Blog Articles

Course Article

Inquiry sparks further research in Urban Studies 167

This quarter in Urban Studies 167: The Automobile, the City and the New Mobilities, we continue to grapple with questions central to the future of the automobile-city relationship.

Looking backward historically, we’ve looked at the fallacy of the most common wisdom about the automobile’s effect on urban development – that the car destroyed the city by congesting it, polluting it, and then abandoning it in favor of the cultural wasteland of mass suburbia. In fact, I would argue, the automobile was a technology appropriate to its historical moment that helped to usher in an expanded... Read More

Course Article

View Through the Windshield: An Update from ARTHIST 263

How to reconcile the relationship between nature and technology? This is one of the central questions for a course on cars and the American landscape. For the moment, we’ve been focusing our attention on how it was addressed by artists and designers in the 1930s, a period often called the Machine Age for its celebration of science and technology.

Charles Sheeler, American Landscape, 1930.

We first looked at the work of Charles Sheeler. In particular, we viewed his paintings and photographs of the most sophisticated and efficient machine for producing... Read More

Course Article

These shoes are barely made for walking. But could they be perfect for driving?

In ME 236 'Tales to Design Cars By' this past quarter at Stanford, our students learned more about their relationships with others when they made an important distinction: feeling ‘for’ vs. feeling ‘with’ another person.

If you feel for another person, you will find evidence of your compassionate self. But something deeper occurs when you feel ‘with’ another person – empathy – one of the core values of design thinking.

In empathy we are capable of relating with another person and experiencing what they feel. During classes, we set them up to learn about empathy through a... Read More

Course Article

Telling Car Stories

What is it about cars that make people talk so passionately? In ME 236 (Tales to Design Cars By) class this quarter, we are finding people relate to cars in ways unlike any other object. As a result they tell car stories differently than any other story.

We’re finding a number of elements contribute to this. Chief among them: a car provides a confined space that encourages but never forces interaction. Because the vehicle takes its occupant on a journey, it becomes a natural mechanism for storytelling.

Inspired by cinema, video, road trips, interviews and observations, our... Read More

Course Article

Do Automobiles Have Politics?

The gateway question to the Science and Technology Studies (STS) program at Stanford is deceptively simple: “do artifacts have politics?” An affirmative answer leads to four wonderful years at Stanford studying the myriad ways in which artifacts do, indeed, have politics – and the insights gained by considering technologies as social actors.

The car and its paradoxes offer a wonderful place to begin to explore these questions. At once an icon of freedom and mobility, the automobile has also brought unprecedented regulation in the form of policing, traffic and auto regulation, and... Read More