…perceptive…[Turkle] has spent decades examining how people interact with computers and other devices…and by situating her findings in historical perspective, she is able to lend contextual ballast to her case studies.
The New York Times
As the digital age sparks increasing debate about what new technologies and increased connectivity are doing to our brains, comes this chilling examination of what our iPods and iPads are doing to our relationships from MIT professor Turkle (Simulation and Its Discontents). In this third in a trilogy that explores the relationship between humans and technology, Turkle argues that people are increasingly functioning without face-to-face contact. For all the talk of convenience and connection derived from texting, e-mailing, and social networking, Turkle reaffirms that what humans still instinctively need is each other, and she encounters dissatisfaction and alienation among users: teenagers whose identities are shaped not by self-exploration but by how they are perceived by the online collective, mothers who feel texting makes communicating with their children more frequent yet less substantive, Facebook users who feel shallow status updates devalue the true intimacies of friendships. Turkle 's prescient book makes a strong case that what was meant to be a way to facilitate communications has pushed people closer to their machines and further away from each other. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
New York Times Book Review
“[Turkle] summarizes her new view of things with typical eloquence…fascinating, readable.”
Wall Street Journal
“What [Turkle] brings to the topic that is new is more than a decade of interviews with teens and college students in which she plumbs the psychological effect of our brave new devices on the generation that seems most comfortable with them.”
“A fascinating portrait of our changing relationship with technology.”
Natural History Magazine
“A fascinating, insightful and disquieting “intimate ethnography” of our digital, robotic moment in history.”
“Turkle is a gifted and imaginative writer…[who] pushes interesting arguments with an engaging style.”
Jill Conway, President emerita, Smith College, and author of The Road from Coorain
“Based on an ambitious research program, and written in a clear and beguiling style, this book which will captivate both scholar and general reader and it will be a landmark in the study of the impact of social media.”
Mitchel Resnick, LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research and head of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Laboratory
“Sherry Turkle is the Margaret Mead of digital culture. Parents and teachers: If you want to understand (and support) your children as they navigate the emotional undercurrents in today’s technological world, this is the book you need to read. Every chapter is full of great insights and great writing.”
Kevin Kelly, author of What Technology Wants
“No one has a better handle on how we are using material technology to transform our immaterial ‘self’ than Sherry Turkle. She is our techno-Freud, illuminating our inner transformation long before we are able see it. This immensely satisfying book is a deep journey to our future selves.”
Douglas Rushkoff, author of Program or Be Programmed
“Alone Together is a deep yet accessible, bold yet gentle, frightening yet reassuring account of how people continue to find one another in an increasingly mediated landscape. If the net and humanity could have a couples therapist, it would be Sherry Turkle.”
Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education
“Sherry Turkle has observed more widely and thought more deeply about human-computer relations than any other scholar. Her book is essential reading for all who hope to understand our changing relation to technology.”
“Turkle’s prescient book makes a strong case that what was meant to be a way to facilitate communications has pushed people closer to their machines and further away from each other.”
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School professor and author of Evolve!, Confidence, and SuperCorp
“Alone Together is a brilliant, profound, stirring, and often disturbing portrait of the future by America’s leading expert on how computers affect us as humans. She reveals the secrets of ‘Walden 2.0’ and tells us that we deserve better than caring robots. Grab this book, then turn off your smart phones and absorb Sherry Turkle’s powerful message.”
National Catholic Reporter
“Readers will find this book a useful resource as they begin conversations about how to negotiate and critically engage the technology that suffuses our lives.”
Clinical psychologist—and sociologist of the Internet—Turkle (social studies of science & technology, MIT; Simulation and Its Discontents) presents a cautionary tale about what she calls the "robotic moment," i.e., our current state of technological connection and societal disconnection that makes us willing to consider robots for true companionship. She tells two stories—of her research observing people with interactive but still rudimentary machines like Furbies and Paros and her experiences interviewing people (including many adolescents) about their digital habits and tools (e.g., texting, IM'ing, and Facebook). Although she tries to conclude on an up note, insisting we still have time to think carefully about how we use computers and connect to one another in an always-connected world, her tales of seniors ready to accept robot companions and kids seeking attention from parents addicted to their own Blackberries make for sobering reading. VERDICT Turkle's findings are engaging and her conclusions thoughtful (she's been called "Margaret Mead in cyberspace"). Her book is best for serious readers because those seeking livelier popular science writing might find her style here a bit dry.—Sarah Statz Cords, The Reader's Advisor Online, Middleton, WI
A clinical psychologist takes a critical and sometimes disturbing look at the psycho-social dangers of mixing technology and human intimacy.
Turkle (Social Studies of Science and Technology/MIT; Simulation and Its Discontents, 2009, etc.) paints a bleak picture of a robotically enhanced future in which humans become increasingly emotionally dependent on technology. As this dependency on technology for meaningful social interaction increases, writes the author, the more humans will lose their ability to have authentic and meaningful relationships with one another. Turkle begins her study with possibly the creepiest findings from her fieldwork: the ongoing development and acceptance of "sex robots," and the zeal of the scientific community's crackpots who'd like to exalt robots to equal relational status with human beings. Essentially this means programming robots as not only a sexual supplement to humans' sex lives but also as an actual surrogate for an intimate bedfellow. From there, the author's examples of a society gone technologically wild can only seem tame: children getting robotic pets and cell phones before they hit puberty; insecure teens seeking a new self through avatars and virtual-reality games; young Facebookers afraid of the permanency and nakedness of their information on the Internet. Turkle advances the notion that Internet-based social networking and communication via texting and e-mail can only lead to alienation and awkwardness when facing inevitable person-to-person confrontations. But the author is careful not to blame technology and its handlers for corrupting the easily corruptible. Many of the technological slaves that Turkle profiles are—one hopes—exceptional examples. The author seems confident that human instinct will eventually intervene and prompt us into evasive action as soon as technology begins to increasingly dominate our lives. This cautious optimism is admirable, but it can't quite brighten the dystopic pallor the book ultimately casts on the future of human relationships.
Despite the dry, clinical writing, Turkle provides potentially valuable social research.