Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Alone together: Is Technology Making Us Lonelier?

Time Magazine

Digital communication is so pervasive that most of us don't even bother to question its role in society. That's not the case with Sherry Turkle, who has tracked the way we interact with computers and artificial intelligence since the 1970s. Founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, Turkle's new book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other, asks a simple question: do digital methods of communication connect us the way interaction in the 'real world' does? In late December, Turkle sat with TIME to discuss robot puppies, teen texting and what "full attention" means in an age of smart phones.

Alone Together concludes a trilogy of books that started with your exploration of the very first computer programs. Now, 26 years later, we have this giant soup of communication methods. How has that changed our relationship to technology?

It took a while for things to evolve to show [just] where we were vulnerable. This changed dramatically with mobile communication. Who would have known that a little red light on the Blackberry — that doesn't even say who a message is from, but simply that you have a message — would drive people crazy? So [crazy] that if their baby is in the car next to them and they know they can't text and drive, they will [still fiddle] with the steering wheel at 65 miles an hour in order to know who sent that message.[...]

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