Lindsay Ems


Amish; technology; workarounds; northern Indiana


Interviews with northern Indiana Amish business owners reveal a tendency to create complex technological workarounds that allow them to abide by shared religious values while remaining competitive in the marketplace. These observations support theoretical approaches to understanding Amish technology use that view technology use as socially contextualized, dynamic and contested. It draws on literature from science and technology studies which views technology as an artifact that is socially constructed. The participants in this study report struggling to manage tensions between maintaining economic stability and traditional family, community, and religious values when deciding whether or not to adopt new technologies. These Amish entrepreneurs feel technology use must be possible but should also be complicated in today’s world. Two categories of workarounds emerge from the analysis of interviews: limitations on use and use via a trusted non-Amish person. These two categories illustrate interactions of economic forces, religious values, and professional tradition. In this way, technology adoption is seen as situated in a particular social context and functions as a signal of one’s “Amishness” or association to an Amish identity.



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