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

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

by Sherry Turkle

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Overview

A groundbreaking book by one of the most important thinkers of our time shows how technology is warping our social lives and our inner ones

Technology has become the architect of our intimacies. Online, we fall prey to the illusion of companionship, gathering thousands of Twitter and Facebook friends, and confusing tweets and wall posts with authentic communication. But this relentless connection leads to a deep solitude. MIT professor Sherry Turkle argues that as technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down. Based on hundreds of interviews and with a new introduction taking us to the present day, Alone Together describes changing, unsettling relationships between friends, lovers, and families.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465093656
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 11/07/2017
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 90,362
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Sherry Turkle is the 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 and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Author's Note: Turning Points ix

Introduction: Alone Together 1

Part 1 The Robotic Moment: In Solitude, New Intimacies

1 Nearest Neighbors 23

2 Alive Enough 35

3 True Companions 53

4 Enchantment 67

5 Complicities 83

6 Love's Labor Lost 103

7 Communion 127

Part 2 Networked: In Intimacy, New Solitudes

8 Always On 151

9 Growing Up Tethered 171

10 No Need to Call 187

11 Reduction and Betrayal 211

12 True Confessions 229

13 Anxiety 241

14 The Nostalgia of the Young 265

Conclusion: Necessary Conversations 279

Epilogue: The Letter 297

Notes 307

Index 349

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"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." —-Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Customer Reviews

