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.
Sherry Turkle is 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 (2001) and current director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. Professor Turkle received a joint doctorate in sociology and personality psychology from Harvard University and is a licensed clinical psychologist.
Professor Turkle writes on the "subjective side" of people's relationships with technology, especially computers. She is an expert on mobile technology, social networking, and sociable robotics. Profiles of Professor Turkle have appeared in such publications as The New York Times, Scientific American, and Wired Magazine. She has been named "woman of the year" by Ms. Magazine and among the "forty under forty" who are changing the nation by Esquire Magazine. She is a featured media commentator on the social and psychological effects of technology for CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, the BBC, and NPR, including appearances on such programs as Nightline, Frontline, 20/20, and The Colbert Report.
I'm not a fan of Turkle. I've read her previous book and seen her TED Talks. I find she comes to egregious conclusions about how people interact with scant evidence. In this book, she argues that people are growing incapable of talking or having sophisticated conversations and that it's largely our digital technology that is creating this rift. There are several issues that I have with this book. The first is that it is clearly focused on upper-middle and upper-class people--the schools and colleges she focuses on are largely elite schools. I find this problematic because it doesn't actually reflect society as a whole and how different groups are engaging in meaning-making through their digital devices. I also dislike how she draws conclusions about how and what interactions mean from people, rather than allowing them to decide what it means. She often seems to be the sole authority of experience rather than allowing others to define their experience. Finally, to accept her book blindly, you would believe that youth and adults are incapable of having deep and complex conversations and that this is a wide-sweeping epidemic. Yet, anyone who sits in a coffee shop or restaurant and listens to the conversations going on around them, they are likely to find this to be entirely false. I spent most of the book frustrated with long meanderings with little substance.
I'm always conflicted about Sherry's books. She admits that she only studies a particular behavior, leaving out all of the other things that people do. So for this book, it was studying the ways that people use their phones to avoid conversations with others in person. Which is interesting, and she definitely made me think more about this topic.
But as is typical, she fails to write about the other side, or recognize what happened in the past without phones. I've seen some surveys lately that show that Millennials are actually the most likely to have in-person conversations, to see friends more often face to face, and to have more conversations outside of technology than adults from older generations. This is never acknowledged in the book, as she just focuses on the people who feel incapable of having face to face conversation and try to avoid it at all costs.
She also misses that people are often alone. That we don't always have partners or friends or family at the ready for a face to face conversation, and that mobile phones and the internet can provide connections to people in times when there would have otherwise been no one to talk to.
So overall, positive in that it got me to think more about face to face conversation, and negative in the usual criticism of Sherry's books that she only takes one side and doesn't ever acknowledge the benefits of mobile communication.
I have mixed feelings on this book. I definitely see the author's point and understand her perspective but I felt it had too much fear-mongering and digital paranoia and not enough balance with the benefits of technology. I read the first quarter of it carefully and then skimmed the remainder. I felt it was way too long to make rather simple points.
I desperately wanted to like this book but the author goes around in circles. Every chapter is the same: people bring their phone to the dinner table and it kills conversation; people argue through text and it kills empathy; people can't live without their phones and don't know what to do in moments of quiet without them. You'd get all of that if you read the first chapter. I ended up abandoning it halfway through.
That said, I think the author's central thesis is quite a wise one: that mobile phones have snuck their way into our conversation and made talking face-to-face more difficult, with some negative consequences. It's a shame she has to waste so many words in saying it.
This book is basically an expanded version of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. Carr wrote his work in 2010, and Turkle wrote this in 2015. I learned things from both books, but ultimately both could have been better. Turkle takes Carr's ideas and puts an emphasis on how the technology that is changing our brains is also changing our conversations.
Turkle starts small and slowly adds ideas, with chapters on solitude and self-reflection, friendships, family relationships, romantic relationships, the classroom, the workplace, the public square -- through it all she talks about how technology influences the way children are raised.
Ultimately I wanted... more substance in less space. It's worth a read, but not worth buying.
"From the early days I saw that computers offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship and then, as the programs got really good, the illusion of friendship without the demands of intimacy."
Conversation. Add it to the list of things us Millennials are killing.
Look, I'm a shitty Millennial. I specifically avoided getting a smartphone for as long as I could because I knew how it would affect me having a cartridge of Infinite Jest in my pocket, I quit any WhatsApp groupchat my friends try to add me to, and the very thought of going on Tinder is beyond depressing.
