PB429      Half Unit
Science, Technology and Resistance

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Martin Bauer QUE.3.04


This course is available on the MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology, MSc in Psychology of Economic Life, MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology and MSc in Social and Public Communication. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

Tarde (1980) famously argued that creativity and invention have none or little regularity, while the diffusion of new ideas and practices follows the 'laws of imitation'. This idea remains very influential in the models of diffusion of innovation and the linear model of science translated into technical engineering and marketing. The course will examine critically how this model is only valid hen there is no or little resistance in the process which, however, is rare. More common are efforts of techno-scientific mobilisations that encounter resistance, and resistance changes the process by focussing attention where needed; enhancing the 'collective we-image', evaluating on-going efforts of mobilisation and urging strategic adaptation and delays to the plan. We will explore various conceptions of 'resistance' across the social sciences and develop the functional analogue to 'pain' in relation to collective activity (Bauer, 1991, 1995 and 2015). In this light, we will examine public resistance, public engagement with science and its debates and impact on the developments of nuclear power, genetic engineering and information technology leading into current mobilisations for Nanotechnology, synthetic life forms, and robotic automation.

Students' are expected to appreciate theory driven empirical research.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.

Indicative reading

Bauer, M. (2015). Atoms, Bytes & Genes: public resistance and techno-scientific responses. New York: Routledge. Bauer, M.W. (2013). New technology: a social psychology of disinhibition and restraint. In M.W.Bauer, R. Harre & C. Jensen (Eds) Resistance and the Practice of Rationality. Newcastle:Cambridge Scholar Publishers, pp.79-100. Bauer, M.W. & Gaskell, G. (Eds) (2002). Biotechnology - the making of a global controversy. Cambridge, CUP. Bauer, M.W. (1995). Towards a functional analysis of resistance. In Bauer, M.W. (Eds), Resistance to new technology. Cambridge, CUP, pp.393-418. Bauer, M.W. (1991). Resistance to change - a monitor of new technology. Systems Practice, 4, 3, 181-196. Carlopio, 'A history of social psychological reactions to new technology', Journal of Occupational Psychology, 61, 1988 in Gaskell, G. and Bauer, M.W (Eds), Genomic & Society: legal, ethical and social dimension. London: Earthscan, pp. 228-249. Godin, B. (2015). Innovation contested: The idea of innovation over the centuries (Routledge Studies in Social and Political Thought), New York: Routledge. Latour, B. 'On inter-objectivity', Mind, Culture and Activity, 3, 228-245, 1996.  Marteau, T. & Richards, M.P.M. (Eds), The troubled helix: Social and psychological implications of the new human genetics, CUP, 1996; Morris, D.B. (1991). The cutlure of paini. Berekely, UCP. J Van der Plight, Nuclear Energy and the Public, Blackwell, 1992; Roger, E.M. (1996 [1962]). Diffusion of innovation 4th edition. New York: Free Press. Tarde, G. (1962 [1890]). The laws of imitation, Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith. Valente, T.W. & Rogers, E.M. (1995). The origins and development of the diffusion of the innovation paradigm as an example of scientific growth. Science Communication, 16, 3, 242-273. Wall, P.D. (1979). On the relation of injury to pain, The John J Bonica Lecture. Pain, 6, 253-264. Weart, S.R. (1988). Nuclear fear: A histor of images, Harvard University Press.

Each session will have its own particular readings, divided into essential texts and additional readings. This will be revised on an annual basis. No one text covers the entire syllabus; students' will be expected to read widely in appropriate journals, and a list of references will be provided at the start of the course.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2017/18: Unavailable

Average class size 2017/18: Unavailable

Controlled access 2017/18: No

Value: Half Unit

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