Evolution of Technology (TEC 154 2014S) : Handouts

Sample Midsemester Exam, Part I: Short Questions

This is an example intended to illustrate the form and structure of the mid-semester examination. Questions come from previous sections of the course. Our readings and topics have changed a bit, I've included more than ten questions, and I'm likely to ask a few other kinds of questions, but it should be relatively representative of the kind of examination that I will give.

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.


There are ten problems on this exam. Each is worth five points.
However, each may not take you the same amount of time.

Write your name at the top of each page. 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 essay portion of 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.

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.

Problem 1: Technology and Democracy

Two of the authors we've read have made democracy the focus of their essays. In a sentence or two each, explain how each author suggests that democracy relates to technology. For two points of extra credit, give the name of each author and the title of his or her article.

Article 1:

Article 2:

Problem 2: Improving Instruments

In his presentation on instruments, makers, and musicians, Vetter noted a cycle of improvement. Describe that cycle in your own words.

Problem 3: Technology and Social Engineering

What is the central thesis of Alvin M. Weinberg's "Can Technology Replace Social Engineering?"

Problem 4: The Evolution of Writing

Dr. Lalonde suggested that one of the changes in writing systems was significantly more significant than the rest. What change was that?

Problem 5: Whittaker's Theses

In the second of his guest lectures, John Whittaker from Anthropology suggested a number of theses perspectives on technology that he hoped we would take from his lectures. Give two of them (only a sentence or two each).



Problem 6: Everyday Things

In The Evolution of Everyday Things, Henry Petroski states a number of important (and, perhaps, not-so-important) theses about the evolution of everyday technologies.

What is his central thesis?

Problem 7: Everyday Things, Revisited

Give two of Petroski's subsidiary theses.



Problem 8: Laissez Innover

Central to McDermott's criticism of Mesthene is a concept that he calls laissez innover. Explain this concept.

Problem 9: The Cycle of Technology and Society

In "How society shapes technology", Robert Pool suggests that technology has as much of an influence in how technology evolves as technology has an influence on how society involves. He is, of course, reacting to a view that technology does, in fact, greatly influence society. Pick a technology other than stone tools, writing, and the computer, and suggest, in three or four sentences how it has significantly changed society.

Problem 10: Design Criteria for Democratic Technologies

In his article, "Technological Politics As If Democracy Realy Mattered", Richard Sclove presents seven provisional criteria that we should apply when deciding whether a technology is democratic. List three of them (in your own words).

Problem 11: Adoption of Photovoltaics

What, according to Vice President Swartz, are the primary markets in which photovoltaics currently enjoy significant advantage?

Problem 12: Identify the Author

Identify the authors of two of the following three quotations. 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.

I tend to choose quotations that are central to the author's thesis.

Problem 13: Choose Your Favorite

What was your favorite reading this semester? Explain why in one or two sentences.

Copyright (c) 2014 Samuel A. Rebelsky.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.