Sherry Turkle wants to do the right thing, truly. But she really hampers her argument by focusing on the anecdotes of America's private school-educated elites, and extrapolating from there. That's not necessarily going to lead to her drawing false conclusions, but it does show the ideological blinders she's wearing. Do smartphones fuck with our attention span and nurture dependence, and need to be handled with greater intentionality? Are our algorithms corrupting our souls? Totally. But does that mean that we're all sociopathic autists incapable of empathy? No. No, it doesn't.
Also, as soon as I typed that paragraph something told me "Bet she's a Warren stan." Went to her Twitter, and yep, called it.
This is a must read for those who own a device with a screen, a life with stories behind a screen- with a window into it through social media- and who have people in their life (in the same room!) with stories of their own to share.
Some good quotes:
"Technology enchants; it makes us forget what we know about life... But in our eagerness, we forget our responsibility to the new, to the generation that follows us. It is for us to pass on the most precious thing we know how to do: talking to the next generation about our experiences, our history; sharing what we think we did right and wrong." (p.14)
"We have everything we need to begin. We have each other."
"Even a silent phone disconnects us." (p.21)
"So, my argument is not anti-technology. It's pro-conversation. We miss out on necessary conversations when we divide our attention between the people we're with and the world on our phones. Or when we go to our phones instead of claiming a quiet moment for ourselves. We have convinced ourselves that surfing the web is the same as daydreaming. That it provides the same space for self-reflection. It doesn't." (p.25)
"The real emergency may be parents and children not having conversations or sharing a silence between them that gives each the time to bring up a funny story or a troubling thought." (p.26)
"It's easier to send a picture than to struggle with a hard idea." (p.36)
"Eye contact is the most powerful path to human connection." (p.36)
"Nass sums it up: 'Technology does not provide a sentimental education.' People do." (p.42)
"Reclaiming conversation begins with reclaiming our attention." (p.42)
"If you don't have practice in thinking alone, you are less able to bring your ideas to the table with confidence and authority.... A love of solitude and self-reflection enables sociability." (p.47)
"Technology gives us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship." (p.50)
"Just because technology can help us solve a "problem" doesn't mean it was a problem in the first place." (p.53)
"We are not teaching them [our children] that boredom can be recognized as your imagination calling you." (p.66)
"Conversation, like literary fiction, asks for imagination and engagement. And conversation, like literary fiction, demands quiet time." (p.69)
"Apps can give you a number; only people can provide a narrative." (p.81)
"The privacy of family conversations teaches children that part of our lives can be lived in a closed, protected circle...It means that relationships have boundaries you can count on." (p.106)
"When our phones are around, we are vulnerable to ignoring the people we love. Given this, it doesn't make sense to bring a phone to dinner with your children. Accept your vulnerability. Remove the temptation." (p.114)
"There should be a good rule: A good friend should keep you off of your phone when you are together." (p.147)
"Why do we turn away from the people before us to go to the people on our phones?" (p. 155)
"Just as you can make a friend feel invisible by going to your phone, you can make the same friend feel important by not going to your phone." (p.156)
"This is our paradox. When we are apart: hypervigilance. When we are together: inattention." (p.160)
"Liz says that 'memories don't happen when you get a text. It's the stories you can tell.'" (p.174)
"We are faced with technologies to which we are extremely vulnerable and we don't always respect that fact. The path forward is to learn more about our vulnerabilities." (p.216)
"The most powerful learning takes place in relationship." (p231)
"My message is always the same: Get together. Have a conversation." (p.267)
"Don't automatically walk into every situation with a device in hand... The mere presence of a phone signals that your attention is divided, even if you don't intend it to be.... To clear a path for conversation, set aside laptops and tablets. Put away your phone." (p.319)
"Life is a conversation and you need places to have it." (p.331)
Dang. While I can see some of the arguments that this is alarmist at best, as a teacher, parent, Millennial, and human being, I see the loss of conversation in myself and all around me. Texting and emailing are more comfortable than talking. The ability to compose and edit comforts us far more than the awkwardness and discomfort of face to face conflict and confrontation. But the necessity of human interaction is too deep, and our desire for real connection can not be sustained through technology.
