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Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  5,549 ratings  ·  775 reviews
Consider Facebook—it’s 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, MIT technology and society professor Sherry Turkle explores the power of our new tools and toys to
Hardcover, 360 pages
Published January 11th 2011 by Basic Books
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Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Conversation with Eliza Bot. Wed Feb 15, 2012. ( )

How do you do? Please state your problem.
>> Hello, Eliza.

Hi. What seems to be your problem?
>> I recently read Sherry Turkle's book, "Alone Together". I am not sure how to review it.

You say you read Sherry Turkle's book.
>> Yes. It's a book about how sociable robots and networked technologies change the way we relate to one another.

You seem to be quite positive.
>> I'm not. In fact I am sympathetic to Turkle's arg
Chris Elsden
Apr 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
I really wanted to like this book. Honestly I did, it deals with a fascinating topic. Sadly however, I found this far too anecdotal, repetitive and bias. Her point felt laboured, the anti-technology rhetoric was tiring and she seldom gets into any great depth on an issue. I felt she was able to point out a fairly evident phenomenon such as people texting more and calling less but failed to deeply analyse it beyond showing the angst and frustrations it brought teenagers. I do believe "we are all ...more
Roger Haskins
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Yeah. Can humans find companionship with robots? Should they? 2 years ago I would've thought the author was stretching for scify stories. After working at Verizon and seeing the disproportionate emotional responses people give when their device doesn't work as expected i totally agree with her. Consider the difference between having friends and being "friended" and for too many it is the difference between getting what you want and getting what we think we want. The book does a great job lo ...more
May 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
Sigh. This book. Great title, great subtitle, I wish the content had delivered. Unfortunately I am no closer to telling you why we expect more from technology & less from each other than I was before I read this book.

One of the main things that bothered me about this book was that, even though I was really interested in these issues, Turkle did not argue her points very well or very strongly. She only very briefly touches on why we should be concerned about the phenomena of "being connected" in
Moira Russell
Poorly written and not that well-researched -- and my eyes glazed over so much during the long first half about robots I didn't retain much about it -- but the second half, which discusses avatars, Second Life, Skype, texting, Facebook, WoW, and so on, was a lot better, and helped me articulate some of the misgivings I've been having recently about the time I spend on the internet.

It was interesting, and saddening, she spent almost no time on blogging and the "classic" journaling sites like Live
Daniel Solera
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is the second book of my "The Dangers of New Technologies" series of book reviews. I decided to read Sherry Turkle's Alone Together after reading an article in Slate about it. When I started working in an office that blocked Facebook, I stopped spending unnecessary amounts of time on the website and came to the realization that my life was unchanged because of it. So when I learned that someone had written something of a psychoanalytic profile on the website's effects on our daily lives, I ...more
Audrey Babkirk Wellons
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: social-sciences
If I had to pick two descriptors for this book, I'd say "thought-provoking" and "stone-cold chilling."

As for the first part of that, I found myself alternately highlighting brilliant pieces and writing counterpoints in the margins. By the end, though, I was swayed to her way of thinking: that in our excitement for the benefits of technology, we have overlooked real and true dangers.

The sections about human-robot interactions are the creepiest thing I've read in a long time, and not not solely b
John Carter McKnight
Feb 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: academic
A mixed bag. Turkle's overall tone, despite her constant denials of Luddism, is one of "Get off my lawn!," of cranky alienation from digital culture. There's too much of "the technology I grew up with is natural and human; the technology of Kids These Days is causing a parade of horrors."

Despite Turkle's crankiness, she does have some excellent critical observations. Her methodology is somewhat troubling, though, relying on anecdote and case study. I found myself wondering how much she cherry-pi
Hmmm. Fascinating concept. Copiously researched. Boring as all hell.

Okay, just kidding. A cheap effort to get the attention of all my on-line friends out there with whom I apparently have these illusory relationships (and, perhaps, feel pressure to serve up charming and witty sound bytes that I'm less compelled to do IRL). The book wasn't boring as all hell; it made some very interesting points at times. But there were certainly problems with the overall execution, and provocative though it was,
Feb 05, 2013 rated it liked it
First, I can't escape the irony of writing a review of this book for a social media website. I hope that the author can appreciate that! Like many other reviewers, I really wanted to like this book. The first half of the book deals with human-robot interactions including research conducted by Turkle and her colleagues. She does a great job of describing the results for a popular audience. The second half of the book pertains to every mode of on-line communication: gaming, chat rooms, IM, social ...more
Nov 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
Every time I read one of these books, I am amazed by how utterly they manage to miss the mark, and by how the author manages to track down the 8 people who are still playing Second Life.
E. Marvin
Recently, I read an article by Jonah Lehrer. He started this article by warmly responding to a negative book review which he received. Lehrer’s smart reply gave me some ideas about reviewing other’s work. In fact, after reading his reply, I have some misgivings about reviewing a person’s work negatively. Constructively critiquing each other’s work is something I think we are still working on in social media. But how is that done? How do I warmly critique someone’s work? Yet, before I start my re ...more
Amar Pai
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
Who cares about Second Life
Aug 25, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It is books like this that give social science a bad name.
Chris Witt
May 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
I've struggled with how to review this, but here goes a half-assed attempt...

"Alone Together" is broken down into two parts. The first part deals with robotics. And it was awful. Everything reeks of a psychologist who has found exactly what she set out to find. For example, it felt like she wanted to show that children are unable to tell the difference between human beings and electronic toys. So she interviews, say, 100 of them. And if she finds one of them that confirms her theory, she devotes
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Since I previously enjoyed Turkle’s ‘Reclaiming Conversation,’ I decided it was time to read her oft-cited book ‘Alone Together.’ As Turkle summarizes, “The narrative of ‘Alone Together’ describes an arc: we expect more from technology and less from each other.” It’s sort of a depressing book, and even more so when you realize how much has changed in nearly a decade since she wrote it. The issues she raises and the explosion of platforms and technology have more, not less, of a pressing issue. H ...more
Lauren Ruth
Dec 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
What a good book this is! Humane, filled with common-sense, and refreshing.

