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Humanities 330 - GE Area F - 4 Units
Cal Poly Land: Nature, Technology and Society
Detailed Syllabus

A scientific investigation of the natural features of the Cal Poly landscape and their transformations by land management technology. Analysis of the environmental, economic, social, and political effects of agricultural, resource extraction and construction technology on that landscape. Emphasis on the educational, land-use and long term planning issues of technology presented by this case study.

  Students will

  1. Develop an awareness of how land management technology influences and is influenced by nature and today's society,with a special focus on the ten thousand acres of land belonging to the University.
  2. Understand the workings of land managment technology, including agricultural technology, resource extraction technology, construction technology, and ecosystem survey and restoration technology. (See Column C in Schedule--Section IV1)
  3. Learn to use technology to access and display relevant spatial data from USGS topographical maps, aerial photographs and internet map servers and to present their work on web pages they produce individually and collaboratively.(see week 1 in Schedule--section IV1)
  4. Appreciate the full range of regions, landscapes, ecosystems and technological systems found within the ten thousand acres of Cal Poly Land. (see Column B in Schedule--Section IV1)
  5. Understand the scientific facts and principles underlying the natural features of the Cal Poly landscape and their technological transformation and study, including Geological, Ecological, Biological, Historical, Aesthetic, Agricultural, Resource Management and Recreational aspects. (see Column A in Schedule--Section IV1)
  6. Critically examine the impacts of technology on the land and on society from multiple perspectives, including ethical, social, ecological, political, and economic viewpoints.(See especially weeks 5-10 on Schedule--Section IV1)
  7. Become citizens informed and engaged enough to take part in the ongoing political process of determining wise long term use of land resources. (See Weeks 9 and 10 on Schedule--Section IV1)
  8. Develop skills in descriptive, expository and argumentative writing by keeping a weekly journal of entries of at least 500 words employing all three modes of discourse. These journals will be graded and account for 60% of their course grade.
  9. Develop skills not only in browsing but also in collaborative composing for the World Wide Web. Most of the course resource and study materials will be found on the web site being developed by the Cal Poly Land Faculty Centennial Seminar < >. The final project, counting for 40% of the final grade, will consist of student group contributions of multimedia components to expand and enhance this site.
  10. Develop oral presentation skills through short small-group presentations to the class and presentation of their final projects to the general public.
"Area F is designed to acquaint students with an awareness of how technology influences and is influenced by today's society."
  1. Students will "understand the relationship between technology and its scientific basis." They will learn how technology furthers science and science furthers technology in every aspect of this course. Examples: Physics, mathematics and computer science promote development of mapping technologies of Cal Poly land, ranging from traditional surveys to GIS and GPS. Technological instrumentation for measuring wind, precipitation, vulcanism, tectonic plate movement, sedimentation, and water flow is is required to gather the data underlying the sciences of climatology, geology, hydrology and soil science. These sciences affect the technology of architecture and construction, of agriculture, and of resource and ecosystem management applied to Cal Poly land. Botany and zoology study living organisms and biosystems, generating enhanced yields in agriculture and forestry and facilitating sustainable technologies that minimize adverse impacts on the environment. Policy decisions about appropriate or competing uses of Cal Poly Land rely on scientific inventories and projections which in turn rely on use of up-to-date technologies. Empirical observation of natural processes by earlier inhabitants of Cal Poly Land, like Chumash and Spanish, yield differing technologies of agriculture and resource management.
  2. Cal Poly Land's ten thousand acres in San Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz Counties provides an extraordinarily rich set of case studies illustrating "the mathematical, technical, economic, commercial and social considerations necessary for making rational ethical and humane technological decisions." As a polytechnic institution Cal Poly has from its inception used the land to develop, apply and teach its students agricultural, resource management and construction technologies. Such technological activity has had both positive and negative consequences for society and the environment. For example, damming Brizzolari and Stenner creeks for irrigation destroyed steelhead salmon migration routes, while creating Smith and Shepherd reservoirs as stockponds created habitat for migrating bird populations. Appropriate balancing of the complex costs and benefits of technology requires that members of this community be fully informed in the diverse subject areas of this course. Extending such understanding is particularly appropriate during Cal Poly's Centennial, which is also the period of the initiation of the University' Master Plan development process.
  1. This course "builds on the Area B foundation" by requiring students' basic knowledge of mathematics and sciences to understand principles of mapping and computer modelling, the physics of plate tectonics and hydrology, the chemistry of photosynthesis and fertilization, and the biology of plant and animal communities.
  2. This course"will instruct students about one or more areas of technology." Students will develop hands-on knowledge of how to access spatial data from internet map servers, aerial photographs and thematic maps and how to construct web pages individually and collaboratively. They will be instructed in the workings of agricultural, resource management and construction technologies, for example, water system, railroad, and road construction, house, barn and fence design, SIMIS, genetic engineering, organic farming, precision agriculture, sustainable logging, and habitat restoration.
  3. This course "develops an awareness of how basic scientific and mathematical knowledge is used to solve technical problems," for instance 1)how precise measurements of wind, atmospheric moisture and temperature can reduce the total amount of irrigation water required for optimum crop yields, 2)how understanding the degree of expansion in given soils can lead to grading and grazing practises that reduce erosion, 3)how poisoning of competing tree species produces a forest monoculture that can increase short term timber production.
  4. This course "develops an awareness of the methods used and difficulties inherent in applying technology to solve social, economic, scientific, mathematical, artistic, and/or commercial problems," for instance in its examination of the salt residues produced by irrigation, the destruction of fish habitat created by nitrogen rich runoff, the erosion produced by railroad and road construction, logging and mining--all exemplified by visits to sites on Cal Poly Land.
  5. This course "addresses the ethical implications of technology" in its consideration of resource consumption, pollution, downstream consequences of upstream activities, examples set for students and community by the University's high profile and public service functions and the history of land use and acquisition from Chumash to Mission to Rancho to ranchers to Federal Government to Cal Poly.
  6. This course "includes critical examination of technology from multiple perspectives" through the presentations of professors of geography, architecture, engineering, business, agriculture, natural resource management, physics, biology, recreation administration and literature who will staff it.
  7. This course "provides students with an historical, contemporary and future-looking perspective of the technology" by incorporating one unit on archaeology and human history of Cal Poly Land, which includes discussion of food, fibre and shelter production technologies from prehistoric times to the present, one unit on construction technology which will examine the history of infrastructure, including waterworks, railroad, roads, fibre optic network among others. Future looking perspectives on technology are emphasized in the units on stewardship and land use planning which will incorporate technologies of mitigation of technological impacts and landscape restoration.
  8. This course "incorporates a writing component" involving descriptive, expository and argumentative writing by requiring students to keep a weekly journal of entries employing all three modes of discourse. These journals will be graded and account for 60% of their course grade.
  9. This course "requires completion of Area B" as specified in item C1 above. The course also requires completion of Area A.
  10. This course "requires junior standing."
  11. This course "is offered at the 300 level."
See detailed Syllabus



