Synopses & Reviews
In the past ten years, technology has evolved to the point where our digital connections have become just as important as our real-life connections, if not more so. But as renowned author and researcher Sherry Turkle argues, this reliance on digital poses a real threat to who we are and how we relate to one another. If we text rather than talk, we are never alone, yet we dont have to listen. And texting, email, and posting let us edit the self we want to be to the world.. We represent ourselves, but at a remove. As a convenience, it does no harm. But when absenting ourselves becomes our habit, we move from conversation to mere connection. Our relationships suffer; our humanity is diminished.
Renowned author and researcher Sherry Turkle interviews hundreds of people, from middle-school students to lawyers and CEOs, to document both the flight from conversation and what is being lost:
- Solitude: Studies show that people are so dependent on their devices that they would rather self-administer an electric shock than be alone with their thoughts for a few minutes. Without that solitude, we cannot prepare ourselves to have something to say that is authentic, ours.
- Family: The average American family has twenty different media streams active during mealtime. Children learn early that phones are never to be ignored.
- Romance: You can edit yourself in an email or text. And you can always find a better” prospect online. Dating in the digital era is a fraught enterprise.
- Friendship: All of us are learning to behave based on the rules of social media. Real listening and empathy, the basic elements of friendship, never develop if were always glancing at our phones.
- Work: Colleagues work like pilots in the cockpit, wired and unavailable. When the water cooler is lost, collaborationand the bottom linesuffers.
- Education: Students in classrooms and online toggle between apps and dip in and out of a lesson. The Socratic Method no longer teaches students to refine their thinking in real time.
- Politics: Study, analysis, and listening have become difficult in a stream of always-on communication and the easy "clicks" of online activism.
The solution, Turkle argues, is conversation, the most humanand humanizingthing we do. The virtues of person-to-person conversation are timeless, and our most basic technology, talk, is the answer to our modern challenges.
Its time to talk. We have everything we need, we have each other.
Renowned media scholar Sherry Turkle investigates how a flight from conversation undermines our relationships, creativity, and productivity and why reclaiming face-to-face conversation can help us regain lost ground.
We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.
Preeminent author and researcher Sherry Turkle has been studying digital culture for over thirty years. Long an enthusiast for its possibilities, here she investigates a troubling consequence: at work, at home, in politics, and in love, we find ways around conversation, tempted by the possibilities of a text or an email in which we don t have to look, listen, or reveal ourselves.
We develop a taste for what mere connection offers. The dinner table falls silent as children compete with phones for their parents attention. Friends learn strategies to keep conversations going when only a few people are looking up from their phones. At work, we retreat to our screens although it is conversation at the water cooler that increases not only productivity but commitment to work. Online, we only want to share opinions that our followers will agree with a politics that shies away from the real conflicts and solutions of the public square.
The case for conversation begins with the necessary conversations of solitude and self-reflection. They are endangered: these days, always connected, we see loneliness as a problem that technology should solve. Afraid of being alone, we rely on other people to give us a sense of ourselves, and our capacity for empathy and relationship suffers. We see the costs of the flight from conversation everywhere: conversation is the cornerstone for democracy and in business it is good for the bottom line. In the private sphere, it builds empathy, friendship, love, learning, and productivity.
But there is good news: we are resilient. Conversation cures.
Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkle argues that we have come to a better understanding of where our technology can and cannot take us and that the time is right to reclaim conversation. The most human and humanizing thing that we do.
The virtues of person-to-person conversation are timeless, and our most basic technology, talk, responds to our modern challenges. We have everything we need to start, we have each other.
About the Author
SHERRY TURKLE is a professor, an author, and a psychologist, who has spent the last thirty years studying the psychology of peoples relationships with technology. She is the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT and the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. Turkle is the author of five books and three edited collections, including a trilogy of three landmark studies on our relationship with digital culture: The Second Self, Life on the Screen and most recently, Alone Together. A recipient of a Guggenheim and Rockefeller Humanities Fellowship, she is a featured media commentator for CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, the BBC, and NPR. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and she has spoken at major forums including multiple times at Davos and TED.