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Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other Paperback – October 2, 2012
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More About the Author
Her 2011 Alone Together, argues that we are at a point of decision and opportunity. Technology now invites us to lose ourselves in always-in mobile connections and even in relationships with inanimate creatures that offer to "stand in" for the real. In the face of all this, technology offers us the occasion to reconsider our human values, and reaffirm what they are.
Alone Together is the third book in a trilogy on our evolving relationships to digital technology. The first two were The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (Simon and Schuster, 1984; Touchstone paper, 1985; second revised edition, MIT Press, 2005) and Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (Simon and Schuster, November 1995; Touchstone paper, 1997).
One of Turkle's lifelong passions is our relationships with objects (not just computers). This has been the focus of a series of books on people's close connections to the "objects of their lives," all published by the MIT Press: Evocative Ojects: Things We Think With (2007), Falling For Science: Objects in Mind (2008), The Inner History of Devices (2008), and Simulation and Its Discontents (2009). Turkle is also the author of Psychoanalytic Politics: Jacques Lacan and Freud's French Revolution (Basic Books, 1978; MIT Press paper, 1981; second revised edition, Guilford Press, 1992).
Turkle's most recent work, to be published by Penguin Press in October 2016 is Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. It argues that there is an assault on empathy that is affecting our personal and work lives and that conversation, the most human and humanizing thing we do, is the talking cure. It analyzes a contemporary flight from conversation and charts the way back to using face-to-face communication to find each other and find ourselves.
Turkle is Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT and the founder (2001) and current director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. She received a joint doctorate in sociology and personality psychology from Harvard University and is a licensed clinical psychologist.
Top Customer Reviews
It is interesting that Turkle chose to discuss robots in the first part of the book and the Internet in the second part. By presenting the "strange" part first, she gives us a sense of how strange our everyday lives actually are, how far we have moved away from enjoying each other's presence.
Turkle quotes children and adults who hesitate to use the phone because it seems awkward and intrusive; it is much easier, they say, to dash off a text or email. At the same time, Turkle points out, because of this very convenience, people expect quick responses. She describes the anxiety of teenagers when they do not get an immediate reply to their text messages. One girl talks about needing her cell phone for "emergencies"; it turns out that what she means by "emergency" is having a feeling without being able to share it.
Turkle shows how our Internet communications mix the deliberate with the unconsidered. On the one hand, people put great effort even into short email messages. On the other, they "test" ideas and expressions in formation to see how others react. Some create fake online profiles just to try out different sides of their personality. The problem with such experimentation is that it is conditioned almost entirely by online reactions, often reactions of strangers. There is little room to form thoughts independently.
Throughout the book, Turkle brings up the question of solitude.Read more ›
Provocatively, the main refrain is that in an online culture we are always connected (Turkle says `tethered'), but are rarely (meaningfully) connecting. Although (somewhat ironically) one may hear the same sentiment in a current commercial for a well-known matchmaking website, Turkle's nuanced stance `is not romantically nostalgic, not Luddite in the least'; indeed, she remains `cautiously optimistic'. This is a seriously reflective work well-informed by extensive ethnographic studies. The focus on authenticity and intimacy recalls the concerns voiced by Socrates in Plato's 'Phaedrus' about an earlier technological development--publishing one's ideas in written form--in particular the fear that communication at a distance would undermine genuine (face-to-face) human discourse. This has been a recurrent anxiety throughout the history of communication technologies.Read more ›
Unlike many books about technology, this book does not try to tell a simple story about it being good or bad. Its goal seems to be to help us live a better life in partnership with technology. Do we really want to give up privacy online? Do we really want to text during family dinners? Do we really want our companionship to be replaced by robotic companionship?
Instead of pretending you must take a side for or against technology, "Alone Together" asks us to look out for ourselves and what is good for us. My favorite idea is that the point is not to get rid of technology but that each individual must stop and think where it fits in his or her life.
"Alone Together" is a great read. The language is sometimes poetic and sometimes funny, but always compelling. Its ideas and questions are powerful and are long-lasting.
Highly recommended for everyone.
Sherry Turkle's research indicates a loop. People design digital machines that make demands on us, their users. But people program digital technology such as robots and games to appeal to vulnerabilities. Turkle is most concerned with demands digital makes on our vulnerabilities, to the extent that some people are so attracted to the digital world that they run the risk of not being able to differentiate between reality 101 and digital illusions.
Even for someone who researches and analyzes the information technology such as myself, there are many eye-opening findings in AT. But the book is limited in scope, despite the fact that it is the cumulation of 30 years work by Turkle. For starters, Turkle's Freudian approach to psychology leads her to focus on the pathological. Zeroing in on the pathological can be informative if it is the start of a path that is linked to more socially integrated behavior. In other words, examination of the pathological mind can yield insights into better integrated minds.
From some of the reactions here, I think there is a pitfall in translating Turkle's findings directly to society at large, without taking into account how better integrated minds react to digital technology. And, I don't fault readers. It's a reasonable reaction and reflects a weakness in the book. "What's wrong with the new and artistic world of computer games? Nothing is wrong with them. But looking to games for amusement is one thing.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Be sure to also read Turkle's "The Second Self" which set the stage for this book. Such clear insight is much appreciated in trying to comprehend human behavior these days.Published 1 day ago by Schmidtty
Immediacy versus immensity. What does it mean to be only a couple of key strokes away from speaking to anyone on the planet? Read morePublished 5 days ago by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Very interesting! It makes me reflect on the way our lives are going....Published 13 days ago by Amazon Customer
Great companion read with The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Thoughtful.Published 24 days ago by M Ray
I've been working on computers and the Internet my entire professional life. I've always been pushed by technological limitations to answer the question "can I make this? Read morePublished 1 month ago by krahjerdi
Sherry Turkle’s “Alone Together” is a substantial and insightful view into the impact of technology on human relationships and the potential for robots in our futures. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Patti
I admit to skimming a fair part of the narrative to get past examples of people's experiences. That was because the book was on loan from the library and my time to read with... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Kindle Customer