Section 6: The Technology Needed to Reject Technology

September 27th, 2017 by Rebecca

The romantic wilderness ideals that attracted so many to recreate in the outdoors and to send their children to camp rested on an anti-modern belief that assumed technology was unnatural and destructive to human health.

The common concern was that modern life and its accompanying technology was having catastrophic effects on American culture. What people felt they needed was to retreat to a simpler and healthier environment free from modern technology. Summer camp appeared to be the perfect medicine. Yet paradoxically, summer camps have always relied upon the use of ever-expanding technologies in order to maintain that safe and healthy environment that parents desire.

The most important technological innovation in the history of summer camp was the one that made camp possible: the railroad. Before the railroad, there was no efficient way to move large numbers of campers from the cities to remote mountain summer camps. With it, the iconic experience of camp began.

Groton School Camp. Courtesy of the Mayhew Program.

Groton School Camp. Courtesy of the Mayhew Program.

By the 1960s, as cars took over from trains as the most important means of transportation, the age of the camp train was replaced by the ritual of riding busses or of campers being dropped off by car.

Courtesy of Onaway.

Courtesy of Onaway.

Technology found its way into camp throughout the twentieth century. Electricity proved to be safer in tents and cabins than candles or lanterns. External- framed backpacks, down sleeping bags, portable stoves, and free-standing exoskeleton and dome tents meant that campers hiking in the White Mountains did so with greater ease, comfort, and safety. Technological innovations also introduced entirely new types of adventure activities into the summer camp experience, like ropes courses.

The digital age has brought its own waves of technology to the world of summer camps, even as camps are promoted as a means for campers to unplug from society. In addition to hand-held radios, camp staff use cell phones to text messages between the camp office and groups in the field. Smartphones allow for instructors to have realtime Doppler radar information as they decide whether or not to begin a ropes course or head.

Online portals allow parents to send messages to their children, while also viewing daily photos from camp. Parents also have the opportunity to order mugs or mouse pads with the image of their child at archery practice the day after that child first took up the bow. The primary way camps promote themselves today is through exciting and interactive websites, complete with embedded videos that highlight the advantages of a summer spent away from technology.


Walk Through the Exhibit

Section 1: Children’s Resorts in the White Mountains

Section 2: The Literary Links to Experiential Romanticism

Section 3: Satellite Campuses for America’s Top Schools

Section 4: Camps for All, or the Egalitarian Worlds of Summer Camps

Section 5: Constructing Meaning and Finding Lessons from Native Americans

Section 6: The Technology Needed to Reject Technology

Section 7: The Legacy of New Hampshire Summer Camps

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