Plan for the Week
This page will direct you to all the I, Robot material. If this were a face-to-face class, we’d easily spend 2-3 days discussing the novel. Below I have a review of postmodernism, which might help you think about literature from a cultural perspective, a description of a study I did on teaching I, Robot, and, very importantly, a link to I, Robot topics for your future essays that are due March 31st (I decided to extend the deadline)
- Postmodernism, An Introduction
- I, Robot Study
- I, Robot Discussion
- I, Robot Essay Topics
- Weekly Discussion Post #11 is due on Canvas by 11:00 pm
By the way, I’ll be teaching ENGL 3050 “Science Fiction and American Culture” this Fall 2023, so, if you like sci fi (books, films, TV shows, video games), you might be interested in the course.
This postmodernism discussion is for those of you more humanities-oriented students who will encounter literature in your future courses. However, I want all of you to be able to recognize personal and socially accepted ways of knowing. Ways of knowing or, more accurately, ways of arguing often get supported by the following:
- Tastes and convictions
Truth is often defined as facts, so the above list is ranked from more personal knowledge (1) to most socially accepted knowledge (4).
Where might “statistics” go? When we cover ethics, we’ll see that statistics (or “the facts,” generally) never speak for themselves.
I, Robot Study
I did a study on I, Robot essays I acquired from students over a few years. As I’ve mentioned before in class, my approach to Technical Communication is not standard, so trying to pitch science fiction to the gatekeepers at the technical communication journals is difficult. Fortunately, the forward-thinker reviewers and editors at Computers and Composition found my article worthy to be published.
Below is an excerpt from the article that presents the goals I have for incorporating I, Robot into the technical communication course:
My goal for using Isaac Asimov’s novel I, Robot is to move students toward being aware that there are sub(altern) discourses about technologies—and not just computers. These discourses do not consider technology inherently progressive or essentially good. The novel’s setup fits in well with technical writing courses because, although it is 60 years old, it analyzes high-tech culture. Readers understand it as fiction, but they can be moved to read the novel’s subtext, which illuminates the ideologies carried out through the dominant culture’s beliefs and discourses about technology. When we adhere to strictly instrumentalist activities and lessons without critical analysis of the technical communicator-audience relationship, we may miss a major opportunity to engage our student population, a group that most likely—coming from engineering and sciences—has an uncritical view of technology: The mantra “bigger/smaller, faster, stronger, better” is not always accurate. In fact, it promotes a modernist paradigm for technical writing. Such a paradigm privileges the technologies over the communicators, much like system-centered design suggests that “the documentation is written to reflect the image of the system designer” (Johnson, 1998/2003, p. 295). Incorporating I, Robot into the technical writing classroom advances a postmodern pedagogy that privileges student agency and asks students to be critical of their own career goals when exploring the wider cultural forces that may shape their decisions and the products that their cultures produce.
Toscano, Aaron A. (2011). Using I, Robot in the technical writing classroom: Developing a critical technological awareness. Computers and Composition 28(1), 14-27. [cited in APA format…I think]
Visuals to Help
Below I have a few images to get us thinking:
- Cover of I, Robot from the early 1980s
- Back cover of I, Robot from the early 1980s
- Three Laws of Robotics (pdf)
Here is the list of topics for your short essays.
Asimov Links to Wikipedia
- Isaac Asimov
- I, Robot Cover
- I, Robot Cover–“Runaround”
- I, Robot Cover–“Reason”
I, Robot Discussion
In order to guide your thinking, consider the following issues related to technology studies and, of course, technical communication:
- Critical Technological Awareness
Critical Workplace Awareness
- Robot Marketing
- Labor Issues Surrounding Robots
- QT: the Existential Robot
- Redhead Stereotypes
- The Precarious Situation of Having a Love Interest on the Job
Women in Engineering and Science (see ADVANCE)*
- Scientific and Technological Races
- Government Support of Technology and War
- Corporate Chicanery
- The Fallacy of Machine Predictability
- Robots vs. Humans
Your I, Robot essays are now due Friday, 3/31, so turn them in on Canvas. Remember, I’ve read this book many times, and I do not need summaries! Do not summarize the plot; instead, make an argument or insight into how the novel reflects contemporary life regarding technological issues–good or bad.
Also, don’t forget your Weekly Discussion Post #11 is due Thursday, 3/30, 11:00 pm.