I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University. My research has a disciplinary grounding in the field of communication and the subfield of social studies of technology. Generally, from this perspective, I aim to understand what technologies mean to people and how they are being used as political, moral and ethical tools to mediate human relationships. At the heart of my research is an ambition to answer the question: “in what ways can new communication technologies be used for the social good?”
My dissertation is an ethnographic study of how the Amish develop technological practices that protect the community’s values as the outside world changes. Many think that the Amish flatly reject technologies. It is true that most do not have TVs, listen to the radio, surf the Internet or drive cars. Still, they do not reject all technologies. It is not uncommon today, for example, to see Amish people talking on cell phones or texting, skating down the street on roller blades, using solar power for electricity and traveling to vacation in on the sunny beaches of Florida. .
With real estate prices rising, many Amish people today are being forced from traditional agriculture-based professions into tourism and construction work. This is putting them in increasingly regular contact with non-Amish people.
As a result, the debate about appropriate usage of these tools is just now heating up in many Amish communities. This is not, however a new challenge the Amish. There is already a long tradition of referencing the subculture’s communal moral, social and religious values to guide usage and adoption of new technologies. Examining how this tradition is brought forth to inform the incorporation of today’s digital communication technologies is one of the primary foci of this dissertation which will include mulit-site fieldwork where interviews and participant observation will be conducted.
When I finish my doctoral studies I hope to work as a professor in communications, information and/or media studies. My anticipated graduation date is May of 2014.