Evolution of Technology (TEC 154 2014S) : Handouts

Sample Final Examination

Held: 2 p.m. - 5 p.m., Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Notes: This is a sample final examination for the Spring 2014 offering of TEC 154, the Evolution of Technology. It is intended to give the "flavor" of the final. There may be more than twenty sample questions on this examination, even though the final examination will have twenty or fewer questions.

In some cases, the sample questions are given in full form, and are similar to the questions that will be asked on the final. In other cases, the sample questions are given only as a framework (which author said ...?). These frameworks are likely to be on the exam, with particular details filled in. Part D of the exam provides a framework that students will apply to a reading that they do during class. The final may not include all of the questions from that framework.


There are twenty problems in this exam, broken up into four categories. Even though you may find that different problems require different amounts of time or have different degrees of difficulty, each problem is worth the same number of points.

Write your name at the top of each page. Do your best to spell and apply rules of grammar correctly.

This exam is primarily a closed-book exam. However, you may use one sheet of notes that you have prepared in advance. Please write your name on those notes and turn them in with the exam.

If you would prefer to type your responses on a computer rather than enter them on this sheet, you may do so. However, you must provide your own computer (or let me know in advance that you need one) and that computer should be running only your text editor or word processor during the exam. If I see you using other software, you will receive a grade of zero on this exam.

Please write and sign the following statement on the cover page of the exam. If you are unable to sign the statement, please talk to me at your earliest convenience.

I did not cheat on this exam. I am unaware of any classmates who cheated on this exam.

A. Projects

Problem A1: Project Theses, part one

Give the primary thesis from two of the following three presentations: US/Mexico border patrol technology, Election technology, and Airport technology.

Problem A2: Project Theses, part two

Give the primary thesis from two of the following three presentations: Digital cameras, Analog vs. digital audio recording, and In-car technology.

Problem A3: Applying Lenses

For one of the technologies (not including your own or the one you reviewed), apply Marx's question of "progress toward what?"

Problem A4: A Question from Another Presentation

Write and answer a good question on another group's presentation. A good question emphasizes a main point given in the presentation and draws upon one or more of our key ideas from the semester. You may reuse a question distributed to the class.

Problems A5 and A6: Presentation-Specific Problems

Answer two of the four following problems posed on particular projects posted by your pondering professor. You may not answer a problem on your own presentation.

Part B: Problems Based on Guest Lectures or Additional Readings

Many of these questions are based on visitors to the class in previous semesters. They are intended to give you a sense of the kinds of questions I am likely to ask.

Problem B1: Technology and the Digital in Creative Media (Previous)

In certain ways, Kluber and Simon's work illustrates a different conception of Petroski's "Form Follows Failure" hypothesis. Give two ways in which the form of their pieces is a response to some kind of failure.

Problem B2: Concrete as Structural Material (Previous)

In his lecture, Professor Case described pre-stressed concrete and indicated that it is an important material in modern structural engineering.

a. What is "prestressing"?

b. What problem is prestressing intended to alleviate?

c. What other benefits have designers found in the use of pre-stressed concrete?

Problem B3: Photovoltaics (Previous)

In Professor Swartz's lectures, he noted a number of elements that decrease the efficiency of photovoltaics. Give three such elements.

Problem B4: Model of Computer (Previous)

In Professor Rebelsky's lectures, he drew a simple model of computation on the board. Sketch that model and explain the parts.

Problem B5: The Failure of GEOs

In Professor Robertson's lectures, she noted that a variety of factors led to the failure of groups to adopt genetically engineered organisms. Give three such factors.

Problem B6: As We Might Have Thought

In our discussion of "As We May Think", we observed that even though V. Bush should have known a lot about the available technologies, there were some clear limits to how he viewed what technologies might contribute to the memex. Explain one or more of those limits.

Problem B7: Biopiraticalprospecting

In our conversations with Prof. Roper, we distinguished between "Bioprospecting" and "Biopiracy". Give three criteria that would indicate that an attempt at bioprospecting is really an attempt at biopiracy.

Problem B8: Foucault on Social Media

Explain why some authors consider Foucault's panopticon a useful model when talking about social media.

Problem B9: Some Problems of Patents

Both Roper and Graham noted some flaws in the patent system and suggested potential alternatives. Give two potential alternatives to patents and indicate what flaws in the patent system those alternatives address.

Problem B10: Paper as Thesis

The papermaking work at the Iowa Center for the Book reemphasizes one of our key perspectives from early in the semester. What is that perspective and how does the papermaking work relate?

Problem B11: Theatre

Professor Thomas noted that "nothing we do in theatre is particularly new". Explain that comment.

Part C: Miscellaneous

Problem C1: Identify the Author

Identify the authors the following three quotations, which were taken from readings from the second half of the semester. If you can't identify the author of a quotation, do your best to explain the context from which the quotation is likely to have come.

Problem C2: Match the Author and the Technology

Below are the names of six authors and six technologies that play a key role in their analyses of technology. Indicate which author used which technology, and what purpose the technology was intended to serve.

Problem C3: Preparing a Reading

Explain, in a few sentences, how someone should approach an article in order to prepare for one of our discussions. (No, you may not provide a sarcastic answer to this question. You should write an answer that would adequately prepare someone for the kind of questions I ask about articles in class.)

Problem C4: A Good Thesis

List Eric Simpson's five key attributes of a good thesis. (It's fine if you state them in your own words.)

Problem C5: Ordering Technologies

Consider the following technologies described in class. Put these technologies in (approximate) chronological order: the first long-distance telephone line; the washing machine; pre-stressed concrete; genetically engineered crops; medical birth-control; ethanol.

Problem C6: Your Favorite Reading

What was your favorite reading that we've done since the first exam? Why?

Part D. New Readings

Accompanying this exam are two short articles on technologies that we have not studied this semester. Choose one of the two articles, read the article, and answer the following questions.

Problem D1: Thesis

What is the primary thesis of this work?

a. In your words.

b. In the author's words.

Problem D2: Lenses

What new perspective on technology does this article raise?

Problem D3: Definitions of Technology

Like many of the authors we read early in the semester, these authors seem to introduce a new perspective on what "technology" is. Summarize the new definition. What would Petroski say about this definition?

Problem D4: Politics

In "Do Artifacts Have Politics?", Langdon Winner suggests that we should ask what what groups or power structures a technology supports or hinders. What politics does the technology described in this article have?

Problem D5: Usability

Donald Norman emphasizes the usability of everyday objects. What would Norman say about the usability of the technology described in the article? Alternately, describe the affordances and signifiers associated with the technology.

Problem D6: Failure

The evolution of each of these two technologies corresponds, in part, to Petroski's claim that we learn from failure. Explain what the technology described in the article adds to Petroski's central theses.

Problem D7: Democratic

In what ways is the technology described in the article a democratic or non-democratic technology?

Problem D8: Berry's Criteria

Wendell Berry gives a number of criteria for when a successor technology is "better" than the technology it replaces. Apply these criteria to the technology described in the article.

Copyright (c) 2014 Samuel A. Rebelsky.

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