Sherry Turkle: Alone Together


Who is Sherry Turkle?

Sherry Turkle is the Abby Rockfeller Mauze professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She got doctorate in sociology and personality psychology from Harvard University and she is a licensed clinical psychologist. Professor Turkle have studied technologies of mobile communication, social networking and sociable rototics over the past 15 years.

She also wrote many books about her professional field. In my opinion, the book which is most relevant with new media is Alone Together: Why We Expect from Technology and Less from Each Other. Through her books and lectures, Sherry Turkle claims that the recent electronic equipment makes change society with absence of communication.


How new media influences our society?

In recent decades, advances in technology have brought our society many benefits and people can live more convenient than before. At the same time, development of technology makes change the way of communication.

Sherry Turkle points out the influence of new technology and media through her TEDtalk and books. Her TEDtalk presentation shows well her analysis of new media. In her TEDtalk of last year, she said, “What I’ve found is that our little devices, those little devices in our pockets, are so psychologically powerful that they don’t only change what we do, they change who we are.” She also gave some examples: People are on Facebook, text or send email during important meetings or classes. She is surprisd to see people who are more comfortable with email or text relation. Also, they want to control their words and hide their real personality. According to her presentation, this tendency shows that “[People] are getting used to a new way of being alone together.”

I also agree with her opinion because that is how we live our life. When I meet with my friends, some of them does not communicate with us because they are focusing on their cell phones. They do not know what we talked about something. This is not normal and healthy communications. Sherry Turkle explaines the reason of this communication that people want to meet other people, but they also connected to all the different places they want to be. I think this is why her book name title is “Alone Together.”

Sherry Turkle also said that a number of people prefer text to talk. She gave an example: Siri. Siri is an intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator on Apple’s iPhone. She said the reason why some people use Siri is that they feel no one is listening to them. It makes them want to spend time with machines that seem to care about them. “That’s why it’s so appealing to have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed – so many automatic listeners,” she said. I think communicating in the virtual life like Facebook or Twitter looks like a solution for loneliness, but it is not. Those people who do not communicate with others in real life are easy to feel empty. “We’re lonely, but we’re afraid of intimacy. And so from social networks to sociable robots, we’re designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. We turn to technology to help us feel connected in ways we can comfortably control. But we’re not so comfortable. We are not so much in control,” Sherry Turkle said. After watching this part, I thought people want to have “simple” relationship and “simple” communication today. It could be convenient because we can hide each other and express what we really want to show to people. However, it is not “real” relationship between people. It must be limited connection with other people.

Sherry Turkle does not suggest that people turn away from current technology like mobile devices. She said, “We develop a more self-aware relationship with [devices], with each other and with ourselves.” To support this, she recommends that thinking of solitude as a good thing. Also, listening to each other is the most important thing between people.


My own critique about new media

I enjoy using Social Network Services (SNS) such as Facebook and Twitter. I think it is useful technology to communicate with other people or share useful information. Moreover, I can find my old friends through Facebook. Modern technology gives people a lot of joy. For example, I can communicate with my family easily through Facetime or Skype, even though I am away from my family to study here at Stony Brook. I think new media have double-sided character. It is useful when people can control it. It is true that technology is making redefine human connection, but it is also giving us the opportunity to use it in various ways and promote deeper relationship among people. Actually, people can make deeper relationship via new media. In my case, Facebook often makes me and my friends closer because we can communicate frequently. Also, it makes understand each other better.

However, I still think “real-life” relationship should be based on our relationship. It is more important than “virtual-life” relationship. Virtual-life relationship is only second thing. In other words, it is just additional life of us. If we listen and communicate each other well, people do not have to feel “alone together.” Therefore, I perfectly agree with Sherry Turkel. I also think that the first step which is listen carefully each other is the most important thing in current society.


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