I find that my instinct to pull my phone out any moment I feel boredom is beginning to be challenged by the second thought, “Why? What if you just sit in the boredom and let your mind wander?” And when I want to pull my phone out while others are talking to me, I’m beginning to hear a convicting voice that says, “Listen. Look at them. Be present here and now.” May this continue.
Put down your mobile phone and close your laptop, if you can. Our increasing reliance on non-verbal, virtual communications is not just altering how we work, it's fundamentally undermining how children learn empathy and transforming how families manage conflict. I'm not sure if I completely agree with everything Turkle argues, and at times she seems to rely too heavily on well-observed anecdotes rather than hard data. Still, our personal and collective attention spans seem to be shortening the more we rely on our "always on, always connected" technology. Perhaps even more troubling, Turkle suggests that we are exchanging a world of genuine conversation for one of ephemeral connections.
Cuando comencé a leer este libro, que trata sobre la conversación, no tenía muy claro qué clase de contenido me iba a encontrar en sus 496 páginas. ¿Un libro sobre la conversación tan largo? Cuando empiezas a descubrir que el tema de la conversación se filtra a través dela era digital que estamos viviendo, entonces comprendes que sí, que un libro sobre esta temática desarrollado en los tiempos actuales puede tener este número de páginas y un gran contenido. Esta obra está llena de ejemplos y experiencias reales. Cuando los iba leyendo me parecían exagerados y en cierto modo irreales. Pero después me paraba a reflexionar y me daba cuenta de que muchos de esos ejemplos o bien los había vivido de forma personal, o los había visto reflejados en personas que me rodean. Muchos aspectos de la época actual se nos escapan si realmente no reflexionamos y somos conscientes de lo que estamos viviendo. Este libro es una especie de espejo en el que resulta fácil y al mismo tiempo incómodo mirarnos. No es agradable ver cómo nuestras vidas están tomando un giro hacia la despersonificación de las relaciones, al abandono de los lazos sociales directos por unos lazos digitales superficiales. Estamos sustituyendo amistades reales por amigos y conocidos en redes sociales que cambian en gran medida nuestras experiencias y nuestros aprendizajes. El libro de Sherry Turkle nos abofetea con esta realidad y despierta un análisis y una reflexión sobre qué estamos haciendo con nuestras vidas y en manos de quién estamos dejando nuestras relaciones personales. Es una lectura agradable, amena, pero sobre todo importante. Sin duda lo recomiendo.
Finished this as a faculty read and changed my view of what we do in the classroom, but also how thoroughly damaging our embrace of technology has become to our sense of awareness and particularly our ability to communicate effectively and have empathy for others. Turkle shows how we are rarely fully "present" even in social settings as we're so distracted by technology - our phones and laptops. Turkle was famous "in the day" for her early work on gender equity and STEM, especially with computers and in Computer Science. She provides some great techniques for increasing our own and students' ability to build and sustain authentic "presence" and focus during both interpersonal relationships and work tasks. For starters, we need to learn or re-learn how to be alone, by yourself with your own thoughts, "unconnected" technologically. (Some of her suggestions reminded me of a sociologist probably 30 years ago suggesting some un-TV time - to sit your kids in front of the TV but don't turn it on, and to star at the blank screen as a meditation, of sorts, to reflect on your own thoughts for 30 minutes.) Turkle argues that through technology we've lost part of the knowledge and connections to both ourselves (self-knowledge) as well as to others, and only by structuring in time without technology and with face-to-face interactions will be able to "reclaim" the lost art of conversation.
I was incredibly impressed by this book at first. Sherry Turkle was hitting on so many of the things I fear are happening to people, particularly to children, due to the constant wired state of the world. One of the most important issues being that children can no longer deal with solitude, which is crucial for learning how to think on one's own and for knowing oneself period. So, I'm happily reading and reading, agreeing with so much being said, until I'm almost 30% through the book, at which time I have to quit reading. I couldn't go on. This book is like one long lecture, with story after story, all interesting and insightful, but it's like it's never going to end. Or maybe all the distressing stories of technology addiction killed my desire to read this book on my Kindle Fire. Maybe I need to go check the book out of the library, if it is there. Or maybe I strongly suspect Ms. Turkle is not going to suggest getting rid of smart phones, only having phones that allow talking, and not giving cell phones to children at all, which would greatly help reclaiming conversation. I don't know. I only know reading about individuals addicted to cell phones and other electronic devices, as well as the internet, is almost as horrid as being around such individuals in person. I'm making a run for it . . . .
