I found Turkle’s introduction to be fascinating and a little nauseating at the same time. It’s odd to see our dependence on digital communication and disconnected connectedness be brought to the extreme with the next level of attached detachment, in other words, relationships with robots. The point that I kept returning to in my mind was about the simple solution of pets. Turkle mentions the popularity of robot pets for kids and how this trend is extending now that those children are growing into adulthood yet still seeking a form of that robotic connection. I kept wondering what was wrong with getting a dog or cat like most people do. They don’t have the same risks of complicated emotions and moral gray areas. Then I remembered the writers encounter with her daughter’s disillusionment with the real turtle. Is it the fact that living creatures in general, rather than only humans, simply don’t add up to what we want every single moment of every day? A living creature, no matter how simple or innocent, will not always act in the exact way that you wish it would. In that regard, I found that people interested in relationships with robots are not simply disengaging from human interaction but in interaction with life and living creatures in general.
While reading the introduction to Alone Together by Sherry Turkle, I was disgusted with her assumptions about our generation. While text messaging has become the more common form of communication, her assumption as to the exact reason are not wholly correct. One, most people I talk with via text I still care about emotionally, and tend to ask opened ended questions with, such as, "how was blank?", or "how is it going?". These questions both illicit some sort of emotional interpretation in response, while also showing empathy. Secondly, text messaging is more convenient in many ways due to the ability for you to extend a conversation over many hours. An example that comes to mind is when talking to some on you like you are able to hold a conversation throughout the whole day via text, while if you had tried to talk on the phone all day you would have to give up your whole day. While the form of personal interaction we are engaging in daily may have changed, spending time out with friends is still valued today. An example would be the fact that most groups of friends at the university tend to go out together on the weekends. If we preferred electronic interaction to personal this would not be the case. It seems like Sherry was too concerned with a demographic that doesn't actually represent the point she is trying to make since teenagers are awkward and bad a face to face communication anyway, texting makes sense, but as we age and develop our personalities we become better at managing the various forms of communication in order to become the most effective communicators possible.
I have read the entirety of this book by Sherry Turkle and I love it. Although the points she makes in this introduction may be appalling to some, I think they are an accurate depiction of our generation to some extent. We live in a digital age and our generation does rely heavily on technology, in my opinion, too much. I can relate to some of the examples Turkle cites in her introduction such as when she says, "They would rather text than talk" and "Things that happen in "real time" take too much time". I notice this with my friends, sometimes we will be hanging out or out to dinner and everyone will be on their phones texting, whatsapping, emaling or checking facebook. This idea that we are all "Alone Together". This constant connectivity damages the ability for one to communicate face-to-face with people. There have been studies that show texting and digital media decrease verbal and written communication skills.
However, I do not see a real obsession with robots in our society. I think the majority of people would always prefer a human touch compared to a robot. robots do not have real feelings and they cannot comfort someone in times of despair. Sure, there are pros to robots, but I would never prefer a robot over the human touch.
I have also read the entirety of Sherry Turkle's book and I find my reaction after reading the introduction similar to my first time. Initially, I want to reject many of the arguments she makes in regards to technology supplanting face-to-face intimacy because her examples provide extreme cases that I feel are unrepresentative of my life or at least my life in Minneapolis. When I go back to the town I grew up with, which is a town of around 3,000 people and hang out with my friends who also attend small town colleges, I find some of her examples ring more true. When Turkle recounts the story of Ellen, who feels guilty when skyping with her grandmother due to her multi-tasking, I think of how often I find my highschool friends multi-tasking while we are spending time together. Conversations get interrupted as someone posts an ironic tweet, responds to a facebook message, tags their location, etc. Ellen admits she feels guilty because she feels as if her grandmother is talking to someone who isn't even really there and sometimes, this is how I feel when I am talking with my high school friends. At least in my anecdotal experience, environment seems to be a key factor in the degree to which one relies on technology for intimacy over face-to-face exposure.
