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Courses (2022-23)

Science, Technology, and Society courses for the 2022-23 academic year. Please note: course listings change from year to year. Should you have any questions, please contact vic.academics@utoronto.ca.

CRE235H1F | Innovation in Society

CRE235H1F
Innovation in Society
Professor Sunil Johal
R 6-8

This course investigates the history and contemporaneity of innovation as a response to social, scientific, and environmental challenges. Students will acquire key frameworks for understanding the workings of innovation, the place of creativity, and the social impacts of new and disrupted organizations. Through historicizing key moments of innovation (from the Gutenberg printing press to today’s healthcare discoveries) and considering related issues (including intellectual property and sustainability) students will develop approaches to understanding the past, present, and future of creative disruption.

Exclusion: MUN101H1, MUN102H1
Distribution Requirement Status: Social Science
Breadth Requirement: Society and its Institutions (3)

CRE247H1F | Creativity in the Sciences

CRE247H1F
Creativity in the Sciences
Professor Hakob Barseghyan
W 10-12

This seminar course explores various aspects of creativity in the sciences. We will discuss how to define the term “creativity” and will use the definition to compare creativity in the sciences to creativity in the arts, business and engineering. Using as examples major developments in the history of science, we will consider factors that enable creativity in scientists. We will also contrast the kinds of creative work scientists do in different areas of science, and at various stages of a project. To better understand creativity, we will use results from psychological and neuroscience studies of creativity. We will discuss various ways in which the creativity of a scientist can be evaluated, and will use this as a starting point to evaluate the importance of scientific discoveries more generally, in both fundamental and applied science areas. We will consider the timing of scientific discoveries, looking at “ideas whose time has come,” to discuss whether creative discoveries happen at random, or if they occur at predictable times. Students will perform research on the major developments in an area of science, analyzing the types of creative work that were done, along with factors that enabled the developments. They will be encouraged to “represent” that area of science in class discussions during the term.

Prerequisite: Any 1.0 credit combination of courses carrying a breadth requirement (BR) category of 4 or 5.
Distribution Requirements: Humanities
Breadth Requirements: Thought, Belief and Behaviour (2)

CRE335H1S | Creativity and Collaboration in Social Enterprise

CRE335H1S
Creativity and Collaboration in Social Enterprise
Professor Sunil Johal
R 6-8

In this course we discuss how positive change can be produced in society by creative enterprises, and we develop critical perspectives through which the actions of enterprises can be analyzed. We employ the term “enterprise” in the widest possible sense to include all organizations that have an effect on society. This includes traditional companies, non-profit and charitable organization, and many others: neighbourhood associations, social activists, foreign aid organizations, etc. We look at large, established organizations, such as multi-national companies, and also at small start-ups that students may consider launching themselves.

We start our discussions by looking at various ethical theories and we then apply these theories to the world of enterprises, by considering questions such as: What makes the actions of a company acceptable? How high should we set the bar for labeling an enterprise as ethical? When we evaluate company actions, how can we compare economic benefits, social disruption, questions of exclusion and diversity, sustainability in several senses, and the processes of change themselves? How do we balance short vs long term effects? What should be the fundamental duties of every company? Where are the limits of social responsibility in entrepreneurial creativity? 

Students will work in teams to apply these discussions by proposing an enterprise that aims to produce a positive change. They will optimize this proposal through their own research, along with feedback from the rest of the class.

Distribution Requirement Status: Social Science
Breadth Requirement: Society and its Institutions (3)

CRE371H1F | Documenting Reality

CRE371H1F
Documenting Reality
Professor Jordan Bear
T 1-3

Photography is ubiquitous in today’s world, and photographs are routinely used for a variety of purposes: personal (meetings with friends, growth of a child), professional (data collected from an experiment, recording of a professional accomplishment) and public (images of politicians, call to action after a natural disaster). We use photographs extensively to communicate (on news websites, on social media, etc.) because we generally trust them to represent reality, although we also know that they can be easily used to misrepresent a situation.

Given the impact of photography, in this course we will gain a deeper understanding of this field through two perspectives: scientific (how they work) and social (how they are used). On the scientific and technology side we will explain the working principles of photographic cameras, considering lenses, image sensors, and digital image processing. We will relate technical choices and trade-offs a photographer makes to the corresponding visual results. This will include discussions of aperture size and depth of field, sensor sensitivity and image noise, white balance considerations and others. Various choices for lighting, and the resulting “mood” of an image will be explored. For the societal impact of photography, we will consider the use of photographs as evidence, photojournalism, the use of photography in advertisements, among others. One particular question to consider is whether a photograph provides a faithful representation of reality, if it is staged, or if focus is chosen such as to de-emphasize certain areas? We will consider the impact of modern image processing algorithms, which add artificial enhancements to real-world photographs, blurring the line between what is real and what is not. As an extreme example we will discuss the emerging “deepfakes” which use artificial intelligence to produce fake images that are very difficult to detect.

Students will need access to a camera (cell phone or otherwise), that they will use to produce a series of photographs where they explore hands-on many of the technical choices in photography, analyzing the resulting effects. They have the option of focusing their explorations on still life, street photography, landscapes, portraits, or others. 