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Alone Together 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
HecubaYH More than 1 year ago
This is an intelligent, readable analysis of how our technology (texting, IM, e-mail, etc.) is shaping our human interactions. The chapters on how children and teenagers are affected are particularly fascinating and often sad. While this isn't "lite" reading, it's far from being a boring textbook and more than worth the time. I wish parents and teachers as well as children and caregivers of the elderly everywhere would take the time to read this and consider the broader implications of her research.
caribird More than 1 year ago
It is a wake-up call for us parents of this generation of technology users. It puts it out there for us to see - the research of what is happening to our kids and how they connect to the world. It is helpful to see the history of research in this area and be able to put it to good use. Obviously, it is not the only factor in how our kids relate to others but it is an eye-opener. This was recommended to me and I'm glad I bought it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Turkel again delivers an accessible book of enduring value. The exploration of what it is to be human in the age of increasingly intelligent machines is important for all of us. Turkel helps us down that road with her insightful research and accessible writing stlye.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sherry Turkle, the well-known author of The Second Self (1984) and Life on the Screen (1995), has given us another key work in Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (New York: Basic Books, 2011). In her current book she focuses on individuals from 5 to 20 years of age, discerning how this group often rely on technology to fill in voids in their relationships. While we have seen some amazing achievements with the use of robots and other technologies to help kids and senior citizens, Turkle also argues that our use makes us change in certain profound ways. While we turn to technology, as well, to help save us time, the technology often makes us busier. "It is easy to become so immersed in technology that we ignore what we know about life" (p. 101), and we apply this notion to many aspects of our lives.
VJDJR More than 1 year ago
I'd first borrowed this book from our public library. About 1/3 through, I realized I would want my own copy. It's that good. I've highlighted (thank you, nook) passages all over the place. It's a worthwhile look at how the technology that was to have given us more free time has actually taken more of it. How trends are pulling toward situations where we are all at the same social setting (meeting, dinner table, city park) with our own connected gadget(s), each of us alone, but together. And it is also about how we use facebook, IM, texting to become more abbreviated with each other, sharing each other with other friends/texts/twitters/apps so that it is becoming increasingly rare where anyone has all of another's attention. And finally, it is about the trend toward social robots. So far, just toys, but toys programmed to pull out an emotional response from the user. So that the goal amongst some roboticists is to create a "companion" robot to, say, help the elderly not merely by doing things to help them, but by performing as a companion: someone or something to talk to or share with. But, Turkle suggests, is it "sharing" if there is no-body there, merely a program? I found her observations fascinating, even if I didn't always agree with her summations. I also found it worth sharing, both in social mediums and in conversation (with people, not robots).
catwak More than 1 year ago
Last summer I took a week-long vacation to a place with limited wireless access. The best thing about that week was not hearing the chirp of a "smart" phone even once! As excellent as this book is, I suspect (nay, even fervently hope) that the twisted world of obsessively detached communication among the young that Ms. Turkle describes is at best a regional phenomenon, most common among households in urban areas and blessed with more money than sense. If there's one thing missing from this book, it's some nationwide statistics.
Jennifer_Matthews on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The five stars I gave this book was not for style, but for the impact it had on me personally. I felt her assertion that we are distancing ourselves from each other, while accepting the cold comfort of technology as a substitution to be utterly true. An intense reading experience--I've made a few small, but important changes to my life as a result of reading this.
dickmanikowski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was another in a long, sad series of abandoned books. Turkle has long studied human-computer relationships in her position at MIT, and she offers valuable insights on how the digital revolution has changed us and our communities.But I allowed myself to get sidetracked and abandoned the book less than 20% of the way into it. One renewal and a pending late fine later, I still haven't turned back to it.So many books. So little time.
Narboink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sherry Turkle mixes together personal anecdotes, professional research, and philosophical rumination to address the link between technology and human relationships. In the first half of the book, Turkle draws on her work with three successive generations of children to examine the consequences of increased robotic integration on both childhood development and eldercare. The second half of the book tackles how cellular and online social networks are shaping our individual and collective psychology. Turkle is an adamant skeptic in a time of almost overwhelming technical triumphalism. However, far from being a Luddite or a scold, she takes great pains to carefully tease out the ways in which an unquestioned devotion to the tools of robotics and/or the Internet lessens our ability and willingness to have authentic relationships. What makes this book outstanding isn't the simple acknowledgement that technology has unintended drawbacks, rather, it's the depth of knowledge that she brings to the subject. Turkle doesn't waste the readers' time. She has done the heavy lifting and presents only the questions that are worth asking. It's a refreshing pleasure to read and provides plenty of food for thought.
jcbrunner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Alone together" is Sherry Turkle's look back at her research career exploring the psychological aspects of growing up with modern technology. Some of which she draws out of her bag is wonderful, especially when she observes kids exploring various generations of robot toys from tamagotchi to My Real Baby to AIBOs, some of which is just plain bad. One has to agree with some Spanish boys on chatroulette who greet her "Hi, old woman!" Her nostalgic love towards old communication technologies and simpler times are quite strange. Despite younger people pointing out benefits of the new technology and pitfalls of the old, she vehemently clings to only the good elements of the outdated technology. It is true that the one could be off the radar for extended periods of time to explore without interruption. On the negative side, during the same time off the radar, one could not be contacted even in emergencies. Turkle would probably argued for preserving horse transportation, as metal could never fully replace the connection with a sweaty animal.This persistent nostalgia apart, the main problem I have with the book is her unwillingness to look beyond psychology. Economics and sociology have developed answers to many of the issues Turkle raises but can not answer properly. Erving Goffman's impression management would have been helpful in discussing the different roles presented online. Economics would have shown that many of her questions rely on opportunity costs and imperfect substitutions. While a personal service may continue to be highly valued, most people will refuse the high price those services cause and choose the cheap machines. Some if not most will already prefer the machine. Turkle's cherished talk with the cash teller for example is something I find the ATM superior: faster and available around the clock. The same holds for her preference for telephone conversations. She underestimates the disruptive and productivity killing qualities of a phone call. Asynchronous communication is superior and for truly emotional events, the phone can not replace a face to face communication. The second part of her book is thus seriously flawed and not fully thought through.The value of the book lies in its first part. It is a joy to read about how children explain the workings of these robotic toys and how they grow to love these not so simple machines. Humanity has come a long way from Konrad Lorenz tricking geese to senior citizens caring for robot babies. The law of simplicity and economics dictates that we will see specialist robots fulfilling partial human roles and functions. Just like any other kind of technology, its use is a social decision. Turkle only hints at the pampered lives most of the robot owners live. The harsher reality shines through when she tells about some kids saying that the MIT snack is their best daily meal they get. On the other end of the social scale, kids of professionals see their quality time with parents replaced with a friendly robot. No wonder these shattered kids inflict punishment on their innocent robots. The removal of the expression of pain from My Real Baby due to the kids' sadistic pleasure on torturing the robot baby hints at the darker hidden corners of the human soul. The modern Milgram's experimenters torture robots ..."Alone together" adds a sliver of information to the "Bowling alone" thesis. Strong physical, longterm and local ties are replaced with weak, virtual and quick relationships. The main effect will be the multiplier effect of technology. Robots and communication technology will assist those already at the center of power, while those at the periphery will struggle to equalize the power differential.