  1. Lectures--Mondays 3-5 in multimedia room.

    These presentations will be based on a Cal Poly Land website now in an early stage of development. It can be accessed at
  2. Talk-Walks--Fridays 3-5 at various Cal Poly Land locations

    Please see Column B of Schedule Table in Section IVA1 for itineraries and themes.
  3. Web and multimedia workshops--scheduled as needed to keep up with 2001 technology.
Example of instructional format:

Week 2’s study assignment and lecture is the effect of Physical Geography on land management technlogy. It covers the geological processes and features defining Cal Poly watersheds in Brizziolari, Stenner and Pennington canyons and the surrounding mountains and watersheds and how they affect agriculture, resource management and construction technology.

Week 2’s Talk-Walk starts at the mouth of the water tunnel through Cuesta Ridge near the highest point of Cal Poly Land, proceeds downstream through Stenner Cayon, and terminates at the City Water Processing Plant and Railway Trestle adjacent to Cheda Ranch. Observation focuses on natural processes, particularly hydrological ones, local history, and technology. The class observes hill and valley formation, erosion and slippage, serpentine landforms, and soils. The itinerary includes historic buildings at Serrano Ranch, recently upgraded waterworks belonging to Cal Poly and the City of SLO as well as irrigation system hand-dug by Ernie Cheda between 1927 and 1932 and still functioning. Railway history and technology is presented while crossing the landmark Cuesta Grade right of way and passing under the Stenner Creek Trestle. Attention is also focussed on the current development of the railroad right of way as a major intersection of trans and intercontinental fiber optic cables.

Both lecture and talk-walk link particular sites on Cal Poly land with statewide social and environmental issues growing out of technological advances in water, transportation, and communication systems.
  1. Lectures synthesize general concepts raised in the assigned readings and on the website. They provide an overview and outline of the week’s subject matter, entertain questions, and prepare students for field observations on Talk-walks. They present multimedia materials best apprehended in a classroom situation, e.g. photographs, maps, films, documents, diagrams, flow-charts, readings of philosophical or literary merit. They provide the opportunity for short group presentations.
  2. Talk-walks take the students to the places which constitute the specific subject matter of the course, develop their powers of observation and on-site analysis, allow them to draw, photograph and describe what they find, make for intense small group discussion between mini-lecture stopping points, and invite participation by guest lecturers.
  3. Web multimedia workshops provide optional instruction and practice for students not skilled in the basic technology of web browsing and composing and for students who wish to develop more sophisticated skills to apply to their final group web technology projects.
  1. Journal
    1. Students keep a weekly journal--on paper or or as web site. Entries include written prose as well as maps, diagrams, drawings, photos, and other forms of expression.
    2. Journal entries center on the week’s place on Cal Poly Land, combining what students learn from lecture-presentations and reading with what they discover during the talk-walk and independent exploration.
    3. The weekly Journal entry has three elements, each counting one third of the grade: 1) a descriptive account of a place on Cal Poly Land 2) a scientific explanation of how something observed was made and how it works 3) a discussion of both sides of an issue regarding land and technology.
    4. Journals are commented upon and graded regularly. The total of journal grades comprises 60% of the course grade.
  2. Final Project
    1. During the time scheduled for the final exam, the class makes a public presentation of its collaborative work. The presentation is an updated and expanded version of the Cal Poly Land website developed by the instructors.
    2. Like the course itself, the website is divided by abstract topic as well as by concrete place. In groups of four, selected by major or previous expertise, students assemble, elaborate and design materials relevant to one of the first eight units of the course, maintaining a focus on the central theme of land management technology and the interplay among nature, technology and society on Cal Poly Land. For example, one group might work on the topic of the railroad, including materials on the creation of the Cuesta Grade right of way and trestle, the role of the railroad in the founding of the University, the constraints to Poly's Master Plan development created by present railroad policies, and the safety and maintenance of the section of track running through the University, augmented by sounds of engines and engineers. Each group is responsible for delivering a high-quality component of the final website and for a brief presentation to the whole class during lectures and talk-walks. This ongoing group-work encourages specialization to balance the multidisciplinary scope of each student’s journal.
    3. The final grade on the group project counts 40% of each student’s grade.
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