New Ph.D. Emphasis to Focus on Technology and Society
Dortoral students at UC Santa Barbara can now enroll in an innovative program of study about the societal implications of technology. The program is the first of its kind in the University of California system to focus on the broader social implications of technology.
The Ph.D. Emphasis in Technology and Society will bring together doctoral students in engineering, the social sciences, and the humanities for multidisciplinary coursework and research on the cultural and societal changes wrought by new information technologies. The campus currently has a total of eight such multidisciplinary emphases.
While steadily increasing numbers of young scholars working on doctorates in traditional academic fields, such as political science and computer science, are interested in technology-and-society issues, most universities have yet to accommodate their interests in a structured way. The multidisciplinary technology-and-society graduate programs that do exist generally require students to earn interdisciplinary degrees that stand apart from the traditional disciplines in which most scholars will pursue jobs after graduation.
The new UCSB program requires students to develop a working familiarity with contrasting approaches to the study of both technology and society, including disciplines outside their own. They do this by participating in a structured sequence of interdisciplinary courses focused on two general thematic areas: culture and history, and society and behavior. Completion of the requirements for the Ph.D. emphasis will be reflected on academic transcripts.
“The creation of the Ph.D. Emphasis in Technology and Society represents an innovative addition to UCSB’s efforts to promote interdisciplinary research and collaborations across traditional academic boundaries,” says Chancellor Henry T. Yang.
He notes the campus is home to the Center for Information Technology and Society (CITS), which developed and will coordinate the new Ph.D. emphasis, and now boasts the new Center for Nanotechnology in Society, supported by a $5-million grant from the National Science Foundation.
Efforts to develop the new Ph.D. emphasis were led by Bruce Bimber, professor of political science and of communication, and Kevin Almeroth, professor of computer science, who serve as director and associate director, respectively, of CITS.
“Our goal is to help create a new generation of what might be termed ‘Renaissance faculty,’ scholars who can work comfortably with colleagues in other fields and on issues that cross disciplinary boundaries,” says Bimber. “One of the unusual aspects of UCSB’s approach is the involvement of scholars from seven academic departments.”
According to Almeroth, the new emphasis provides students in engineering and computer science with a rare opportunity to view their work from a broader perspective. “Because so much of their curriculum focuses on developing technical competence, these students tend to judge the significance of their work primarily in terms of technological form and function,” he says.