James Madison University
Department of Integrated Science and Technology concentration
BS ISAT > Curriculum > ISAT Foundations > Social Context

Social Context

What is the Social Context of Technology and Science?

The ISAT program focuses on the use of science and technology to solve human problems.  Social context refers to any of a variety of issues – political, economic, sociological, regulatory/legal, and cultural – that arise when applying science and technology to the solution of real-world problems. 

Knowledge of the social context is an essential tool for practicing technologists and managers because purely technical solutions almost never wholly solve the problems that they face in their daily work.  Thus, social context courses provide very practical information that enables ISAT graduates to excel after graduation. 

Studying social context also raises broader questions about the appropriate role of science and technology in our society.  It challenges students to think critically about the decisions we make (or have inherited!) about science and technology policy, appropriate use of technology, ethics, the nature of scientific and technological knowledge, and the challenges posed by the rapid evolution of science and technology in the context of a shrinking globe. 

The social context curriculum therefore seeks not only to help guide students through the social context in which science and technology emerge and are applied, but also to challenge society’s norms, values, and preconceptions as well.


The Social Context of Technology and Science is a central part of the curriculum for the BS in Integrated Science and Technology.  As Freshman and Sophomores, all students majoring in ISAT take a sequence of two Social Context courses: 

  • ISAT 131 Technology, Science and Society 
  • ISAT 231 Political Economy of Technology and Science

We hope that these courses inspire and support lively discussion of the relationships among science, technology and society.  Hopefully, faculty, staff and students will go beyond the classroom or workspace to explore difficult issues relating systematic knowledge to the full social context in which decision are made and lives lived.

Students interested in the social context of technology and science may also be interested in the Minor in Science Technology and Society.


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