable way is the single biggest challenge for Americans and citizens of the world to preserve the planet for future generations. Our economic and national security as well as our overall ability to thrive as a society depends on living within our resources. Rapid economic and technological growth throughout the world is causing unprecedented demands for energy. Determining how to meet these needs while protecting the environment is one of the most pressing challenges of our times. These problems are complex and intertwined, involving not only a need for advances in science and engineering, but also requiring changes in human behavior, economic analyses and innovations in institutions as well as thoughtful policy.

Goals for Student Learning

The Program in Technology and Society provides students with the opportunity to explore how society and technology co-evolve and to develop the ability to shape, create and deploy technology solutions to benefit society.

 

Learning goals for the Program in Technology and Society: Information Technology Track include the following:

  • Acquire knowledge on how information technology and society co-evolve. Computation and communication technologies in particular permeate virtually all aspects of today’s world, and therefore shape individuals’ experiences and societies and drive or impede social change. As we look to the future, emerging information technologies continue to address critical societal challenges such as economic development, health care, politics, education, productivity, government and social organization. At the same time, these technologies raise new challenges in security, law enforcement, privacy, economic stability, justice and environmental impact. Individuals, societies and their policies have the power to shape information technology’s development and use.
  • Develop an understanding of the foundational information technologies that impact individuals and societies, as well as policies that govern their development.
  • Develop students’ ability to think critically and constructively about the impact of information technologies on individuals and society. Students acquire historical familiarity with the role of information technology in impacting society and can approach reasoning about the capabilities and impact of new information technologies from a variety of perspectives.
  • Acquire and apply computational and analysis skills in research through coursework. The training culminates in an independent research project focused on exploring the interface between information technology and society.

 

Learning goals for the Program in Technology and Society: Energy Track include the following:

  • Develop an understanding of the latest energy science and technologies as well as the social, political and economic policies that govern these technologies’ production, use and impact on society and the environment.
  • Gain knowledge about the technological, economic and social challenges involved in the sustainable provision and use of energy and natural resources.
  • Learn to analyze and critique energy-related societal and technological issues from a variety of perspectives, both within and outside of students’ home disciplines, including the natural and social sciences, engineering, economics, humanities and public policy.
  • Acquire and apply critical skills in research through coursework and culminating in an independent research project in energy and society.

Admission to the Program

The Program in Technology and Society is open to all undergraduate students. Students interested in pursuing the certificate program should complete the enrollment form and indicate whether they are interested in the Information Technology track or the Energy track. 

Program of Study

The program provides a focus on technology (Information Technology or Energy) and society. A gateway course, Technology and Society (EGR/HIS/SOC 277), provides exposure to a broad set of issues at the intersection of technology and society. In addition to this course, students study both the technological and societal aspects of either Information Technology or Energy, to acquire a good understanding of both sides of the issues that come up at this intersection. On the technology side, there is a rich set of courses in IT and Energy areas that have been designed to be accessible to all students on campus (with no or few prerequisites) and that place the technical material in a broader application context. Similarly, on the societal side, technology issues are part of important courses in several departments such as sociology and the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. Finally, students need to conduct research on a specific issue through a one-term project with a subsequent written component (junior paper/senior thesis) and present their research at a program symposium.

Independent Work

All students are required to undertake a one-term independent research project in IT or Energy and Society. For A.B. students, this includes a junior paper. This may be substituted by a significant component in their senior thesis (at least a chapter). It is expected that some of these projects/theses will be jointly supervised by faculty members across the University divisions. The project/thesis component requires preapproval from the student's program adviser.

Additional Requirements

Program Requirements

The following requirements must be satisfied to earn the program certificate: core course, two technology courses, two societal courses, one breadth course, one-term independent research project, present project/thesis to the program students and faculty at an annual symposium held in the spring. Students must select either the Information Technology track or the Energy track and take the technology, societal and breadth courses from the respective list of courses. Pass/D/fail policy: Students may use no more than one course taken on a pass/D/fail basis to satisfy program requirements. Please note: The policy regarding the number of courses that may be used to fulfill requirements of more than one certificate is different for the two tracks. Please consult the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment and the Center for Information Technology Policy websites for specific information.

Core Course

Technology and Society (EGR 277/HIS 277/SOC 277). This course provides students with the intellectual tools needed to approach the rest of the program — a "set of lenses" that will help them view the issues being addressed in their work. Ideally, this course will be taken before the other required courses.

Technology and Society Courses (four courses)

This course requirement is intended to provide an understanding of the technology and societal aspects through a discipline-based study of both sides. 

Technology Courses

Each student is required to take two technology courses from a list maintained on the program websites. These courses are mostly drawn from a set that includes courses specifically designed for a wider campus audience (with no or few prerequisites). An advanced/one-time-only course may be used to replace one of these courses with the permission of the program adviser.

Societal Courses

Each student is required to take two societal courses from a list maintained on the program websites. An advanced/one-time-only course may be used to replace one of these courses with the permission of the program adviser.

Breadth Course (one course)

In addition to the technology and society courses, each student is required to take one course that combines technology and society in an area outside their chosen major. Engineering/science students should take a breadth course based in the societal disciplines, and humanities and social science students should take a breadth course based in the science/technology disciplines. 

Students interested in pursuing the Information Technology track should consult the CITP website for the current list of approved courses.

Students interested in pursuing the Energy track should consult the ACEE website for the current list of approved courses.

Annual Symposium. Students are required to present their projects/theses to the program students and faculty at an annual symposium held in the spring. This provides a mechanism for shared learning as well as for developing the common themes across the program.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill the requirements of the program receive a certificate of proficiency in technology and society upon graduation.

Faculty

  • Director

    • Naveen Verma
  • Associate Director

    • Aleksandra Korolova
    • Barry P. Rand
  • Executive Committee

    • Minjie Chen, Electrical Engineering
    • Angela N. Creager, History
    • Sujit S. Datta, Chemical and Biological Eng
    • Alexander Glaser, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Michael D. Gordin, History
    • Niraj K. Jha, Electrical Engineering
    • Sharad Malik, Electrical Engineering
    • Denise L. Mauzerall, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
    • Arvind Narayanan, Computer Science
    • Z. Jason Ren, Civil and Environmental Eng
    • Annabella Selloni, Chemistry
    • Eldar Shafir, Psychology
    • Ronnie Sircar, Oper Res and Financial Eng
    • Janet A. Vertesi, Sociology

For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.