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Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other Paperback – October 2, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 219 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. As the digital age sparks increasing debate about what new technologies and increased connectivity are doing to our brains, comes this chilling examination of what our iPods and iPads are doing to our relationships from MIT professor Turkle (Simulation and Its Discontents). In this third in a trilogy that explores the relationship between humans and technology, Turkle argues that people are increasingly functioning without face-to-face contact. For all the talk of convenience and connection derived from texting, e-mailing, and social networking, Turkle reaffirms that what humans still instinctively need is each other, and she encounters dissatisfaction and alienation among users: teenagers whose identities are shaped not by self-exploration but by how they are perceived by the online collective, mothers who feel texting makes communicating with their children more frequent yet less substantive, Facebook users who feel shallow status updates devalue the true intimacies of friendships. 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. (Jan.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

With the recent explosion of increasingly sophisticated cell-phone technology and social networking websites like Twitter and Facebook, a casual observer might understandably conclude that human relationships are blossoming like never before. But according to MIT science professor Turkle, that assumption would be sadly wrong. In the third and final volume of a trilogy dissecting the interface between humans and technology, Turkle suggests that we seem determined to give human qualities to objects and content to treat each other as things. In her university-sponsored studies surveying everything from text-message usage among teens to the use of robotic baby seals in nursing homes for companionship, Turkle paints a sobering and paradoxical portrait of human disconnectedness in the face of expanding virtual connections in cell-phone, intelligent machine, and Internet usage. Despite her reliance on research observations, Turkle emphasizes personal stories from computer gadgetry’s front lines, which 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. --Carl Hays --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • 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: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (219 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
That was one of my thoughts as I read Sherry Turkle's Alone Together: no matter what robots learn to do, they will never learn to write a book as thoughtful, informative, and intense as Alone Together. They would not know how to pose the questions, let alone use such discernment in addressing them.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
What I love about this book is that a whole person wrote it. Turkle includes both original research and her everyday experiences as a mother and a friend.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
'Alone Together' is the third volume in a trilogy produced over three decades by Sherry Turkle, a psychoanalyst based at MIT, the preceding volumes being 'The Second Self' (1984) and 'Life on the Screen' (1995). I read each one soon after publication and found them engrossing, thought-provoking and well-illustrated with illuminating case-studies and insightful observations. The current volume is in two parts: the first develops themes from 'The Second Self' (here related to `sociable robots'), the second from 'Life on the Screen' (which focused on the construction of identities online). Because of the limitations of space, my comments here focus on Part Two. Whereas the earlier volumes were relatively upbeat about the implications of new technologies, the tone of the current volume feels markedly more jaundiced, alerting us to some potential social costs of `social media'.

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
After seeing Sherry Turkle's incredible TED talk on this topic, I was compelled to read the book associated with the talk. I'm heavily interested in the ways that the Internet and constant connectedness has affected us both as individuals, and also as a society, so I felt this book would be a slam dunk when it comes to exploring those topics. Unfortunately, I felt the book painted a picture of Sherry's thoughts on the topic via a series of well-selected anecdotes, but I felt she was non-committal on her conclusions.

The first half of the book analyzes how robotics are beginning to affect our lives, especially the lives of those who are currently seen as burdens to society, such as the elderly, children, and mentally handicapped. This section did not interest me as much, and I felt the topic could have been better addressed in it's own volume. Addressing robotic encounters in the same volume as connected encounters seems to me obtrusive and unnecessary. My recommendation to purchasers is to skip the first half of the book unless you're specifically interested in that topic.

The second of the book addresses constant connectedness, and paints several pictures of how it has affected our lives. Unfortunately, one gets the feeling that once you've seen 10-15 such stories, you've seen them all. Nevertheless, she persists through several more anecdotes. In fact, this book's. overall structure is an anecdote or two, followed by a somewhat noncommittal discussion of what the anecdote might mean. The overall volume could have been better addressed had it been organized better. She does, however, paint a general picture through the anecdotes that discusses how various people relate to the Internet and social networking.
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