This class examines how and why twentieth-century Americans came to define the ŰĎgood lifeŰ through consumption, leisure, and material abundance. We will explore how such things as department stores, nationally advertised brand-name goods, mass-produced cars, and suburbs transformed the American economy, society, and politics. The course is organized both thematically and chronologically. Each period deals with a new development in the history of consumer culture. Throughout we explore both celebrations and critiques of mass consumption and abundance.
MIT Environment & Sustainability: Histories and Cultures
Like so many of the big challenges taken on at MIT, environmental and sustainability issues demand an interdisciplinary perspective.
From declining fisheries to acute urban pollution to record-breaking global temperatures, the evidence of human impact on the environment continues to mount. And at the same time, the environment shapes us, as human society and institutions are built upon our connection to the weather, land, water, and other species. What can we learn from ecological systems and cycles? What solutions will allow people and the planet to thrive?
MIT scholars, students and alumni are working to understand and help us make progress toward a more sustainable and just world. This core mission draws upon all of the fields represented at MIT: not just science, engineering, and technology, but also the humanities, arts, economics, history, architecture, urban planning, management, policy, and more.
This OCW course collection is inspired by two interdisciplinary MIT programs. Many of the undergraduate courses fall within the undergraduate Environment and Sustainability Minor managed by MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI); the OCW course list employs the undergraduate minor’s four topic pillars. Many of the graduate-level courses are part of the MIT Sloan School of Management Sustainability Certificate curriculum.
This course applies the tools of anthropology to examine biology in the age of genomics, biotechnological enterprise, biodiversity conservation, pharmaceutical bioprospecting, and synthetic biology. It examines such social concerns such as bioterrorism, genetic modification, and cloning. It offers an anthropological inquiry into how the substances and explanations of biology—ecological, organismic, cellular, molecular, genetic, informatic—are changing. It examines such artifacts as cell lines, biodiversity databases, and artificial life models, and using primary sources in biology, social studies of the life sciences, and literary and cinematic materials, and asks how we might answer Erwin Schrodinger’s 1944 question, “What Is Life?” today.
Do you want to think about ways to help solve New Orleans' problems? CityScope is a project-based introduction to the contemporary city. “Problem solving in complex (urban) environments” is different than “solving complex problems.” As a member of a team, you will learn to assess scenarios for the purpose of formulating social, economic and design strategies to provide humane and sustainable solutions. A visit to New Orleans is planned for spring break 2007.
This course will explore how Americans have confronted energy challenges since the end of World War II. Beginning in the 1970s, Americans worried about the supply of energy. As American production of oil declined, would the US be able to secure enough fuel to sustain their high consumption lifestyles? At the same time, Americans also began to fear the environmental side affects of energy use. Even if the US had enough fossil fuel, would its consumption be detrimental to health and safety? This class examines how Americans thought about these questions in the last half-century. We will consider the political, diplomatic, economic, cultural, and technological aspects of the energy crisis. Topics include nuclear power, suburbanization and the new car culture, the environmental movement and the challenges of clean energy, the Middle East and supply of oil, the energy crisis of the 1970s, and global warming.
With increasing public awareness of the multiple effects of global environmental change, the terms water, energy, and food crisis have become widely used in scientific and political debates on sustainable development and environmental policy. Although each of these crises has distinct drivers and consequences, providing sustainable supplies of water, energy, and food are deeply interrelated challenges and require a profound understanding of the political, socioeconomic, and cultural factors that have historically shaped these interrelations at a local and global scale.
A survey of how America has become the world's largest consumer of energy. Explores American history from the perspective of energy and its relationship to politics, diplomacy, the economy, science and technology, labor, culture, and the environment. Topics include muscle and water power in early America, coal and the Industrial Revolution, electrification, energy consumption in the home, oil and US foreign policy, automobiles and suburbanization, nuclear power, OPEC and the 70's energy crisis, global warming, and possible paths for the future.
