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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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Frequently bought together
"Vivid, even lurid, in its depictions of where we are headed... [an] engrossing study."―Washington Post
"In this beautifully written, provocative and worrying book, Turkle, a professor at MIT, a clinical psychologist and, perhaps, the world's leading expert on the social and psychological effects of technology, argues that internet use has as much power to isolate and destroy relationships as it has to bring us together."
"A fascinating portrait of our changing relationship with technology."―Newsweek.com
"[Turkle] summarizes her new view of things with typical eloquence...fascinating, readable."―New York Times Book Review
"Important.... Admirably personal.... [Turkle's] book will spark useful debate."―Boston Globe
"Turkle is a sensitive interviewer and an elegant writer."―Slate.com
"Savvy and insightful."
―New York Times
"What [Turkle] brings to the topic that is new is more than a decade of interviews with teens and college students in which she plumbs the psychological effect of our brave new devices on the generation that seems most comfortable with them."
―Wall Street Journal
"Amidst the deluge of propaganda, technophilia and idolatry that masquerades as objective assessment of digital culture, Turkle offers us galoshes and a sump pump.... [S]he gives a clear-eyed, reflective and wise assessment of what we gain and lose in the current configurations of digital culture."
"Readers will find this book a useful resource as they begin conversations about how to negotiate and critically engage the technology that suffuses our lives."―National Catholic Reporter
"Turkle is a gifted and imaginative writer... [who] pushes interesting arguments with an engaging style."―American Prospect
"Disturbing. Compelling. Powerful."―Seattle Times
"Turkle's prescient book makes a strong case that what was meant to be a way to facilitate communications has pushed people closer to their machines and further away from each other."
"The picture that arises from [Alone Together] is not particularly comforting but it is always compelling and helps explain many behaviors one sees at play in society at large these days, especially among the young."―Jewish Exponent
"Turkle's emphasis on personal stories from computer gadgetry's front lines keeps her prose engaging and her message to the human species-to restrain ourselves from becoming technology's willing slaves instead of its guiding masters-loud and clear."
"Alone Together... is packed with creative observations on our machine-mediated lives and what this all means for intimacy, solitude, and being connected."
-Spirituality and Practice
"Turkle is clearly passionate in describing what she sees as the looming social isolation being wrought by the new technology.... Alone Together does offer a needed counter to the wholesale adoption of the social media and social robot."
"Alone Together stands as an entirely accessible, tantalizingly thought-provoking read.... Books like this and researchers like Turkle lending their expertise to the debate are absolute necessities."
-Online Education Database
-Rightly Understood blog, Big Think
"Turkle is too smart and hard-working to see technology solely as a cause of social or psychological disorders: this is not the book to read for shallow complaints that young people don't care about privacy or for scare stories about internet addiction."
-Library Hot blog
-Touch Points blog
"Alone Together is a mighty fine layperson's introduction to where we are as a technological and social media society."
"[Turkle's] decades of teaching technology and daily living add authority to her fine survey!"
About the Author
- Publisher : Basic Books; 1st edition (October 2, 2012)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0465031463
- ISBN-13 : 978-0465031467
- Reading age : 13 years and up
- Grade level : 8 and up
- Item Weight : 13.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #436,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Alone Together is divided into two parts. The first looks at companionable software and hardware and argues that we lose something relationally important and meaningful when we create machines to substitute for people in providing care and companionship, especially for children and the elderly. The section includes discussions on artificial intelligence and machine emotions. Turkle argues that machines cannot “feel” emotions like human beings but rather can only imitate their expression to arouse emotions in us. She asks what that performance of emotion really means in comparison to the human, embodied expression of emotion, especially empathy. Turkle suggest that we should be concerned when we come to prefer the company of technology to that of people and when we rely on technology to assuage our negative feelings of guilt, loneliness, etc., for example in leaving our elderly parents in nursing homes.
