What I found particularly interesting in the Cowan reading is that the politics that surround automobiles and gas that were present in the 60s and 70s are still the focal points of discourse surrounding the fuel and auto industry today. Cowan stated that: "Between 1965 and 1975, American began to understand, somewhat to their surprise and often to their horror, that they had three serious problems with their cars: safety, environmental degradation and the climbing price of fuel" (239). These three themes are still prevalent not only in policy-making decisions but also in the way that cars are advertised. There is rarely a car commercial (except in the case of some luxury cars) that doesn't mention fuel economy. In addition you will be hard pressed to find a commercial that doesn't mention new safety features such as a rear-view camera, automatic parallel parking, crash-test ratings, etc.
In addition, Cowan mentions the fear of fuel-dependence and how political issues could cripple a fuel-dependent nation. The article mentions the OPEC boycott on oil to the United States and the great turmoil that arose from it. I believe our pursuit of more gas-efficient and hybrid vehicles is in direct response to our fear that other countries may use our oil-dependence as a way to cripple our economy. Oil is by no means, ridden from our political landscape. In the discourse surrounding the Iraq war, many argued that it was a war fought for oil and served no other purpose.
Early on in the reading Automobiles and Automobility, I was interested by the comment that in the 1920s, people assumed that roads, factories and towns would be redesigned so a personal automobile would not be a luxury or a convenience, but a necessity. I'm not sure if they are a necessity even today.
For most people, they seem like a necessity. In high school, I drove 20 minutes to work and gymnastics practice each day. What would I have done if my family hadn't had a car? I probably would have kept my job at the nursing home by my house and learned to play another sport that I could practice at my school. I would have been unhappy, but I wouldn't have needed a car.
For people living in the city, they can even be a burden. But what about those who live in rural areas? How are they supposed to get to the grocery store without a vehicle?
This question of necessity is a though one, and it goes back to some of our first lessons in this class. It depends on certain variables as well as one's definition of need.
In "Automobiles and Automobility," The author's connection between the sourcerer's mop and the automobile is not only very clever, but very realistic as well. The car was invented to advance individual transportation and freedom. No longer did you need to wait for designated times to board a train or a boat, the car allowed individuals to drive wherever they wished at whatever time they wished to leave. Along the way, the car continued to advance with the construction of more roads. This meant creating cars more efficient for longer drives as well as creating better engines for cars to increase in overall speed. The result not only created more efficient and faster transportation, it also began to contribute to a series of problems. The increase in availability of the automobile meant that much of the American population could afford purchasing one of their own. This lead to more cars on the road, creating congestion and making commutes at times longer now than the train. It also is the cause of many accidents every year. In addition, it has slowly began to degrade the environment due to gas emissions in the atmosphere as well as by tearing down landscapes to construct more roads. In the end, we have been so caught up in advancing our society with this technology that we never stopped to think about the future effects of it all until it stats to become apparent.
We have become an economy driven by our fuel of choice - oil. For the most part, our cars run on the oil. The continuous burning of this is what is contributing to the gas emissions that degrade the atmosphere. If we have invented hybrid cars that use less gas and that also contribute less gas emissions to the air, and also allow us to save money on gas, how come we all don't drive one if everyone is that concerned about the environment? In addition, we have also invented electric cars that run solely on electricity. How come we don't have charging stations everywhere now to encourage people to purchase electric cars?
In "Roads Belong to the Landscape" J. B. Jackson brings up many thought provoking questions about our viewpoint of the road, and how it has changed over time. One particularly interesting insight was the statement that we now view roads as "uninterrupted flow(s) of economic benefits." As Jackson points out the American perception of the road has shifted greatly since the first cars began to drive on them. The car and the road initially together were a sign of freedom, they allowed you to go where you wanted when you wanted. This idea has changed as the economy has grown and we have become more populated as a country. Now cars and roads are viewed as essential to the American lifestyle. Roads have traffic on them twenty-four hours a day, and most of the traffic is strictly for business purposes. Both authors attribute the change in the mindset of Americas towards roads to around the time after WWII during the GI bill when the interstate highways began to be built across the US and Suburbs became the main living situation for American families. Jackson states, it was the change in living style, ie. what the house stands for, that changed what the road means to us, as citizens of America.
Ruth S. Cowan’s “Automobiles and Automobility” left me with two impressions after reading. 1) Technology in the past has created a sort of national pride for innovation throughout the world, but particularly for arrogant Americans. 2) We are slowly losing some of this national pride in technological innovation as we begin to appreciate convenience more than national loyalty in technology production. I was struck by Cowan’s introduction, which stated that most American’s think that Henry Ford invented the first automobile, when he actually simply invented the most efficient assembly-line modeled automobile. However, we American’s have a bit of nostalgic pride when we think of past innovations in transportation, with devoted fans to railroads even today, and pride in Henry Ford and his Model T that we all learned about in elementary school history classes. However, I was struck by the current contrast between that glory in the early twentieth century and the current state of American automobiles. Most of my life, I’ve heard that American-made cars are junk while European and Asian cars are higher quality. In that same vein, I’ve heard lots of grumbling over the bailouts of GM, Chrysler, and Ford. No matter how touching those Chrysler commercials with Eminem promoting the rising of Detroit from the ashes, most people I talk to are skeptical of pumping money into these former automotive giants. I think that this stems from people now preferring convenience in their technology despite national loyalties. Is this acceptable? Have we turned our backs wrongfully?