Through a lot of qualitative research, Turkle comes to a lot of solid conclusions about the value of face-to-face conversations in an age of technology. I'm not sure I would find many of her findings to be revelatory but rather more confirmations of ideas many of us already have as we rely on technology while also not wanting to maintain our dependence on it.
Two complaints with the book. First, the majority of her research seems to be done with educated students and adults in privileged settings, not inclusive of many people outside this demographic. At least, the book didn't specify otherwise. Second, the book is about 150 pages too long. I understand qualitative research is lengthier and complex; nuanced arguments take time. The book could still be shortened considerably.
Otherwise, worth a read if interested in the subject. And really, we should all be interested in this subject if we're using an app like Goodreads.
This book examines the way society has turned away from one another as everyone has become more absorbed in digital devices. It really made me rethink my obsession with my phone/ social media and this past week I've been letting go of these things and I feel so much better. I'm sleeping better, I feel more free and light, and more creative... At times this book wasn't quite what it set out to be and other times it went off into a bit of an unrelated tangent, but overall it's a powerful look at why we should reclaim conversation and start turning away from our phones.
Good book, but was looking for more of a solution to the problem... I feel like the author did a very good job explaining the problem that phones create, but lacked providing a solution to this modern dilemma.
Sociologist and psychotherapist, Sherry Turkle, analyzes the depth of people’s relationships with technology, in particular with computers and robots. The Second Self (1984), Life on the Screen (1995) and Alone Together (2011) make up a trilogy on computers and people, and Reclaiming Conversation (2015) further develops the subject. Her more recent “The Empathy Diaries” (2021) is a reflective memoir, her life story.
In her earliest work, “The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit” (1984 – and I have the 20th Anniversary MIT Press Edition of 2004), Turkle describes the computer as a kind of ‘‘double cognitive’’ with which an internal dialogue is established, while in Life on the Screen (1995) she describes the net as a parallel universe. As one of her interviewees states, ‘‘real life is just one more window, and it’s not usually my best one.’’ She reports the results of the ethnographic research based on participant observation and interviews conducted offline, with the aim of understanding which psychological needs are satisfied in the daily connection with virtual environments.
During the 1990s (defined as web version 1.0), Turkle wrote how virtual worlds – or MUDs (an acronym for “Multi-User Dungeons”) – are places for the reconstruction of subjective identity where, in playing at being someone else, one tries to find how one is and how one would like to be. Having a fake identity can be a liberating experience, which offers the possibility of exploring new identities (like the practice of gender swapping) or expressing aspects of an identity that are repressed offline. In Life on the Screen (1995), Turkle highlights the potential negative aspects of this new stage for social actors: by encouraging the process of the ‘‘fragmentation of self’’ started in the modern era, the MUDs increase identity confusion in the weakest, most unstable people, unable to draw a clear line between their real-life identity and that assumed online. The distinction between things considered human and things considered specifically technological is becoming more complicated. The traditional distance between machines and people has become more difficult to maintain: are we living our lives on the screen or in the screen?
The 2000s saw the beginning of the phase of the internet defined Web 2.0 or dynamic Web. It gave rise to an explosion in the phenomenon of social networks and more generally social media. Online interaction was carried out more and more with the real names: the coexistence and integration between the two worlds was completed.
In Alone Together (2011 – and I have the Revised and Expanded Third Edition of 2017), Turkle claims that, while communication technology such as smartphones and social network make interpersonal relationships easier, they reduce human contact, diluting its nature and scope and making us feel emotionally alone. She defines this paradox as connectivity and its discontents. By observing people’s interactions with robots, and by interviewing them about their computers and phones, Turkle charted the ways in which new technologies render older values obsolete. When we replace human caregivers with robots, or talking with texting, we begin by arguing that the replacements are “better than nothing” but end up considering them “better than anything” – cleaner, less risky, less demanding. Paralleling this shift is a growing preference for the virtual over the real. Robots don’t care about people, but Turkle’s subjects were shockingly quick to settle for the feeling of being cared for and, similarly, to prefer the sense of community that social media deliver, because it comes without the hazards and commitments of a real-world community. In her interviews, Turkle observed a deep disappointment with human beings, who are flawed and forgetful, needy and unpredictable, in ways that machines are wired not to be.