The book’s second section explores how the always connected world affects interpersonal relationships. I found this part of the book more meaningful than the first, as the discussion on robotics didn’t touch my life personally much. I suspect the same will be true for many readers. Turkle, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), lives in an environment on the technological cutting edge that is permeated by robotics to a greater extent than the environments in which many live.
The second section of Alone Together analyzes how texting has replaced in-person communication and phone calls in many contexts. Turkle points out that texting promotes brief factual exchanges but not deeper interaction, allowing texters to create barriers to communication and share selectively. Likewise, Turkle explores Facebook and social media in general as spheres for identity development that allow for some experimentation but that also cause intense anxiety for users as they worry about how others will see them online and how that vision will impact real-world interactions. Facebook becomes for many a place of performance, selective sharing, and tension, rather than of depth and meaningful interaction. The second section of the book also looks at online lives (Second Life, World of Warcraft, etc.) and how those lives provide places of escape from the real world. Turkle shares stories about gamers whose fast paced, exciting digital worlds have replaced aspects of their slower real worlds, including one man prefers his Second Life wife to his physically-present wife and kids. The discussion is disturbing and hit home for me, as I know people who spent years playing WoW.
Alone Together’s overall theme is that we need to consciously consider the effects of new technologies on our lives and then pick and choose what we want to adopt, rather than simply accepting technologies without thinking. Turkle isn’t a Luddite, and this isn’t a book against new technology. Turkle sees the value of new connective technologies and discusses her integration of those technologies into her relationship with her daughter. Rather than an attack on new technology, Turkle’s work provides the basis for personal reflection on what technologies provide, but also on what they take away if we’re not careful. I think that’s an important discussion, which is why I highly recommend Turkle’s work.
A couple caveats to conclude. One of the pitfalls of ethnography as a way of understanding the world is that it necessarily relies on small but deeply-studied groups of people. It’s debatable about how generalizable ethnographic findings are. For example, in the section on robotics, Turkle focuses heavily on her university, MIT, and its work with robots. Living as she does in a highly educated and technologically literate part of the country, some of her findings might not be applicable to those living in areas with limited access to robotics and generally lower education levels. Likewise, although Turkle shares stories from a wide variety of people, she spends quite a bit of time on primary, private high school, and college students, as well as the elderly. Those demographics and their experiences with technology might not be reflective of the wider US population. In the same line of thought, Turkle doesn’t spend much time on how culture might affect technology use. But that wasn’t really her goal, so it’s not a knock on what is an important contribution. It’s just an area for further study.
Strangely, the being that is Sauron, the all seeing eye where nothing escapes its gaze in the land of Mordor is I think a good metaphor for data collection and at times does remind me of a more fully realized version. We are certainly way past both along with Deleuzian's postscripts of society of control and are in the third stage where many issues like this are ignored for some reason and never discussed.
There are numerous discussions about other things and almost all of them have done little to nothing to alleviate the subject or create any type of discourse, I think this is largely built around the utilitarian utopia or perhaps it is more the telos (end of history) we are following where the end justifies the means and we must take our destiny into our own hands.
Maybe, its the dialectic toward synthesis of technology being an apocalyptic end to the world or being viewed as its binary opposite where it is viewed as super positive and innovative. Either way, it doesn't matter, it will still keep happening and won't matter, all it takes is preconditioning and ensuring that through the study of knowledge that certain areas can be manipulated and create addictions to technology, something that has already happened and of course there was no discussion around that and at the very least will maybe in a few decades if regulated, just become another addiction like cigarette warning labels with varying degrees of illegality.
Lately, there has been a push for people to be immortal beings or robots. Where people wish to become AI or something, without any possible agenda, losing all sense of privacy, presumably working toward a conquering of the right to disappear or to be immortal, there is a radical stance, that Jaron Lanier has actively discussed in his other works. There is again genetics where potentiality can be repressed to ensure that individuals are designed a certain way but at the end of the day, it follows an individuals that have already been "normalized" or subjectified and more or less bring things further under control.
