My Amish experience was quite interesting. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I actually ended up missing the tour, however the woman at the Amish Interpretative Center had another idea for me. She directed me to Arthur and gave me the name of an Amish man who ran a lamp and antique shop there, named Yoder’s Lamp Shop. She said that she was quite certain that he would be willing to talk to me regarding communication technology.
So, my boyfriend, who reluctantly accompanied me, and I got back in the car and made our way to Arthur. As stated on the sign as you enter the city, Arthur, Illinois is a “town of progress” which seemed ironic as we were driving in a car surrounded by horses and buggies. We found Yoder’s Lamp Shop, and right away I spotted the man that I was going to be talking to, however there was something shocking. This man was talking on a cell phone! Yes, I am serious. He was dressed in his Amish garb and equipped with his Amish beard, yet there he was just chit chatting away on his own personal cell phone. My boyfriend whispered to me, “Oh my gosh, he’s on a cell phone!” as if I had not noticed.
We went into the back of the store and I asked some of my questions. Still shocked by the cell phone, that was the first thing that I asked about. He said that if you run a business or work far away from your home then you are allowed to have a cell phone. (I should have asked him how he charges it...) He continued to tell me that he does have a home phone, in a booth outside of his house that only makes outgoing calls. His store had electricity, because the building is one that he rents, however he does not have electricity in his home. I was really interested in finding out about how he feels about being without certain technologies, especially when he is running a store. He said that since this is the only way that he has ever known things to be then he is just used to it and doesn’t know how it would be otherwise. He noted that a technology, such as a computer, might be able to do fancy things, but he doesn’t necessarily need that to live his life. I was also very curious about children in the Amish community. This man had children and in response to my question about how it is to raise them in a community like this and if they ever want and wonder about technology, such as cars and computers, he said that they sometimes asked when they were younger and he would explain things to them, and they would realize and get used to the fact that they do not use things of the sort. It seems strange to me though, especially for a child, to not want what they see, such as a shiny Mustang driving in front of their buggy and to not wonder why they don’t have that.
As stated in the lecture on April 1st, entitled “Resistance to Technology”, the Amish choose to separate themselves from others. However, from what I saw in Arthur, the Amish residents seem pretty integrated into the community. As also stated, the Amish are not against technology; they just use select technologies that fit into their lifestyle and belief system. I think this can really be seen from my experience, the man that I talked to had a cell phone because he ran a business. He, and others, chose to adopt that technology because it is something that seemed to have benefits and make sense. In the first chapter of the Culture and Technology book entitled “Progress” asks the question, “Is more technology always better?” (9). I think that the Amish community really proves that the answer to that question is no. They live their lives just as normally as other people, simply without some of the technologies that we have made part of our everyday routines. The juxtaposition of the Amish community and the modernized community in Arthur was very dramatic. It was really a sight to see a buggy parked outside of the Dollar General and the IGA. However, while they may live their lives in a way that seems strange to most of us, it works for them and just goes to show that in a world so surrounded by technologies, more technology is not always better or necessary.