More and more in offline situations, both private and public (with family or in a café), even when individuals are physically present, their attention is elsewhere, each of them busy multitasking, connecting online with others far away. One possible consequence of this paradoxical situation is the emergence of a new form of self, the itself, the objectified self.
It is this idea that is central to, and reaffirmed by Turkle in Reclaiming Conversation (2015) where she issues a call to arms. We must act, conscious of the fact that technology steals precious time away from friends and family inhibiting the need for speech. She clarifies that is not necessary to refute or criticise technology, we only have to find a right place for it.
In “Reclaiming Conversation” (2015), Turkle focuses more on the dissatisfaction with technology reported by her interviewees. She takes their dissatisfaction as a hopeful sign, and her book is straightforwardly a call to arms: Our rapturous submission to digital technology has led to an atrophying of human capacities like empathy and self-reflection, and the time has come to reassert ourselves, behave like adults and put technology in its place.
Turkle’s argument derives its power from the breadth of her research and the acuity of her psychological insight. The people she interviews have adopted new technologies in pursuit of greater control, only to feel controlled by them. The likably idealized selves that they’ve created with social media leave their real selves all the more isolated. They communicate incessantly but are afraid of face-to-face conversations; they worry, often nostalgically, that they’re missing out on something fundamental.
Turkle’s organizing principle is conversation, because so much of what constitutes humanity is threatened when we replace it with electronic communication. Conversation presupposes solitude, for example, because it’s in solitude – in conversation with ourselves in quiet moments – that we learn to think for ourselves and develop a stable sense of self, which is essential for taking other people as they are. If we are inseparable from our smartphones, Turkle says, we consume other people “in bits and pieces; it is as though we use them as spare parts to support our fragile selves.”
Through the conversational attention of parents, children acquire a sense of enduring connectedness and a habit of talking about their feelings, rather than simply acting on them. Turkle believes that regular family conversations help “inoculate” children against bullying. When you speak to people in person, you’re forced to recognize their full human reality, which is where empathy begins. Studies have shown a steep decline in empathy, as measured by standard psychological tests, among college students of the smartphone generation. And conversation carries the risk of boredom, the condition that smartphones have taught us most to fear, which is also the condition in which patience and imagination are developed.
Turkle examines every aspect of conversation — with the self in solitude, with family and friends, with teachers and romantic partners, with colleagues and clients, with the larger polity — and reports on the electronic erosion of each. She is critical of Facebook, Tinder, MOOCs, compulsive texting, the tyranny of office email, and shallow online social activism. Turkle’s greatest concern is the demise of family conversation. According to Turkle’s young interviewees, the vicious circle works like this: “Parents give their children phones. Children can’t get their parents’ attention away from their phones, so children take refuge in their own devices. Then, parents use their children’s absorption with phones as permission to have their own phones out as much as they wish.”
For Turkle, the onus lies squarely on the parents: “The most realistic way to disrupt this circle is to have parents step up to their responsibilities as mentors.” She acknowledges the difficulties of this, given that parents feel afraid of falling behind their children technologically; that conversation with young children takes patience and practice; and that it’s easier to demonstrate parental love by snapping lots of pictures and posting them to Facebook.
Thee tone of “Reclaiming Conversation” is therapeutic and hortatory. She calls on parents to understand what’s at stake in family conversations — “the development of trust and self-esteem,” “the capacity for empathy, friendship and intimacy” — and to recognize their own vulnerability to the enchantments of tech. “Accept your vulnerability,” she says. “Remove the temptation.”
Writing in The New York Times, Jonathan Franzen concluded that “Reclaiming Conversation” is best appreciated as a sophisticated self-help book. Children develop better, students learn better, and employees perform better when their mentors set good examples and carve out spaces for face-to-face interactions. Less compelling is Turkle’s call for collective action. She believes that we can and must design technology “that demands that we use it with greater intention.” She writes approvingly of a smartphone interface that “instead of encouraging us to stay connected as long as possible, would encourage us to disengage.” But an interface like this would threaten almost every business model in Silicon Valley, where enormous market capitalizations are predicated on keeping consumers riveted to their devices.