The course will consider scientific principles of optics and electronics, but does not require any prerequisite science courses. We will not use mathematical equations and the material will be introduced at a level that is accessible to university students in all programs.

Prerequisite: Completion of 4.0 credits
Exclusion: VIC371H1
Distribution Requirements: Humanities
Breadth Requirements: Creative and Cultural Representations (1)

REN242H1S | Scientific Worldviews of the Renaissance

REN242H1S
Scientific Worldviews of the Renaissance
Professor Hakob Barseghyan
F 11-1

An in-depth study of late medieval and early modern scientific worldviews, with a focus on interconnections between natural philosophy, cosmology, theology, astronomy, optics, medicine, natural history, and ethics. Through a consideration of early modern ideas including free will and determinism, the finite and infinite universe, teleology and mechanism, theism and deism, and deduction and intuition, this course investigates some of the period’s key metaphysical and methodological assumptions, and reveals how an evolving scientific understanding informed the Renaissance worldview.

Exclusion: HPS309H1
Distribution Requirement Status: This is a Humanities course
Breadth Requirement: Thought, Belief and Behaviour (2) + Society and its Institutions (3)

REN343H1S | Sex and Gender

REN343H1S
Sex and Gender
Professor Andrea Walkden
W 1-3

An interdisciplinary approach to the workings and representation of gender and sexuality in early modern Europe. Our range of topics will include heterosexual marriage, same-sex friendship, homoerotic desire, courtly love, sexual violence, cross-gender identification and performance, hermaphroditism and the contested or “monstrous” body. To explore these topics, we will be reading literary works by Boccaccio, Christine de Pizan, Castiglione, Marguerite de Navarre, Montaigne, Marlowe, Lyly, Elizabeth Cary, and Margaret Cavendish, although our archive will also include illustrated anatomy books, conduct books, popular pamphlet literature, works of art, map illustrations, travel narratives, and ethnographic writing. Throughout the term, we will be considering Renaissance understandings of sex and gender in relation to the conceptual frameworks offered by scholars of feminism, queerness, disability, and the history of sexuality.

Exclusion: VIC343H1, VIC343Y1
Distribution Requirements: Humanities
Breadth Requirements: Society and its Institutions (3)

VIC245H1F | Science Wars: Society and the Limits of Scientific Knowledge

VIC245H1F
Science Wars: Society and the Limits of Scientific Knowledge
Professor Hakob Barseghyan
F 11-1

An introduction to competing conceptions of scientific knowledge and the role of sociocultural factors in shaping scientific methods, theories, and evidence. Can science provide objective knowledge of the external mind-independent world, or are the empirical aspirations of science limited by the social, cultural, economic, political, and religious contexts that shape “science” itself? Can scientific knowledge reach certainty? How do sociocultural factors affect the process of theory acceptance? This course considers “science” as an epistemological battleground from 17th century debates on inductive reasoning to contemporary arguments about “alternative” science.

Breadth Requirement: Thought, Belief and Behaviour (2)

VIC259H1S | Math and Creativity

VIC259H1S
Special Topics Seminar
Professor Sylvia Nickerson
F 10-12

Math and Creativity

This course explores the history of mathematics while building skill in narrative story-telling and image creation to reimagine the origin of mathematical ideas in accessible and compelling ways. We explode history and ideas, unpacking concepts in history and mathematics to weave compelling narratives using fresh perspectives and representations. Course topics include the concept of infinity, quantification of uncertainty, space and geometry, pattern and self-similarity, lives of mathematicians and historical controversies in mathematics. Students are encouraged to build unique narratives that incorporate or expand upon course topics. Examples of graphic storytelling will be presented for identification of effective narrative techniques and visual styles. Aspects of mathematics and its history are analyzed to enable the retelling, reframing, and re-visioning of the past from the perspective of the present. Students acquire skill in the use of media creation tools while exploring how narratives, images, and mathematical ideas describe and structure our world. 

Topics vary from year to year depending on the instructor.

Prerequisite: Completion of 5.0 credits
Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Science, Social Science
VIC377H1S | Women in the History of Math

VIC377H1S
Special Topics in Science, Technology and Society
Professor Brigitte Stenhouse
R 10-12

Women in the History of Math

Topics vary from year to year depending on the instructor.

Prerequisite: Completion of 9.0 credits
Recommended Preparation: 0.5 credit in Science and Society
Distribution Requirement: Science, Social Science
Breadth Requirement: Thought, Belief and Behaviour (2)

HPS Courses

HPS courses are offered by the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST).

Eligible HPS courses are listed under the Science, Technology, and Society program requirements.

Course descriptions and information (including class times) may be found on the IHPST website.

 

Internships

The goal of this internship is to give students an opportunity to get hands-on experience in science policy, governance, funding, popularization, advocacy, journalism, or a closely related field in a professional setting. The internship experience can help deepen the students’ expertise in these fields and play a vital role in achieving their personal and professional goals. The interns will apply their interdisciplinary knowledge acquired though their courses at the University of Toronto in real work environments and link their learning to the reality of various science-related settings. The internship experience can also help the students to learn more about possible career paths and give them an invaluable opportunity to create strong professional networks. The interns will be required to complete 100 hours (typically 8 hours/week) with an industry partner during the Fall term and will also participate in monthly group meetings with the Course Instructor and other interns.

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