You never really think about it. You get in your car, start the ignition and drive wherever you want. How has the automobile changed Americans lives and how will advancements in the industry shape the nation's future?
These are among the questions to be discussed at this year's "Stonecipher Symposium on Technology, Communication and Culture" on March 26 and 27. The theme of this year's event, which will bring notable authors and auto industry researchers to campus, is "Driving America."
The start of the event will be marked by the "Cruisin Dixie" car show when area enthusiasts, dealers and students will drive through campus with their vintage, new and collectable cars, then park them on Dixie Ave. At the same time, the NASCAR Busch Series car #55, owned by the Davis and Weight Motorsports team, will be on display south of the Roaden University Center.
Keynote speakers will include Tom Lewis, film producer and author, on Monday evening, and Robert Culver, executive director of the U.S. Council for Automotive Research (USCAR), on Tuesday evening.
Other speakers will include authors Jane Holtz Kay, Kurt Brown and David Gartman. Christine Sloane, director of Policy and Programs at the General Motors Environmental Policy Center, and a representative of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Transportation and Air Quality, will round out the list of notable guests.
Lewis is author of Divided Highways: Building the Interstate Highways, Transforming American Life. He also co-produced the film "Divided Highways" based on his book, which won a Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting and a National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Emmy for "Outstanding Historical Program."
Culver this year become executive director of USCAR, a cooperative organization Daimler Chrysler, Ford and General Motors formed to strengthen the technology base of the domestic industry. He previously served as policy and business strategy manager for Ford Motor Co.'s Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, and project manager in Ford's Manufacturing Strategy and Planning Program.
Speakers will present a variety of views about the past and future effects of the automobile on society, the marketplace and the environment. The views and experiences of students will also be highlighted as winners of the student writing competition present their works the first day of the symposium.
"We love to hate highways," Lewis said, "but we rely on them for our goods and our mobility. The highway system is remarkably fast and efficient, despite its many problems."
Gartman, author of Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automobile Design, views the automobile in terms of aesthetic qualities shaped by class conflicts in America. He says it is a symbol of power and individualism in a society where common people have increasingly become "powerless, stultified and homogenized."
Holtz Kay, author of Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take It Back, views the nation's network of roads and its dependence on automobiles as "gluttonous pieces of machinery."
Kurt Brown found people's strong emotions about cars and their driving experiences inspired them when he compiled his anthology Drive, They Said: Poems About Americans and Their Cars.
"The automobile inspires thoughts of freedom, possibility, movement and change," Brown said. "Without it, we'd feel some of the static, almost imprisoning qualities of older pre-automobile cultures."Students, classes and the public are encouraged to bring their questions and observations to this free event. For more information about the symposium, visit http://www2.tntech.edu/stonecipher or call (931) 372-3507.