Turkle hopes that consumer demand, which has forced the food industry to create healthier products, might eventually force the tech industry to do the same. This is not a helpful analogy, since food companies make money by selling something essential, not by placing targeted advertising in a salad or by mining the data that a person provides while eating it. Further, since platforms that discourage engagement are less profitable, they would have to charge a premium that only affluent, well-educated consumers of the sort that shop at Whole Foods are likely to pay.
Although “Reclaiming Conversation” touches on the politics of privacy and labor-saving robots, Turkle shies from the more radical implications of her findings. When she notes that Steve Jobs forbade tablets and smartphones at the dinner table and encouraged his family to talk about books and history, or when she cites Mozart, Kafka and Picasso on the value of undistracted solitude, she’s describing the habits of highly effective people. These our outliers and their practices and habits are unlikely to diffuse.
The family that is doing well enough to buy and read her new book may learn to limit its exposure to technology and strengthen deep conversations. But what of the great mass of people In his 2015 book “The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction,” Matthew B. Crawford contrasts the world of a “peon” airport lounge — saturated in advertising, filled with mesmerizing screens – with the quiet, ad-free world of a business lounge: “To engage in playful, inventive thinking, and possibly create wealth for oneself during those idle hours spent at an airport, requires silence. But other people’s minds, over in the peon lounge (or at the bus stop), can be treated as a resource — a standing reserve of purchasing power.” Silence is now offered as a luxury good. In the business-class lounge at an airport, what you hear is the occasional tinkling of a spoon against china. There are no advertisements on the walls, and no TVs. This silence, more than any other feature of the space, is what makes it feel genuinely luxurious. When you step inside and the automatic airtight doors whoosh shut behind you, the difference is nearly tactile, like slipping out of haircloth into satin. Your brow unfurrows itself, your neck muscles relax; after twenty minutes you no longer feel exhausted. The hassle lifts.
Our digital technologies aren’t politically or social class neutral. The young person who cannot or will not be alone, converse with family, go out with friends, attend a lecture or perform a job without monitoring her smartphone is an emblem of our economy’s leechlike attachment to our very bodies. Digital technology is capitalism in hyperdrive, injecting its logic of consumption and promotion, of monetization and efficiency, into every waking minute.
The rise of “digital democracy” is accompanied by rising levels of income inequality. Maybe the erosion of humane values is a price that most people are willing to pay for the “costless” convenience of Google, the comforts of Facebook and the reliable company of iPhones. The appeal of “Reclaiming Conversation” lies in its evocation of a time, not so long ago, when conversation and privacy and nuanced debate weren’t boutique luxuries.
Turkle’s book can be read as a handbook for the privileged. She’s addressing a middle class in which she herself grew up, invoking a depth of human potential that used to be widespread. But the middle, as we know, is disappearing. With moral certainty, her model of the social world is based on past preferences. In her role as technology critic, she demands that students engage in the unitasking of classroom conversation rather than multitasking through social media, which, given the centrality of media in the everyday lives of always-on millennials, establishes an antipathy to media when it is the primary space of social life.
Turkle’s demand that students close their laptops to avoid distraction is entirely understandable. But it is the positioning of the demand for conversation that is of interest: the assertion of her authority as a professor, a demand for students to acquiesce to a traditional interactional exchange in which the model of classroom intercourse becomes a transaction controlled by the professor. This becomes the egotistical assertion of the demand of the powerful over the less powerful: the professor over the millennial student. It mirrors the world she successfully negotiated as a mother to achieve success for her daughter, a kind of maternal demand scenario in which she asserts her authority. Technology affords opportunities for networks – albeit of weak ties – to be nurtured and for multiple conversations to take place beyond the control of the leader, parent, or professor.
Este libro me ha marcado y creo que será importante para mí en los años que vienen. Ha ordenado, razonado y puesto en palabras muchas impresiones y pensamientos que yo tenía acerca de cómo influye la tecnología (y, en particular, nuestro uso de los dispositivos móviles) en nuestra manera de relacionarnos. Me ha recordado a "The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains", solo que este era desde una perspectiva cognitiva y Sherry Turkle utiliza una variedad de métodos más próximos a la sociología y los estudios culturales.
Como investigadora del MIT, Turkle conoce la evolución de las inteligencias artificiales y de las comunicaciones. El libro se estructura en partes que se corresponden con las "sillas" de las que Thoreau hablaba en relación con el número de personas que conversan: una silla (yo conmigo mismo), dos sillas (la amistad, el romance) y tres sillas (la comunidad, el trabajo), más una cuarta silla que se refiere a la sociedad en general.
