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Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet Paperback – September 4, 1997
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Sherry Turkle is rapidly becoming the sociologist of the Internet, and that's beginning to seem like a good thing. While her first outing, The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit, made groundless assertions and seemed to be carried along more by her affection for certain theories than by a careful look at our current situation, Life on the Screen is a balanced and nuanced look at some of the ways that cyberculture helps us comment upon real life (what the cybercrowd sometimes calls RL). Instead of giving in to any one theory on construction of identity, Turkle looks at the way various netizens have used the Internet, and especially MUDs (Multi-User Dimensions), to learn more about the possibilities available in apprehending the world. One of the most interesting sections deals with gender, a topic prone to rash and partisan pronouncements. Taking as her motto William James's maxim "Philosophy is the art of imagining alternatives," Turkle shows how playing with gender in cyberspace can shape a person's real-life understanding of gender. Especially telling are the examples of the man who finds it easier to be assertive when playing a woman, because he believes male assertiveness is now frowned upon while female assertiveness is considered hip, and the woman who has the opposite response, believing that it is easier to be aggressive when she plays a male, because as a woman she would be considered "bitchy." Without taking sides, Turkle points out how both have expanded their emotional range. Other topics, such as artificial life, receive an equally calm and sage response, and the first-person accounts from many Internet users provide compelling reading and good source material for readers to draw their own conclusions.
From Publishers Weekly
The Internet, with its computer bulletin boards, virtual communities, games and private domains where people strike up relationships or emulate sex, is a microcosm of an emerging "culture of simulation" that substitutes representations of reality for the real world, asserts Turkle (The Second Self). In an unsettling, cutting-edge exploration of the ways computers are revising the boundaries between people and computers, brains and machines, she argues that the newest computers?tools for interaction, navigation and simulation, allowing users to cycle through roles and identities?are an extension of self with striking parallels to postmodernist thought. She also looks at "computer psychotherapy" programs such as Depression 2.0, a set of tutorials designed to increase awareness of self-defeating attitudes; hypertext software for creating links between related songs, texts, photographs or videos; and "artificial life," attempts to build intelligent, self-organizing, complex, self-replicating systems and virtual organisms.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Her major topic is how humans contain self on the Internet. She also spends a great deal of time discussing relationships on the Internet. With splintered selves involved, relationships become more complex. Her research on the way women and men view online sexuality is fascinating. Anyone interested in how the young people of the very near future will discover their sexual selves would do well to read this book. While Turkle is fairly straightforward in her findings, they may terrify some readers. This is a completely new sexuality, a completely foreign way of doing things. Her view is, of course, fairly clinical, but, in the end, I think she shows an amazing affinity with the people she has worked with. Turkle is not worried about the splintering of self. On the contrary, she thinks that some of these tactics: being able to play with and discover parts of yourself that you normally don't interact with is vital to development and mental health.
Another area that Turkle tackles is Artificial Intelligence. She considers AI to be the next frontier. These AI will be interacted with as a matter of course in the coming years, according to the author. Again, this area enthralls some readers and frightens others. Turkle is excited about what AI can do in terms of promoting dialog. Turkle sees the Internet challenging notions of what it means to be alive, notions of true identity, and the idea of community.
Turkle is at her best when she explores the concept of how people view themselves online. How they splinter off bits of their personality into different entities and play with and shape those identities. I can heartily suggest this book for anyone that works with K-12 students, for it is these students that are growing up on the screen. These are the students that are discovering community outside their immediate circle at younger and younger ages. These are the students that are discovering the meaning of identity online.
4 Stars out of 5.
Most recent customer reviews
When women imitate men they can become Secretary of State.
By Sherry Turkle
Review by Linda Larson
Pepperdine University Doctoral Student
As a read Turkle's book,...Read more