PUBP503. Culture, Organization and Technology

Professor Anne L. Washington, PhD


This course explores the influence of culture, organizations, and technology in the formation of policy. We consider this framework on global, national, regional, organizational, and interpersonal levels.

Public policy promotes organizational and societal change. Effective policy analysis often depends on evaluating the relevant culture(s). Culture includes national cultures, regional cultures, generational cultures, professional cultures, or organization cultures. This course is designed to provide practical and intellectual skills, not only to help minimize cultural failures, but to maximize success in organizational and societal contexts.

The interplay of culture, organizations, and technology is at the core of crucial issues we face today including the environment, the financial crisis, global tax policy, peacekeeping, commerce, transnational crime, and national security. What are the politics of an artifact, from a derivative equation to a search engine? What is the anthropology of policy-making? How are institutions embedded in technology? Few policies today are implemented without the assistance of technology and classification systems. Technology includes more than computers and electronic devices. Each device relies on massive systems of physical and intellectual infrastructure such as utilities, telecommunications networks, commercial law, and regulation. Technology can be viewed as a cultural tool that people use to construct meaning, share knowledge and build human relationships.

Social phenomena are the key to a sophisticated analysis of policy. Social phenomena are best understood by revealing how people construct associations and make meaning. We will learn how to interview people, evaluate documents, and assemble evidence. Nuanced research skills using qualitative data are essential for any policy professional.

The assignments will investigate our framework of culture, organizations and technology from two perspectives. The first perspective is interpersonal. In addition to class exercises, each student will write a reflection about the connection between culture and technology in their own lives. The second perspective is institutional. Students will consider culture within a specific organization over the course of several assignments. Assignments are designed to simulate a realistic policy environment with both long-term and short-term projects. Professionals in public policy are expected to speak effectively and write coherently which is why the class is run as a seminar with a focus on communication skills. The class will complement and augment your existing skills in conducting research and analyzing public policy.

Bibliography PUBP503