m.gilbert on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by MIT professor Sherry Turkle is one of the most enlightening books about the ethical and social repercussions of technology I have ever read. Interestingly, I read it on my Kindle, where I recently learned how to use the highlighting and notes function. So my review isn't so much a review as a reflection on some of the most meaningful quotations from the work.The first half of the work is devoted to Turkle's discussion of the use of robots to help people. She focuses her discussion on how robot pets and babies can ease the loneliness of the elderly in retirement homes. This, of course, is in response to the feelings of abandonment felt by people who are now seen as a burden to the younger generation. Turkle describes different experiments in which senior citizens and children (two of the most emotionally vulnerable groups) are given robots that can respond to the human voice and human touch. She then documents words and experiences of specific individuals, showing the emotional connections that the young and old can create with these objects. While I didn't find this section of the book as interesting as the second part, one cannot help but feel a kind of collective shame in being part of a society that would imagine the need for such things. Turkle, however, does not condemn so much as remind us that human needs are complex, and how we frame our ethical and social challenges are just as crucial, if not more, as deliberating on the possible solutions for them. The second part of the work focuses on the impact of social networks, gaming, and virtual worlds on people's lives and relationships. While there's a good deal here that I have thought about many times before, Turkle's exposition is an effective showing and not mere telling of her beliefs. She interviews high school students, computer programmers, young professionals, and people of the pre-Internet generation and asks them about their use of technology in their everyday lives. What they have to say about how technology creates chronic demands on them and steers them to a life of loneliness and isolation is unsettling but not surprising. When we are always connected, we can no longer tolerate the idea of being alone, of not having someone respond to what we say or think. Ironically, of course, this emphasis on media performance only debilitates us socially in an interpersonal sense (if one can still even think of the world this way). We "forget" the value of stillness and solitude that can revivify our lives, lending them purpose and meaning, and strengthen our relationships. Instead, solitude frightens us. Turkle explains quite profoundly: "Loneliness is failed solitude."I'm not a Luddite and neither is Turkle. What she proposes in the end is an examination of our values and the ways in which we frame social, even existential, problems--each are crucial to a healthier understanding of ourselves in an age of invasive technology: "What I call realtechnik suggests that we step back and reassess when we hear triumphalist or apocalyptic narratives about how to live with technology. Realtechnik is skeptical about linear progress. It encourages humility, a state of mind in which we are most open to facing problems and reconsidering decisions. The Net, she states, is still young, but the human beings who have imagined the technology we know today is not. As technology advances, always ready to "be" for us what in reality should only remain a "seem" (to quote the poet Wallace Steven's words from "The Emperor of Ice Cream") so must our understanding of what is fundamentally human: "When we are at our best, thinking about technology brings us back to questions about what really matters."
DanStratton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sherry Turkle is a psychologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studying the effects of technology on people and has written several books on her findings of the past thirty. In her latest book, she tackles how technology has effected the way we interact with each other. Ranging from robots to texting, she demonstrates that recent innovations have changed how we look to technology as an extension, or even a replacement, for the ways we communicate and care for each other. She discusses the impact she sees beginning to take place. It isn't pretty.Turkle has studied technology for over thirty years and has had a fascination with robots and robotic toys. She has taken them into situations ranging from schools to retirement homes and watched the way we interact. As the technology improved, from Furby to My Little Baby, she has watched as people identified more with the robot and formed bonds. Naturally, children formed very strong bonds, believing the toys to be real and placing themselves as the teacher/protector. The robots are programmed to learn from the environment and it responds to the children's input and develop some semblance of a personality. However, when the robot breaks or has to be reset, it never quite acts the way it did before, and the children recognize the differences to the point they say the robot has "died."The elderly also accepted the robots quickly, losing themselves in the illusion of life. Turkle found robots readily accepted as companions, especially to the lonely. They would talk to the robots, confide in them and treat them as if they were real babies, tucking them in and shushing loud talkers. When she began asking the children what they thought of robots becoming caregivers to the elderly, the dichotomy of technology began to be evident. The children at first thought it a great idea for their grandparents to have a robot to help them keep from getting lonely. However, the very next thought was the worry that the grandparents would like the robot more than them and no longer love them. They firmly believed, after their own experience with the robot, it was capable of replacing real people in the lives of their grandparents.This theme of replacement continued throughout the book. She thoroughly investigated texting as a medium of communication. I found this section most helpful in learning why my own children are more comfortable in texting their friends instead of calling them. I would become frustrated at their reluctance to just pick up the phone and take 30 seconds for a conversation instead of 30 minutes of thumb tapping. Turkle explained their reluctance for direct interaction as result of the discomfort and uncertainty direction communication can cause. They like the opportunity to edit and think about the response before hitting the Send button. In a verbal conversation, that opportunity doesn't exist and that terrifies the inexperienced. Of course, the more texting is used, the less experience is realized and it becomes a self perpetuating problem. Having this knowledge has helped me interact with my children more and continue to draw them out beyond the texting. I have also become more comfortable with the various forms of electronic communication as a result.Turkle's concern for the future is very evident. She fears the direction of healthy human interaction, the lack thereof. The more we separate ourselves through the barrier of technology and electronic communication, the more we become alone. She sees the signs of it all over. When plugged into our devices, we become completely oblivious to those around us. As children see parents reading and writing email at dinner instead of talking to them, they feel isolated and retreat into their own electronic worlds of Facebook and Second Life. Her concern, I believe, is well founded and cause for action. I know I have made a conscious effort to change my level of interaction. I haven't been very successful yet, but the predictions she
PVF More than 1 year ago
Sherry Turkle should be captured in a bottle and put in a very safe place. This book is fabulous. It answers questions that I've had for the past decade, and it introduced me to the whole world of social media--both its upsides and considerable downsides. She is a moral voice for humanity as it tries to integrate high technology into its identity without damaging or reducing the elements that have always made us uniquely human. I would recommend this book to everyone who thinks for him/herself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book does an interesting job of showing how our interactions with others are modified by the technological means we use to connect.  It's written in a manner that is both accessible and yet intelligent.   Definitely makes you wonder about the tradeoffs involved in the so'-called convenience in digital progress.
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Book brought me up to date @ many electronic gadgets.
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