Focusing primarily on the period since 1500, explores the influence of climate, topography, plants, animals, and microorganisms on human history and the reciprocal influence of people on the environment. Topics include the European encounter with the Americas, the impact of modern technology, and the historical roots of the current environmental crisis.
Examines the ways in which people in ancient and contemporary societies have selected, evaluated, and used materials of nature, transforming them to objects of material culture. Some examples: glass in ancient Egypt and Rome; powerful metals in the Inka empire; rubber processing in ancient Mexico. Explores ideological and aesthetic criteria often influential in materials development. Laboratory/workshop sessions provide hands-on experience with materials discussed in class. Subject complements 3.091. Enrollment may be limited.
This class examines the relationship between the study of natural history, both domestic and exotic, by Europeans and Americans, and exploration and exploitation of the natural world, focusing on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
What is a city? What shapes it? How does its history influence future development? How do physical form and institutions vary from city to city and how are these differences significant? How are cities changing and what is their future? This course will explore these and other questions, with emphasis upon twentieth-century American cities. A major focus will be on the physical form of cities—from downtown and inner-city to suburb and edge city—and the processes that shape them.
These questions and more are explored through lectures, readings, workshops, field trips, and analysis of particular places, with the city itself as a primary text. In light of the 2016 centennial of MIT’s move from Boston to Cambridge, the 2015 iteration of the course focused on MIT’s original campus in Boston’s Back Bay, and the university’s current neighborhood in Cambridge. Short field assignments, culminating in a final project, will provide students opportunities to use, develop, and refine new skills in “reading” the city.
This class provides a historical survey of the ways that people have interacted with their closest animal relatives, for example: hunting, domestication of livestock, exploitation of animal labor, scientific study of animals, display of exotic and performing animals, and pet keeping. Themes include changing ideas about animal agency and intelligence, our moral obligations to animals, and the limits imposed on the use of animals.
This class develops the abilities of students to communicate science effectively in a variety of real-world contexts. It covers strategies for dealing with complex areas like theoretical physics, genomics and neuroscience, and addresses challenges in communicating about topics such as climate change and evolution. Projects focus on speaking and writing, being an expert witness, preparing briefings for policy-makers, writing blogs, and giving live interviews for broadcast, as well as the creation of an interactive exhibit for display in the MIT Museum.
This seminar examines the global history of the last millennium, including technological change, commodity exchange, systems of production, and economic growth. Students engage with economic history, medieval and early modern origins of modern systems of production, consumption and global exchange. Topics include the long pre-history of modern economic development; medieval world systems; the age of discovery; the global crisis of the 17th century; demographic systems; global population movements; the industrial revolution; the rise of the modern consumer; colonialism and empire building; patterns of inequality, within and across states; the curse of natural resources fate of Africa; and the threat of climate change to modern economic systems. Students taking the graduate version complete additional assignments.
This course covers theories about the form that settlements should take and attempts a distinction between descriptive and normative theory by examining examples of various theories of city form over time. Case studies will highlight the origins of the modern city and theories about its emerging form, including the transformation of the nineteenth-century city and its organization. Through examples and historical context, current issues of city form in relation to city-making, social structure, and physical design will also be discussed and analyzed.
This studio discusses in great detail the design of urban environments, specifically in Providence, RI. It will propose strategies for change in large areas of cities, to be developed over time, involving different actors. Fitting forms into natural, man-made, historical, and cultural contexts; enabling desirable activity patterns; conceptualizing built form; providing infrastructure and service systems; guiding the sensory character of development: all are topics covered in the studio. The course integrates architecture and planning students in joint work and requires individual designs and planning guidelines as a final product.
In this course we will read and write about works that explore symbolic encounters in the American landscape. Some of the assigned works look at uneasy encounters between ordinary individuals and animals—wolves, eagles, sandhill cranes—that Americans have invested with symbolic significance; others explore conflicts between the pragmatic American impulse to impose order on unruly nature and the equally American inclination to enshrine the unaltered landscape.