Elizabeth Ann Meyer, '09, firmly believes the impact of utopian societies in southwest Indiana in the early 1800s is still important to people living in today's technologically centered world.
"We can learn a great deal from New Harmony because it was home to a tremendous group of thinkers," says Meyer, who spent several weeks in southwest Indiana producing A Noble Experiment
, an interactive educational DVD about the utopian societies.
"Many of today's innovations can be traced to New Harmony, where society's norms were turned upside down when it came to gender roles, education, monetary practices, and ownership of property. Many of their ideas—most of which we take for granted—were years ahead of their time and changed the way we work and live."
Located 15 miles north of Mount Vernon, Indiana, on the Wabash River, the original utopian settlement was founded by the Harmony Society in 1814. After 10 years, the settlers left, and the site was purchased by a group led by Robert Owen, the Welsh utopian thinker and social reformer, who then changed the name from "Harmony" to "New Harmony." The experiment lasted until 1829. The town banned money and other commodities. Although Owen's vision of New Harmony as an advance in social reform was not realized, the town did become a scientific center of national significance.
Under the leadership of Ron Morris
, a Ball State history
professor, a group of students—including Meyer—created the interactive DVD for fourth-grade classes around Indiana. After viewing the DVD, PBS persuaded the Ball State contingent to transform the educational DVD into a one-hour television program.
"Elizabeth is one of the most talented professionals I've worked with over the years," Morris says. "Her ability to manage the DVD project was outstanding, and I am sure the television program will be a success."
Meyer says looks forward to a new career in working with emerging media
, thanks to earning her master's degree at Ball State.
"I came here in my late 40s expressly to learn about digital storytelling, and the degree has opened up a completely new world, including learning about the latest digital technology applications as well as interacting with students half my age. When I went for job interviews, I instantly realized the program's powerful reputation. I didn't have to explain anything about the digital storytelling
program. My time at Ball State is worth every dollar spent and every two-hour commute made from my home to campus."