Es difícil resumir la tesis del libro, pero se centra en que estamos confiando el peso de nuestras relaciones humanas a las tecnologías, muchas veces actuando "como si" conversáramos en lugar de conversar de verdad (vamos, como yo misma en Twitter). Este proceder tiene diversas consecuencias negativas; una de las peores es la atrofia de cualidades esenciales como la empatía (algo que ya había leído en varios estudios acerca de los jóvenes de hoy, que puntúan muy alto en narcisismo y muy bajo en empatía), la concentración, la reflexión o la capacidad de estar solo. Además, la gente refiere que la conversación en vivo les produce una creciente ansiedad por la falta de "control" que supone.
Cada vez que leía una parte del libro, me asombraba de ver tan reflejados mis entornos cercanos y leer comentarios que he escuchado infinidad de veces. "Facebook solo me muestra tonterías, estoy harto", "no me gusta hablar por teléfono", "no puedo apagar el móvil por la noche por si hay una emergencia", "le estaba contando algo importante y se puso a usar el móvil", "hace años que no leo nada, no consigo concentrarme", etc., etc. El libro duele porque todos hemos incurrido en estos comportamientos en algún momento. Y porque, encima, todos sabemos que en muchos casos han sido neutrales o lesivos para la conversación que estábamos manteniendo.
Después de leer acerca de la teoría del "como si", entiendo mejor esa rabia difusa que a veces sentía después de entrar varias veces en redes sociales y mantener interacciones superficiales. Me sentía sola y no entendía por qué, ¡si acababa de hablar con gente! Pero no hablo-hablo. En general, solo "radio" y comento. Por eso hoy día tantas personas, en vez de conversar, publican un tuit vocal y una tiene la sensación de que no hay nada más que decir (y no pasa nada, porque los temas cambian a velocidad de vértigo). Por eso es más difícil hablar cuando se tienen los móviles en la mano.
La solución a todo esto, según Turkle, es un uso más inteligente y consciente de las tecnologías: "pautarnos" el tiempo que pasamos con nuestros aparatos. Hay un toque en sus razonamientos y en sus propuestas, más que de tecnofobia, de idealización de una noción añeja de comunidad; es ahí donde más he discrepado. La comunidad no siempre te acoge, a veces te aparta. Yo encontré conversaciones en personas que estaban lejos de mí porque las conversaciones con las personas que me rodeaban eran dañinas, prejuiciosas y superficiales. Turkle tiene toda la razón del mundo, pero ¿qué ocurre con los individuos en estos ambientes? La respuesta es compleja.
En resumen: leed este libro y, si os avergonzáis, os enfadáis u os preocupáis, como me ha ocurrido a mí, también va por vosotros.
READ THIS BOOK - I mean it, seriously, EVERYONE read this book. This book takes on our technology addiction and its consequences for society in a very readable and understandable way. Turkle does not want us to get rid of technology, but to use it in a way that doesn't destroy our ability to talk to and listen to one another. She provides quotes from students, business people, and others who really make you stop and think. This is a phenomenal read and one I plan to push on everyone I can. It is written in a way that even high school readers will be able to understand it and process the information. A Reader's Corner Highly Recommended Read.
Varför är det fortfarande viktigt med samtal öga-mot-öga i det moderna samhället? Författaren och forskare visar på att ju mindre vi samtalar med varandra IRL desto mindre utvecklas vår empati. Hur kan vi vara förebilder för våra barn och vänner, kollegor? Hur kan vi skapa skärmfria platser och tillåta oss att få ha tråkigt ibland, och njuta av ensamhet och reflektion? Hur kan blotta närvaro av en mobiltelefon påverka vad vi pratar och inte pratar om under ett samtal? Detta och mycket mer ryms i denna intressanta bok om vägen tillbaka till samtalet baserat på trettioårig forskning.
A few power chapters that dig into the necessity of in-person conversation to develop empathy -especially in children. The chapter on technology and love (read:dating apps) was also verrrrry interesting. Can we deal honestly with technology and admit our vulnerability to our devices as humans? Love the charge for awareness that leads to building better systems and devices that free us up to do the most human thing: talk to eachother.
