Fall 2016

STS 2761 - Governing Everyday Life

InstructorProf. Malte Ziewitz
TimeTuesday/Thursday, 1.25-2.40pm
LocationUris Hall G88
Cross‑listed asSOC 2760
Photo of lane closure

Traffic lights, elevators, and recycling bins seem rather boring and irrelevant. Yet, while not usually on our minds when thinking about governance and regulation, these seemingly mundane technologies are important features of our lives. This course will take a closer look at everyday solutions to public problems. Combining hands-on exercises with readings from STS, sociology, and politics, we shall explore the role of everyday devices and technologies in establishing, maintaining, and disrupting social order:

Working through these questions will be particularly useful for students interested in social theory, design, and public policy.

Learning objectives

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:
  1. Observe everyday phenomena of ordering and regulation and document their workings in text, image, video, and other media;
  2. Analyze empirical materials and relate them to key concepts from science & technology studies, sociology, and politics;
  3. Construct a compelling argument in writing that builds on documented evidence and arguments of others;
  4. Challenge taken-for-granted assumptions about governance and regulation and consider alternative designs and policies.
The course does not provide a comprehensive overview of every area of computing and culture. Instead, our goal is to hone our analytic skills by engaging with a small number of trends in depth.


This is a laboratory class. We will not only discuss readings and ideas, but also engage in hands-on observation and analysis. This may include:

Studying these phenomena first-hand will help us understand, reflect upon, and possibly transform social science concepts where they matter most. This will be particularly useful for students interested in sociology, design, and public policy.


No specific coursework required, except for a willingness to engage in hands-on exercises inside and outside the classroom. You should be able to read challenging texts carefully and critically and to write effective, coherent arguments.

As we will be working with pictures, notes, and video, I recommend that you bring your laptop to class. If available, you should also bring a smartphone or digital camera.

Questions about this course

Please email the instructor, Prof. Malte Ziewitz, at mcz35@cornell.edu.