Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Amish and the (Cell) Phone

On Thursday we will be discussing Zimmerman-Umble's article on the Amish and the Telephone. Related to this you should check out what Howard Rheingold learned about the Amish & their interaction with the cell phone in "Look Who's Talking" published in Wired. Also take a look at Time magazine's article and Textually.org on the same topic. Based on these articles, How does the Amish response to the cell phone differ or resonate with Zimmerman's article on the Amish and the Telephone?


Lauren said...

My group and I discussed that phone use or lack thereof is very important in examining exactly who the Amish are. First of all, it is characteristic of their idea of Gelassenheit, which stands for obedience, humility, submission, thrift, and simplicity.
Using the telephone goes against these principles in many ways. First, the phone promotes individuality and pride which in turn goes against humility. Also, the phone is representative of technology and is not simplistic in nature.
Also, they are strong based on non-conformity and in that, can make a statement by not using or changing the way a phone is used.
Mainly though, they are afraid of the phone taking away from the community and will consequently only permit technology if it does in fact support their strict adherence with the idea of community. They want to stay together in their community and a phone would “wire” them to strongly with the “outside world.” They believe technology can tear people apart, not keep people together.
As for the cell phone, it’s interesting that it’s almost more permitted than a land-line simply because it does in fact lack actual “wiring” to the outside. In that aspect, it differs from phone use. However, they are similar in that both will be permitted to a certain extent as long as community is not disrupted and THEY can control it.
-Lauren Kern, Group 1

April said...

Our group first discussed the history and core beliefs of the Amish people. We learned the Amish prefer to keep a close-knit community that is separate from the “outside world.” They generally feel that outside influences deter them from keeping a strict focus on the family, faith, and the community. Those were their main reasons for keeping the phone out of the home. Some communities do allow a shared telephone for emergency and business purposes. Again, the use is for the betterment of the community only and not for personal gain.

Our group found the Amish to be pretty interesting. We could not imagine our life with out all of the technology we have access to; we are sure the Amish could not imagine their life with all of the technology we have. We discussed how when we communicate with others, it is almost all by cell phone or email. There seems to be less and less face-to-face communication. This is evident by even walking around campus: students are on their cell phones after class and/or listening to their iPods on the bus. Some members of our group could appreciate why the Amish do not want to allow phones – they do limit the face-to-face communication that the Amish feel is important to create a tight-knit community.

Overall we felt it was important to always look at the culture of a group. Knowing what a group’s core values and beliefs are will help anyone understand how and why they use technology or media the way they do. It is also vital to know how a certain technology will effect those core beliefs before “unleashing” it to the society. The Amish chose to look at the use of the telephone from all angles. For example, they look at what type of person you become when you use that technology, not just what the type the technology is. We felt everyone should learn to look at the bigger picture as well since it is not always just about technology.

- April, Group 5

be love. said...

Our group found that the Amish’s importance of face-to-face communication seems to really shape their outlook on technology. By implementing the telephone or even beyond that, computers, into their daily lives, the face-to-face interaction is instantly minimized and its importance is therefore very much at risk.

In regards to how the Amish has resisted the phone, our group found that they resisted in beginning due to the connection to the outside world and the threats that could bring to the very secluded and controlled lifestyle of the Amish. By creating new boundaries and regulations in regards to the phone, the Amish community showed their ability to reconstruct uses of modern technology that is most applicable to their lifestyle. They found it acceptable to keep the phone away from the house, and allowing it’s application to business, but still being vary wary of it’s ability to disrupt the social order.

Our group felt that the Amish’s system of introducing and/or altering new technologies into their lifestyle hasn’t changed yet, so any additional changes made will be along the same lines as previously; contextual and gradual. The changes will most likely go through a process of community meetings discussing doctrine, values, and it’s applicability as well as necessity. We also believe that the initial response as a community has a tendency to be ‘no’ but with time and gradual integration, the communities will continue adding technology.

In regards to the above response, we felt the Amish community’s response to the cell phone was much different. We feel like the major battle was fought with the introduction of the actual telephone and then cell phones were just a slight upgrade from that. With how recent cell phones really are themselves (as in availability and constant use) we felt the Amish accepted them quickly.

With all of that said, we came to the conclusion that the Amish are very aware of new technologies, but also approach their communities with hesitance about them due to the deep-rooted beliefs and value systems. On behalf of the media, we believe that the media needs to take the approach of knowledge in regards to the very real social tensions that are present and must investigate those before applying recycled phrases or stereotypes on groups such as the Amish.

-Mallory Hamling/Group 2

Stephanie.mcmath said...

My group discussed whether the Amish community’s resilience to technology is based off their resilience to technology itself or of their desire to not be associated with a secular world. Also, in their effort to contain and encourage a sense of community and emphasize the importance of family, does the threat of a telephone really represent a potential split in values.
My group had a great discussion about whether the Amish had issues with Technology or whether they had issues with the fact that technology was associated with a world the Amish consider secular and separate from God. According to the article, the Amish devote their lives to living in simplicity according to and close to the word of God. We learned that many things that are considered barbaric by most present day city dwellers are the staple functions of this self-sustaining culture. Where as some argue that the telephone and internet help tie people together and keep them in contact, the Amish feel that the dependence on technology can lead to the creations of rifts and divisions in the home. Because of the telephone, the Amish community split, losing a fifth of its community, creating another order/sect of Amish, who are considered the more liberal branch. This split, we discussed, is another reason that the Elders or community leaders feel very strongly about the values and beliefs set within the family, and a distrust for things or concepts that encourage self-importance, gossip and separatism.
By reading the article and discussing Amish culture, we can better understand why certain ideas are accepted by this group, why some are rejected and why some are edited and controlled. Being able to learn about the differences and similarities between different groups and sect, we were able to share ideas that had not occurred to us before.

Stephanie McMath - group 3

Lynley said...

Our group discussed that the values of the Amish community help to shape how they view technology in the sense that the Amish tend to lean towards separation from society and focus more on their own community. In other words, new technology and/or media, according to Amish values, could cause the focus on the family and community to become distracted; thus, the phone was rejected at first. The initial reason for the telephone being rejected from Amish culture at first was because of the fear of another split within the Amish community. Nevertheless, meetings were held and compromises were made. In time the Amish came to accept the phone on their own terms. By reconstructing the telephone to where it is shared by a few families and is more like a community phone (instead of personal) the Amish are able to retain those values of unity within the community and family and still progress through time with technology.
Based on how they have viewed technology and new media in the past, one might predict that the Amish would conduct community meetings to discuss how they might consider incorporating other new technology/media. The conclusion we came to is that the Amish seem to be more open to the incorporation of the cell phone but the arguments are similar to the telephone arguments.

Lynley Garner, Group 4