The writing is not graceful—it's a bit wordy, repetitive, occasionally ponderous. It's not as well-organized or tight as it could be, either—somewhat redundant in ideas as well as words. But these are minor quibbles compared to how well this book does on the two critical aspects of nonfiction: the importance of the topic, and the arguments and insights it offers. In these, it shines.

The two main sections of Alone Together
Feb 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
I've been feeling a becoming-less-vague dislike of social media and portable connectivity for a while now, but had chalked those up to Luddite impulses that I should get over. This book has made me reevaluate whether those feelings are actually good. Things like my partner being on his phone constantly during meals (I feel lonely), browsing aimlessly through Facebook and feeling more and more insecure about the image I get of other people's lives compared to my own, and wishing I kept in touch w ...more
Feb 25, 2011 rated it liked it

This was a fascinating collection of ideas presented by one of the foremost experts on technology and its effects on human behavior... I will be thinking about it for a long, long time. I think it's important for individuals, families, and classrooms to really consider how best to incorporate the "always on" culture without losing what she calls sacred spaces, and the human values that we want to preserve.


The first part of the book was very Furby-anecdote heavy. I know she has bee
The concept for the story outweighed the excitement for reading it. In the vein of others that discuss how technology has pulled humans farther apart, Turkle, wants to add to that and heavily, heavily focuses on robots and their work now in companionship and love.

She references studies and conversations with others scientists in the field and at conferences but it seems to go around in circles discussing the same thing over and over without really digging in. It seemed surface and cyclical. Rel
May 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
I admit, I gave up on this book after about 100 pages. For those of us over 40 (45?), this book sometimes seems like an academic rant against all the technology that connects us, while keeping us separate. While I agree with some of the concepts outlined in this book, I felt that the author was constantly looking for research (or conducting her own) to support her own preconceived ideas. I had been looking forward to a somewhat original take on technology and society, but the beginning of the bo ...more
Dec 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
The best things about the book are the titles of its two sections: 1) In Solitude, New Intimacies 2) In Intimacy, New Solitudes. The first section deals with how we perceive and interact with robots and how this may develop in the future. The second section deals with how our networked lives that are supposed to keep us more connected may be going the other way. Turkle has done most of his research on teenagers. Call me old, but I didn't like reading chapter after chapter about teenagers who sen ...more
Jul 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Like my friend Jonathan McKay said, read the last chapter because it has some great quotes, and skip the first half of the book.

I liked the repeated anecdotes about how technology influences our lives, so three stars instead of two. But the academic prose made me constantly feel like the author was lecturing me, like she thought she was better than me. And it made me feel not so smart. I didn’t appreciate that.
Kaethe Douglas
Feb 22, 2012 marked it as stricken
Any theory predicated on "hookup culture" is bound to be full of stupidity. A theory which says all teens eschew sentimentality, and deep emotions, but also that they all adore "Twilight"'s angsty schmaltz and tortuous love is, you know, not a good or useful theory.
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
I found 'Alone Together' hugely thought-provoking. The methods used are anthropological and grounded in the ideas of psychoanalysis, which made for an interesting change. The specific points within each theme are introduced and explained through case studies. Such an approach differs from the kind of social science I am used to, which I found powerful as Turkle’s methods displayed no cross-contamination from economics. Most quantitative and some qualitative work regurgitates the assumptions of e ...more
Dwight Davis
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
I’m conflicted on how to fairly review this book. It’s well-researched but poorly presented. Turkle is an expert in her field. But there are some glaring errors for me in this. A few observations.

1. Any book writing about technology is necessarily already out of date by the time it is published, and this book was published in 2011. Turkle spends a lot of time talking about MySpace and Furbies which, as far as I know, had both passed largely out of public consciousness by 2011. There is no discu
Aug 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Most technology books tend to focus on how it negatively affects our mind and impairs our thinking. However, given her unique background as a trained psychologist and professor at MIT, Turkle brings a very unique perspective into discussions about technology.

The book is basically divided into two main parts, both centered on different ways that we seek community through technology: one half of the book focusing on human-robot interactions, and the other half on human-human interactions mediated
A very worthwhile book to read. Having been part of the world of artificial intelligence and robotics in years past, this book is a fine overview of the development of the first "thinking" machines (like ELIZA) to the current trend of robots that "feel" or relate. Or at least we have programmed them to simulate responses that to us indicate "feeling". In the first half of the book, the author raises the dilemma -- we are beginning to rely on relational robots or care-taker robots more than human ...more
Jan 27, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never_finished, 2011
This one falls into the same trap as "God Is Not Great" by Christopher Hitchens: while I agree with the subject matter very much, after awhile I grew somewhat bored by it for that very reason. In this case, more so. Turkle's approach is very dry and academic. She is an instructor at MIT and it reads as such. The book is very easily broken down into introduction (explaining what she is going to cover), the two main sections (one on robots, one on social media and online/electronic interactions) a ...more
Roy Klein
I've done the opposite to what most people confessed to do - I read the robots part rather than the social networks part. I tried reading the social networks part, but by the time I got there I grew extremely tired of the constant in-depth descriptions of her tests subjects. Obviously Turkle grew very attached to some of them, and spares us no detail in describing their every muse and emotion. I'd say that what I've read comprises of about 70% of that. 25% more is spent on rehashing her opinion ...more
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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.


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