Gov 376 Technology and War (Fall 2013)

Professor Harinda Vidanage. PhD (Edin)

Office: Hepburn 09

Office Hours 10.00 – 12.00 M/W


Office Phone: 229-5437



Course Introduction





Terminator 1984


Morpheus : Yes…I’ve been looking for you, Neo. I don’t know if you’re ready to see what I want to show you, but unfortunately you and I have run out of time. They’re coming for you, Neo, and I don’t know what they’re going to do.

Neo : Who’s coming for me?

Matrix 1999


The questions i ask, she doesn’t; the things i wonder about, she won’t

Oblivion 2013

Technology and War has had a symbiotic relationship ever since humans have learned to imagine how a mere stone can be used as a projectile to hunt, kill and as a symbol of dominance. Waging of war and prevention of war is and has remained a civilizational challenge. The genesis of modern International relations can be attributed to a multitude of global and national political transformations, yet all these transformations are based on an unending sequence of war-fighting between a multitude of actors and institutions to gain and maintain power.

Technology and its social impact has received concentrated scholarly attention only in recent times, especially with the increasing interest in inter-disciplinary explorations of social phenomena created as a result of interaction between the social and the technological from communications revolution, digital media to explosion of everyday dependencies on technological mechanisms.

To understand and unpack war studies requires a focus on the nexus between technological, communicational and entertainment dimensions from military technologies to civilian technological shifts and entertainment media merging to create new political ideologies that have shifted the idea of war far from the battle field and brought it closer to the everyday lives  human beings. Science fiction of the past has become the reality of the present, robots, and killer drones are redefining the art of warfare, the experience of warfare and the image of warfare. Today’s students of International relations and political science need to critically engage these new discourses and practice of war, embedded in technologies of military hardware to technologies of image making such as the digital cameras and sensors that are redefining every technological apparatus we deal with daily.

This course will focus on a set of complex and interconnected strands of academic investigations emerging through the relationship between war and technology. These strands include,

1)       The theoretical debates on the social shaping of technologies,

2)      20th Century doctrines of warfare and their inherent shaping by military technologies influencing policy making such as the notions of ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’,

3)      Media, Entertainment and Image of war

4)      the changing geo political power arrangement and new challenges to American dominance

5)      Emergence of Autonomous weapons systems, Robotics and Artificial intelligence in war fighting

6)      The social implications arising from the shift of military priorities such as emergence of information based military imperatives and blowback of surveillance societies

This course focuses on exploring consequences of current military modernization processes and its implications on the future of global conflict and war. Technological innovation of military hardware, information processes and artificial intelligence have created revolutionary weaponization capabilities. These technological innovations are leading a cutting edge shift in global political priorities and security regimes, with states’ altering their foreign policy and security strategies accordingly. The example of ‘Drone technology’, is a manifestation of this change.

The main focus will be on intense global political rivalries that are emerging between the United States, China and India. These states are promoting rapid military modernizing projects, thus these processes will be confronted in the course to understand the questions of future conflict and war.  Thus this course is an attempt to integrate ‘Future Studies’ into the heart of international relations.

Course Objectives

0        Explore speed of change in technologies of war and it’s political and social implications

0        Connections between war, society, politics, ideology and technology in a highly networked society

0        Expand critical analysis into the implications of war technologies and their transformations of social life

0        To understand the big picture of global politics of the 21st Century to develop vital skill sets and critical lens to project global political futures.

Evaluation criteria


Attendance                                                      10

Participation                                                   10

Assignment One                                            20        Week 4

Blog Post                                                         10        Week 8

Assignment Two                                           20        Week 10

Class Project (Group/Individual Paper)   30        Week 14

Primary Reading: P.W. Singer, Wired For War (Mandatory for course), additional reading material will be provided weekly




Week 1


Week 2

Theoretical Frameworks

(Reading from Toflers/ introduction)

Week 3

War and technology a historical perspective I

Week 4

War and technology a historical perspective II

Week 5

Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) + Virtuous War

Week 6

RMA and American power

Week 7

Robotic revolution

Week 8

Geo Political Shifts

Week 09

Emerging powers and military dominance

Week 10

Emerging power and military dominance 2 (Future Conflict)

Week 11

Drone Wars

Week 12

Drone Wars 2

Week 13

Surveillance State

Week 14

Project Presentations


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