In her book Alone Together, psychologist Sherry Turkle explains how digital devices are affecting our communication and relationships. "What is so seductive about texting, about keeping that phone on, about that little red light on the BlackBerry, is you want to know who wants you," Turkle says.
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In her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, Sherry Turkle examines our proclivity for robots, smart phones and social networks, and though far from suggesting we ditch technology, she wonders if we aren’t losing out on human contact in the process.
Thirty years ago we asked what we would use computers for. Now the question is what we don’t use them for. Now, through technology, we create, navigate and carry out our emotional lives. We shape our buildings, Winston Churchill argued, then they shape us. The same is true of our digital technologies. Technology has become the architect of our intimacies.
Online, we face a moment of temptation. Drawn by the illusion of companionship without the demands of intimacy, we conduct "risk free" affairs on Second Life and confuse the scattershot postings on a Facebook wall with authentic communication. And now, we are promised "sociable robots" that will marry companionship with convenience. Technology promises to let us do anything from anywhere with anyone. But it also drains us as we try to do everything everywhere.
We begin to feel overwhelmed and depleted by the lives technology makes possible. We may be free to work from anywhere, but we are also prone to being lonely everywhere. In a surprising twist, relentless connection leads to a new solitude. We turn to new technology to fill the void, but as technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down.
MIT technology and society specialist Professor Sherry Turkle has spent fifteen-years exploring our lives on the digital terrain. Based on interviews with hundreds of children and adults, she visits the RSA to describe new, unsettling relationships between friends, lovers, parents and children, and new instabilities in how we understand privacy and community, intimacy and solitude.
Chair: Aleks Krotoski, academic, journalist and host of the Guardian’s Tech Weekly.
MIT professor of technology and society Sherry Turkle discusses the effect our technology has on our social relationships and her new book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Consider Facebook—it’s a form of human contact, only easier to engage with and easier to avoid. Developing technology promises closeness. Sometimes it delivers, but much of our modern life leaves us less connected with people and more connected to simulations of them. In Alone Together, Sherry Turkle explores the power of our new tools and toys to dramatically alter our social lives. It’s an exploration of what we are looking for—and sacrificing—in a world of electronic companions and social networking tools, and an argument that, despite the hand-waving of today’s self-described prophets of the future, it will be the next generation who will chart the path between isolation and connectivity.