2013 Amish Conference: Day One

Day one of the Amish technology conference at Elizabethtown College.  This morning I drove an Amish friend who is helping to leading the Ag and Business tour a tour to the Young Center. The tour will take in a number of Amish business including a hydroponics produce grower and a popcorn place.  The second tour will focus on health and medical related destinations including a mobile dentist catering to Plain people.

Both buses were ready send waiting when we arrived and the two groups departed without a hitch.

Tour buses outside the Young Center
Donald Kraybill and Tour Guide

Registration begins at 10:30. The conference starts at 1:00 pm.  I have heard that close to 300 will attend over the three days.  I’ve been poring over the schedule to decide which sessions to attend.

With around 100 speakers this is like an all-you-can-eat buffet, but you’ve just got the one stomach. I plan to attend Janneken Smucker’s Amish quilt seminar in the first session but not sure after that.  I met Janneken at the previous Young Center Amish conference (Forgiveness Conference in 2011) and have read a number of her writings on quilts (here is one on the development of Amish quilts in Kansas).

Later tonight we’ll have the plenary lecture delivered by Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired magazine, and author of What Technology Wants, which contains a chapter entitled “Lessons of Amish Hackers”. Great book which made me think about technology in a different way. Here is one of Kelly’s blog posts on the topic of Amish hackers.

I’ll be checking back in with updates and more photos throughout the day and conference.

Update: Janneken Smucker’s 1:30 seminar was exactly what you want in a 90 minute talk, being both fun and informative.  Janneken opened with a game called Name That Amish Quilt, presenting a number of slides featuring photos of two quilts.  We had to guess which was Amish based on whatever clues we could discern.  I’ve attached a few photo is, not of the best quality, but should give you an an idea:




Through this exercise Janneken was able to draw out assumptions and expectations we have and make of Amish quilts leading to the question “What makes a quilt Amish?” One point she made was that certain quilt styles or features considered typically Amish were sometimes defied in unexpected ways.  For example Janneken noted how quilt dealers in the 1970s avoided white background quilts feeling they broke an unwritten rule of not appearing “Amish” enough.   However certain communities or families have in the past created quilts quite contrary to say traditional quilt templates such as the dark toned Center Diamond or Log Cabin patterns.  These include white background quilts and some with elaborate embroidery such as the “ribbon” quilts

She also made some interesting comparisons between Amish quilts and those created in the African-American community at Gee’s Bend, Alabama.

Much more could be said but this will have to do for now because it’s dinner time here at the Elizabethtown student center, and I’m getting hit in the head with flying Amish hats so time to answer the call!

Update 2:  

Kevin Kelly just finished his plenary session.  For those that saw it online or in person your feedback welcome. A photo from the talk:


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    1. I bet

      you’re having a blast! It’s right up your alley.

    2. Jean Junkin


      I would love to be attending some of the programs.

    3. Monica

      I would also love to be attending some of the programs

    4. Thanks!

      It was great to have you play along during the Amish Quilts seminar, Erik!

    5. Iza


      Interesting post Erik! especially this part about all-you-can-eat buffet ;p

    6. Sadie

      Erik, you need to learn to duck when those hats come flying, *grins* so then you can send them sailing right back at their owners!

    7. Sandra Kathleen

      When’s the next Amish Conference? Will it be held at the same place?

      The topics covered are broad and wonderful to contemplate.

      1. Sandra, I don’t have any info on upcoming Amish-themed conferences. These aren’t annual events rather they have been special occasions based around a particular theme (tech this time, forgiveness in 2011). I’ll be sure to share it if and when a new conference is announced.

    8. Linda

      Kevin Kelly’s talk (by live video) had some humorous moments. Several times his PowerPoint or presentation became “stuck,” and he humbly asked the technicians to come fix it. When you thought about it, that this was at the conference titled, “Amish America: Plain Technology in a Cyber World,” plus Kevin was giving a talk about technological lessons, and his technology was not working, it made me chuckle.

      It was a treat to hear Donald Kraybill speak, and to see his smiles!

    9. Bert


      im a tech but not Amish i can relate to stuck presentations though