Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Amish Web Sites and New Scientist Curmudgeons

This is not exactly an awe inspiring article, but the gist of it is that technology needs to be on tap, not on top.  There is a value to curmudgeonry as long as it does not conflate its position with the Perennial One--capital T Truth.  The argument made here is the same one that the Amish have wrestled with for centuries: how much technology is enough?  They tend to draw the line where it diminishes family connection.  Kevin Kelly's article on "Amish Hackers" puts this distinction another way.  They distinguish between owning and using technology.  Consider their rules when you, your company, your school, or your business is thinking about the next new new thing.

The Amish are steadily adopting technology -- at their pace. They are slow geeks. As one Amish man told Howard Rheingold, "We don't want to stop progress, we just want to slow it down," But their manner of slow adoption is instructive.
  • 1) They are selective. They know how to say "no" and are not afraid to refuse new things. They ban more than they adopt.
  • 2) They evaluate new things by experience instead of by theory. They let the early adopters get their jollies by pioneering new stuff under watchful eyes.
  • 3) They have criteria by which to select choices: technologies must enhance family and community and distance themselves from the outside world.
  • 4) The choices are not individual, but communal. The community shapes and enforces technological direction. 
Kelly, K. (2009, February 11). The Technium: Amish Hackers. The Technium. Retrieved December 29, 2009, from http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2009/02/amish_hackers_a.php.

Below is a quick summary of the New Scientist piece that inspired this post using Diigo's annotation features.  All material is quoted with some connective language added to aid the reader. 

    • "THE age of melancholy" is how psychologist Daniel Goleman describes our era.

    • Our lifestyles are increasingly driven by technology.

    • Technology can be hugely useful in the fast lane of modern living, but we need to stop it from taking over.

      • the computer has become the centre of attention; it is the medium through which we work and play.

      • adults and children increasingly believe that in order to belong and feel good about themselves, they must own the latest model or gadget.

      • psychologist Tim Kasser of Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, has shown that people who place a high value on material goals are unhappier than those who are less materialistic.

      • As one unhappy human-resource manager in a high-tech company put it: "They gave me a mobile phone so they can own me 24 hours a day, and a portable computer, so my office is now with me all the time - I cannot break out of this pressure."

    • Psychologists generally believe that the lack of a clear separation between work and home significantly damages our relationships with loved ones.

    • Modern society is in danger of swapping standard of living for quality of life.

    • My prescription is self-determination theory, developed by psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester in New York state.

    • three vital elements

      • First is autonomy

    • It is easy to see how technology undermines autonomy, but also how to regain it. This may be as simple as switching off mobile phones during meals and family time, setting aside specific times to answer emails, and being available only when we choose to be.

      • Second is a sense of competence

    • being truly competent must be a continuation of our autonomy: knowing which activities are important to us and carrying them out in the most effectual way possible, making use of technology where applicable.

      • The third factor is relatedness.

    • Psychologists have found that the pivotal difference between happy and unhappy people is the presence or absence of rich and satisfying social relationships. Spending meaningful time with friends, family and partners is necessary for happiness.

    • A added fourth factor is critical thinking.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.
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