How have changes in the way that things are manufactured and made transformed the world beyond the factory and other sites of production?
From spam to smart phones, much of the stuff we consume in our daily lives are factory-made. In the process of producing for our endless needs and wants, the factory has mobilized and motivated some of the latest advances in science and technology, defined and redefined the nature of work, and, through its polluting presence, pushed against the limits of our planetary boundaries. As such, it is implicated in nothing less than the making and unmaking of our modern world. This course examines the rise and transformation of the factory in global history, from cotton spinning mills in eighteenth-century England to robotics manufacturing plants in China today. Along the way, we will explore how innovations such as electrification, the assembly line, and computer numerical control shaped and were shaped by the dynamics between labor and management and by other forces of production. Readings will include the writings of Charles Dickens, Fredrich Engels, Frederick Taylor, Philip Dick, Ruth Cowan, Aviva Chomsky, Leslie Chang, and others, the personal testimonies of workers, and a graphic novel. As part of the course, we will be taking a field trip to Lowell, Massachusetts, a town once bustling with textile factories that was at the center of the American industrial revolution.