فكرة الكتاب جميلة ومن الضروري مناقشتها وتحليل الاتجاه الذي يسير فيه الناس مع وجود التطبيقات والهواتف الذكية والتركيز على أهمية التواصل الوجاهي والتحدث وجهاً لوجه مع العائلة وزملاء العمل والأصدقاء. مشكلة الكتاب أن الأفكار مكررة جداً وشعرت بأن الكاتبة تدور في دوائر للتعبيرعنها.
If I told you there was a book on a topic that is important to anyone who wanted to communicate more effectively and build better relationships, that would offer solid suggestions, challenge your way of thinking, and change the way you see everyday interaction . . . would you be interested?
If you are, get this book.
This is the newest book from renowned media researcher Sherry Turkle. She brings curiosity, interviews and great research together to help us see how conversation is fading as a skill as we increasingly rely on texting and social media and other asynchronous forms of communication.
I learned a lot about the trends related to the proliferation of many of these communication media; though my largest insights didn’t come from that. They came from the pervasiveness of the changes in how we think about communication and relationships as the use of these tools literally change both of these things significantly.
If you are “my age” and think this is just about the millennials and younger, don’t be so sure. While I definitely learned some things, and those things have helped me see the communication strategies of younger folks differently, those over thirty are not immune from some of the challenges.
I’ll admit that parts of this book made me feel a bit pessimistic about the future, but the book provides suggestions and clues for stemming the tide of change in your life and with the important ones in it.
More importantly, it shows that when we put the time and effort into becoming a more effective communicator and creating real conversation, we can become even more effective and persuasive. While this has always been true; it is perhaps more true now than ever and this book helped me see this.
It took me awhile to read and digest this book – not because it was hard to read, but because there was much to ponder and think about. I view this as one of the most important books I read in 2015; and once you buy your copy (and read it), I believe you will say the same at the end of this year.
I needed to read this book. Another helpful reminder about the good and ills of screens in our lives. Turkle explains how our over use of screens is causing us to lose the ability to converse. She offered some helpful thoughts for me as a parent especially realizing the more our children invest and use screens, the more their ability to be empathetic fades and dies. Some quotes: "We struggle to pay attention to each other, and what suffers is our ability to know ourselves. We face a flight from conversation that is also a flight from self-reflection, empathy, and membership." p.11
"We slip into thinking that always being connected is going to make us less lonely. Bur we are at risk because it is actually the reverse: If we are unable to be alone, we will be more lonely. And if we don't teach our children to be alone, they will only know how to be lonely."p.23
"Language... has created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone." (Paul Tillich, p. 65)
"We find our voice in solitude, and we bring it to public and private conversations that enrich our capacity for self reflection. Now that circle has been disrupted; there is a crisis in our capacity to be alone and together. But we are in flight from those conversations that enrich our imaginations and shepherd the imagined into the real. There is a crisis in our ability to understand others and be heard." p. 317
"We had a love affair with a technology that seemed magical. But like great magic, it worked by commanding our attention and not letting us see anything but what the magician wanted us to see. Now we are ready to reclaim our attention- for solitude, for friendship, for society." p. 361
Turkle's thesis (backed up by some, but not abundant, research) is that we are losing our empathic skills because we communicate excessively through computers, particularly children. Unfortunately, this book (abandoned 25% of the way through) is an unfortunate blend of occasional research nugget, extensive (and presumably selective) quoting from interviews, and the author's strong opinions stated as fact. I'm with Turkle: social networking sites are built to broadcast, which is antithetical to the small-group reciprocal vulnerability that builds trust. I have been the shitty parent with his snout in his device, and I have felt the resulting toxic disconnect with my family. I just wish this were a more concise and effective argument for that.
Oh well, back to figuring out how to appear to be clever in 140 characters.
I'm just going to go ahead and say this is such an important book for our time and you need to read it. Turkle has studied the effects of media on humans for thirty years and she brings that considerable perspective to examining the breakdown of conversation, empathy and connection in our modern society. I consider myself pretty thoughtful about media consumption, but Turkle revealed many things that I hadn't even realized about myself and the way media (particularly the smartphone) has changed my interactions with people. The book gets somewhat repetitive in parts, but the information is so vital, Turkle's conclusions and suggestions so helpful, that is worth pushing through and reading it all. If you have a smartphone, if your children use them, do yourself a favor and read this book.