VIRTUALLY AMISH: PRESERVING COMMUNITY AT THE INTERNET’S MARGINS
Keywords:Amish, disconnection, ethnography, autonomy, technology
My forthcoming book (MIT Press), Virtually Amish, is an ethnographic study of the adoption, design and use of digital communication technologies among members of Old Order Amish communities. This paper explores a section of the book focusing on Amish strategies for internet management. These strategies are in place to protect Amish communities from perceived negative impacts of technologically mediated connectivity. Today it is increasingly common for the Amish to adopt computers, the internet and mobile devices in calculated ways to remain competitive in business. Often the use of these devices blends into the personal sphere as well. This research is notable for its empirical observations that show shared values are key to determining patterns of technology use in Amish communities. Data was collected via semi-structured interviews with thought-leaders (business and religious leaders) in Indiana Amish settlements. Findings show that the Amish consider their own cultural, social, political and religious autonomy in deciding how to engage with a broader social and economic system as technologies are essential to the mediation of these relationships.