Joel Wilf Defends his Proposal “Technology in Utopia: A Philosophical Examination of Technology in Utopian Literature” 

Congratulations to Joel Wilf for passing his proposal defense on Monday, December 5th, 2022! This is a unique and ambitious study, and we look forward to seeing the work progress.

Title:  Technology in Utopia: A philosophical examination of technology in utopian literature


One of the enduring problems in the philosophy of technology is the “question of control:” to what extent does society control the technology it uses; and to what extent does technology shape society and its values? This study explores the “question of control” through a conceptual framework from the philosophy of technology, in the context of modern fictional utopias. This study provides the grounds for using these utopias as the “conceptual designs of desired, future societies.” It then applies conceptual theories from the philosophy of technology to answer these research questions: 1) How do utopian societies depend on technology to meet their social goals? 2) How do utopian societies implicitly follow a philosophy of technology? 3) How do utopian societies address risk and uncertainty from technology? 4) How are answers to the questions above different for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) than for other types of technology? 5) What are the strengths and weaknesses of the philosophy of technology that are revealed by answering the questions above?

To answer these questions, the study employs an open-ended, qualitative content analysis method. A set of utopias are selected through purposive sampling. Coding categories are derived inductively from the data, guided by the conceptual frameworks mentioned above. The selected utopias are then coded and analyzed to answer the research questions, and contribute to answering the “question of control.” Results and insights from this study are expected to contribute to the body of knowledge in utopian studies, the philosophy of technology, and the emerging field of social systems engineering.

Committee Members:

Dr. Jenifer Winter (CIS), Chair

Dr. Elizabeth Davidson (CIS)

Dr. Rich Gazan (CIS)

Dr. Daniel Port (CIS)

Dr. Todd Sammons (English Department), University Representative