Both of these articles were very intriguing to read. Cowan's article was very informative, taking readers through the invention of car, Tom Ford, and the idea of "Fordism". Cowen talked about how people in the early 1900s welcomed the invention of the automobile, but once people started using them, they did come with consequences. There would be horrible traffic jams and traffic accidents would cause injuries and even fatalities. These notions about the automobile are still true today. Our society hates traffic, and people get so impatient they may drive with anger, therefore causing accidents or road rage. But we still value the automobile so much because it takes us where we need to go, we can customize it to our liking, and make memories with friends and family on road trips, car pools, etc.
In the second reading by Jackson, it talked a lot about roads in a metaphorical sense. I agree with what the article said and found it to be quite philosophical. I have heard countless quotes about life that somehow involve or reference a road. One of my favorites is an Irish Blessing: May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be ever at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand". Roads are tangible in the sense they get us to where we need to be, but in the metaphorical sense, they are very meaningful and truly have an impact on our lives.
I found the reading by Cowan to be the more interesting of the two. The only potential negative with Cowan’s piece is that it is very expansive, covering the invention of the automobile all the way up to modern issues relating to them. Nonetheless, I did find it particularly interesting that it was only after government intervention that the auto industry took instituting safety measures seriously.
When one considers that the first legislation was passed in 1966 – just 47 years ago – it is hard to believe that it took that long to standardize safety features for all vehicles. I found it a bit disturbing that auto manufacturers were so hesitant to incorporate safety features. The assumption that “safety doesn’t sell” cars seems to have been misguided. After all, a consumer might buy a car because it looks good, or drives smoothly, or gets good gas mileage, but if it fails to protect them in a crash, do all those other reasons for buying the car really matter?
Trains were the first exploration into speedy land travel, and automobiles were something to individualize this mode of transportation. Just as the train was an improvement on what came before it, the automobile was the improvement on the train. What I question is what is to come after this technology. There is always something to follow, and it is hard to imagine what the next individualized mode of transportation is going to look like. Now that our country’s infrastructure is so catered to automobiles, it is difficult to imagine something new coming after the automobile. Some sort of individualized air travel has always been in the image of the future, but when I look at what new modes of popular individualized transport is, I see it moving away from the individualized and more to the mass. Light-rail systems and improvements on bus routes have looked to be at the forefront of travel, at least within the urban environment. Where the car once was, it looks like the bike is also taking a huge step forward as far as individual travel goes in this urban environment. It will be interesting to see who wins out in this battle for the next big thing.
What interests me in this reading is the far reaching effects that technology such as the new transportation industry with cars has.
For example, with the rise of the industrial revolution and sweatshops, one also saw the rise of the middleclass and the rise of prosperity in the nation. We see the expansion of this with the new assembly lines of the early 20th century started by Ford. Because of his higher wages for unskilled labor as well as the factory setting, we see again a rise of the middle class and a move away from the vast majority having very little.
With the construction of this building and the method of working, he even influenced people to this day for their work habits, the appearance in a large room of many people to work on a single product, which although wasn't a new concept, helped solidify the idea of the single part specialization that everyone has come to know today from our fast food kitchens to our factories to even some of our offices.
Looking at how new technology and how it is brought into the world affects the ideas and actions of a society is quite an interesting endeavor.
I doubt that I would have ever looked so thoughtfully at paths, roads, and the plants that come with man wherever he may settle if I had not read our reading. I have gazed at the grass before and thought about how it all came to be when it isn't naturally everywhere, but I didn't think about other plants that were only wherever settlers ended up.
I was surprised at how Cowan swiftly knocked down the childhood ideal of Henry Ford, inventor of the automobile. Then to hear about the changes that Mr. Ford brought about to the entire industry by way of his manufacturing practices is terrific. After the points on this, the further development and changes in the industry were things I had not known of. It's odd that students don't hear as much about Sloan and his administrative practices at General Motors which bested Ford.
A lot of people like the ability to stay away from personal vehicles and slow their life down a bit, especially in the city. Yet the suburbanites usually need a vehicle to handle errands and get to work. This suburban nature would not even exist without the ability to travel via personal vehicle like the automobile. The fact that one piece of rather advanced technology could drastically alter the living situations of many, as did the railroad, is still one of the most mind-blowing ideas that I have gained so far.
This page contains a single entry by Capper Nichols published on February 13, 2013 11:38 AM.
America as Second Creation - David Nye: chapter 8; John Henry; Central Corridor Light Rail was the previous entry in this blog.
"Industrial Tourism and the National Parks" - Edward Abbey; "The Car and the Road" - Alexander Wilson is the next entry in this blog.
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