There is now the strange avatar that is written on the internet or social media websites, one where people make presumptions and assume that person is real based upon what they say or their appearance of how they present their wall on Facebook or anything else really. As the reader knows, this is usually not the case and many find out the person they thought they knew wasn't real at all or there was an entire missing area that existed in the real world occurring simultaneously, that if known, would provide clarity would make sense and put an end to all discussion. The internet itself has become like other addictions or obsessions it is usually for me as a reader the last place I would ever expect to have any type of discussion and 9 times out of 10, I have been misinterpreted severely (reddit) and have watched with some horror as it has been taken out of context as I'm sure many have experienced themselves.
It becomes more of a personal nightmare when others use the medium to write double meanings and then imagination, based on what the readers think takes over and one usually sees flame wars on various debates and forums, where no sense of anything is reached and its difficult to know who or what is even real or believes it at that point. There's the expectation that those on the internet can be mature and tell the truth, and in time, it becomes obvious that's non-existent not to say completely impossible.
There is also the aspect that everything has become distorted with fake news and reliability is put into the question, along with a certain unwellness as Turkle showcases here where people become more isolated. If we forcibly evolve the human being, (we have already done this with the destruction of the environment), we will create more of an imperfect world of artifice where humans will become more experimental I guess following a continuous deferment of knowledge toward reason and is very similar to a globe that is in the hand of another that designed it or well designed the future generations. I think if these were discussed I might begin to pay attention to the field but the waves have been non-existent at best. I found all one can do is perhaps bear witness to our destruction if we aren't consumed in the next several centuries or so. Like most things none of the things that have happened up till now needed to play out the way they did and it still happened. I highly doubt anything will change, which has continuously declined over the years. Instead, it is simply the world people want, which is too bad of course, if there is another life after this one, like some sort option, I would have to do a massive evaluation at this point.
So in time as a reader, I may say more around the subject if I noticed some type of social discourse, but for now pretty non-existent and tame overall. You would need at the very least a second progressive era to counter it and that's non-existent we are outdoing the 20th century gilded age and with that maybe some day it may change. Until then, no social discourse and tame books like this one. I did attempt to name drop areas for more interested readers to broaden their perspectives and get a full picture from another side. That doesn't mean an endorsement from me, its more attempting to help the reader go down other routes if interested, because the field itself is tame and we are at a very bad turning point.
However, it's still got a ton of really interesting research overall, and a lot of the time Ms. Turkle is quoting people verbatim. "Flow" only enters the discussion extremely tangentially, only for like three sentences. So on the one hand, I can't call it actually damaging to her core argument in any sense. Yet on the other, I was shocked how badly you could misrepresent a book in just a few sentences. I'm not kidding, my jaw was hanging open.
I'm only about 60% of the way through this book, and it's still very interesting, so I still plan to finish it, and I'm glad to be reading it, but in a zombie apocalypse, I would literally not turn my back on the author for a split second.
Top reviews from other countries
For the generalist reader, this deserves five stars. It gives a nice 'tour' of the issues and tells it like it is in a narrative, engaging way. Well written, but several typos in the central chapters; these didn't impede the meaning but do show poor copyediting.
As an academic text, this only deserves two or three stars. Although the author is a trained psychologist, the psychological work in this seems very thin at best, and utterly unsubstantiated at worst. In other words, the author makes claims about the mental states of case study participants - particularly the children - which are not supported by references to any studies, theories, evidence etc. This gives the impression of "armchair psychology" - jumping to stereotypical conclusions that any untrained pleb could have made. E.g. that kids whose parents work long hours are neglected and desperate for attention, and suchlike. These inferences may well be true in the cases outlined, but without references to actual *studies* or at least psychological theories, explanations of methodology, how and why conclusions were reached (etc), the book is of little use to the academic reader.
But as I said, it's an accessible and enjoyable read for the generalist audience. I would have just liked more endnotes, or a couple of methodological chapters which would be useful to the academic reader.