- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (October 2, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465031463
- ISBN-13: 978-0465031467
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 247 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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"Nobody has ever articulated so passionately and intelligently what we're doing to ourselves by substituting technologically mediated social interaction.... Equipped with penetrating intelligence and a sense of humor, Turkle surveys the front lines of the social-digital transformation."―Lev Grossman, TIME
"Vivid, even lurid, in its depictions of where we are headed... [an] engrossing study."―
"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."
About the Author
Sherry Turkle is the 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 and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.
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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.
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.
My favorite chapters: Ch9, Growing Up Tethered discussed young people, their personal development, and the impact of living "in a state of waiting for connection" (p. 171). I laughed out loud at Ch10's No Need to Call describing how annoying(laugh) a telephone call can be given its immediacy and immediate demand for our attention.
Read this book also: Baym, N. K. (2010). Personal connections in the digital age. Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity.