Evolution of Technology (TEC 154 2014S) : Handouts

Sample Midsemester Exam, Part II: Essay Questions

This is an exmaple of the second half of the midsemester examination. Questions are taken from past examinations. Our readings and topics have changed a bit, but it should be representative of the kind of examination that I will give. There are likely to be three or four options for the essay questions.

Summary: In this examination, you will have the opportunity to demonstrate some of the important issues you learned in the first half of the semester. The emphasis of this part of the examination is that you understand the basic themes of the course as represented in the presentations and readings.


If you arrive early, you may read through these guidelines. However, you may not turn the page until 8:00 a.m.

There are a variety of essay questions on this exam. Answer one of them on the accompanying sheets of lined paper. Make it clear which question you are answering. Write your name at the top of each page.

Because these are essay questions, your answer should have a central thesis that you support as best you can. (Of course, since you do not have direct access to the readings, you can not support your claims with quotations, but you can approximate the ideas from the readings.)

Do your best to spell and apply rules of grammar correctly.

This exam is primarily closed book. 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.

I will not be available during the exam to answer questions. If you have questions on an examination problem, choose an answer you deem best, document your difficulty and how you have resolved that difficulty, and answer the revised question.

The exams will be collected at 8:50 a.m.

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.

Essay Question 1: Some Perspectives on Solar Power

This past week, you've learned a lot about photovoltaic technology. Anaylze the usefulness of that technology by adopting the point of view of (a) Wendell Berry, as stated in "Why I am Not Going To Buy a Computer" and (b) E. F. Schumacher, as stated in "Buddhist Economics".

Essay Question 2: Another Perspective on Solar Power

Pick some interesting relationship between Petroski's The Evolution of Everyday Things and what you've learned about solar energy, and write about it. For example, you might claim that (approximately), "Although Petroski claims that the evolution of small things can tell us a lot about how big things evolve, the evolution of photovoltaics suggests some ways in which the two kinds of evolution differ significantly."

This question is left fairly open-ended for those of you who like a lot of freedom in your questions.

Essay Question 3: Democracy and Technology

Both Leo Marx, in "Does Improved Technology Mean Progress?", and Richard Sclove, in "Technological Politics if Democracy Really Mattered", place democracy at the center of their criteria for evaluating the efficacy of technology. Compare and contrast their perspectives. If their perspectives are essentially the same, why do you think Teich bothered to include both?

Essay Question 4: Writing as Engineering

Petroski presents perspectives on technology and engineering from the perspective of a structural engineer. Does his perspective apply to other technologies? Consider the technology of writing. Argue for or against the claim that Petroski's perspectives apply equally well to writing. (Note that your thesis should be more complex than just "Petroski's perspectives do/do not apply equally well to writing.") In your argument, make sure to draw upon a variety of Petroski's descriptions of engineering and technology.

Essay Question 5: Technology, Power, and Written Language

Langdon Winner, in "Do Artifacts Have Politics?", and Paul Goodman, in "Can Technology Be Humane?", explore the relationship between technology and power. Drawing upon these two essays, explore the ways in which the technology of writing can support different power structures.

Essay Question 6: Computers as Technology

When people hear the term "technology", they often think "computers". As we've seen, technology is clearly a much broader subject. Nonetheless, a number of the authors that we've read have used computers as part of their reflections on technology. Drawing upon at least four of those authors, argue that computers provide an appropriate representative technology for exploring the values and problems of

Copyright (c) 2014 Samuel A. Rebelsky.

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