I have a college degree, but you’ve never heard of it. I majored in Technocultural Studies at UC Davis. When I say “Technocultural Studies” to someone, almost universally they cock their head, their eyes get wide, and they breathe in sharply but then pause and hold their breath, as if they want to ask the question, but don’t know how to get the words out. “Techno-what?”
I have over the years developed a stock response to this look of bewilderment. I laugh, and reply “We look at the intersections of technology and culture: the way technology is built on culture, and the way culture changes because of technology.”
You know what I’m talking about, even if you think you don’t. You know how you talk to your friends differently on Facebook than in person? Or the ways that you interact differently via iMessage than you did on AIM?
The way that our real interpersonal relations have changed because of technology, that is Technoculture.
Did you know that during the Cold War, as the US and the USSR were duking it out for space supremacy, Hoover made a vacuum cleaner designed to look like Sputnik? It certainly made for some “out of this world” housecleaning.
The ways that this technology reflected the immense cultural influence of the Space Race, this is Technoculture.
Look as far back as the Gutenberg Bible - The hand-lettered, illuminated, monastic bible is clearly a superior product to the mass-produced typeset version, at least as far as UI is concerned. A monastic bible was big, beautiful, and came with a monk or priest to read it to you. A Gutenberg copy was printed in small, smeary ink with a cheaply made binding. But the economies of scale of the printing press allowed the spread of literacy and thus Protestantism. Just as Johannes Gutenberg intended, the mass distribution of the bible helped the Protestant Reformation spread across Europe. The Reformation was, in the technocultural sense, a media revolution, and thus can be directly linked and compared to the more contemporary developments of the Telegraph, the Telephone, Radio, Television, and the Internet.
So that’s what I studied. Pretty cool, right?
At least I think it is, but I’m a geek.
But what do I do with a degree like that?
Whatever I want to.
So five years and $130,000 after I graduated high school, I have a degree from UC Davis in Technoculture - How do I actually use it?
I’m pretty much the definition of a millennial success kid - I had part-time jobs in my field all through my college tenure, and I got a career job (also in my field) right after graduating. All while studying something that makes people’s eyes bug out. How did I manage that? Well, I worked really hard, but honestly, I was mostly really lucky.
I have a degree in Technocultural Studies from UC Davis, and if you’re like most people, you hear the word “technoculuture” and think “whah?”
There’s a lot of confusion about my degree, but I see that as a good thing. People ask me what my degree means, and I always reply - “it’s whatever you want it to be.”
Now I don’t mean I make up a definition of my major for whomever will listen, but being a cross-disciplinary program, I have the freedom to tailor my response to my audience. When I’m talking to potential clients of my event production business, I play up the sound and video aspects of the degree. When I’m talking to potential students, I play up the freedom to explore new ideas and pursue awesome projects. When I’m in a job interview, I describe in great detail how I learned to work on independent projects and how I built up the Technocultural Studies Club to provide to the department the resources I built for myself.
By spinning my degree to my audience, I’ve been able to stay employed, get my big, bureaucratic university to let me do my own thing for class credit, and work with an amazing team at my dream career job right after graduating, all while running an event production company on the side.
So what did I really learn in Technocultural Studies? I learned how to sell myself and my assets to my audience. And that’s a skill worth way more than $130,000.
Guest Author Tim Kerbavaz graduated from UC Davis in 2013 with a degree in Technocultural Studies. He now works for UC Davis and is the owner of Talon Entertainment, a Davis, CA based live sound and event services provider. You can find him online at www.kerbavaz.com, and on Twitter @tkerbavaz.
College classroom tables and chairs image courtesy of Shutterstock