I thought this article was really interesting as it described technology as continuously progressing in order to meet our vulnerabilities. Humans have always been vulnerable in some way or another, and technology has helped to solve many of these feelings of vulnerability. This has then allowed us to live, possibly, more comfortable lives because our vulnerabilities have starting to disappear as technology continues to solve every one of those uneasy feelings we have. People can socialize with hundreds of friends on social media sites, though hind behind their computers to do so in order to avoid personal confrontation. Today, I feel as though every little problem we may encounter or every uneasy feeling we may have is purposely being solved by technology, even though those vulnerabilities are what make us human. With technology continuing to advance in this way, will our vulnerabilities eventually dissipate completely? To the point where we may seem to function more like robots?
I first read Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together in Fall 2011, when it was assigned for a class I was enrolled in called New Media and Culture. It was interesting for me to revisit the book’s introduction after having read the whole thing, and also to view the reading from the perspective of this course. That is, I saw the reading with fresh eyes, and was able to frame it within the landscape of the history of technology.
While I don’t necessarily agree with everything Turkle posits as true (I have a hard time believing that we would truly accept a robot as a replacement for human companionship, for example), I do think she makes some keen observations about how our “networked lives” impact us. I can personally identify with Turkle’s assertion that “Our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other” (1, Kindle edition). The kinds of connections we form online are “always on,” but it takes work to maintain them with any sort of depth.
Towards the end of her introduction, Turkle asks, “Technology reshapes the landscape of our emotional lives, but is it offering us the lives we want to lead?” (17, Kindle edition). I think this is an important question to consider, because we are increasingly wired and dependent on technology. Much like Turkle, though, I often wonder if this dependence is for the best or worst.
I loved reading the introduction to Sherry Turkle's Alone Together. It is something that I find incredibly interesting, and that I actually spend a lot of time thinking about. I feel as though I am constantly connected, whether it be through email, social media, or my cell phone. It's really an overwhelming feeling. My friends and I have a group messaging application where the 12 of us can communicate, and we probably average 200 - 300 messages per day. When I think about it, I don't know why we think we need to share every little thing that happens to us. I deleted it for a while, because it was extremely overwhelming (and drained my battery) but I ended up downloading it again, because I missed the connection I had with my friends. Yes, we all live in the same house, but we are on different schedules.
I was really interested in the robot example she gave. I didn't even know people were interested in marrying robots, so this was news to me. But it is a crazy example of how much we are beginning to rely on technology. At first I thought, isn't love with robots just like using a vibrator, like we talked about in class last week? And then more I read and thought about it, the more I realized that loving robots isn't self love, it is truly relying on a non living object for affection. I personally don't think that's healthy. Just like Turkle says, it is an emotional dumbing down.
I always struggle to understand if I am using technology to my benefit or not. I like to think that it is benefitting me, and drawing me closer to those I would not otherwise regularly communicate with.
The idea of our lives becoming more mechanical, with usage of technology as a social ingredient as opposed to a means to solve problems. This interaction is interesting in my own life considering I use the internet and my computer as my greatest socializing tool, more than parties and often more than get-togethers. I'm constantly in communication through it with my friends through Skype and internet relay chats. I use the internet for so many things and so many connections with people I know, and I have experienced that sensation that my computer and its network is inseparable with myself. This isn't to say that I don't go and hang out with friends, but it really is a defining method of connection with many of my relationships.
This connection could hurt my emotional relationship with the people I know, but I don't really think that it does. I communicate so much through it but it doesn't stunt my communication with friends in real life and it doesn't make me less likely to share my emotions or feelings with my friends. Technology makes me more connected with friends and develops my relationship with them for the better.
In her introduction, Sherry Turkle described how users of technology hide behind their online avatars and peruse social interactions that are deemed "safer" but more removed from real life. This reminded me of a recent movie that also addressed that subject. In Bruce Willis' "Surrogates" (2009) technology has evolved so that everyone has a robotic surrogate of themselves - a fully functioning robot avatar that is their public face. The "real" versions of the people who live in this world are fat, dirty, ugly and spend most of their day laying on their backs, connected to computers that link their mind with the robots. The world of surrogates is safer - no one is hurt or dies because no one leaves their beds - but the question the movie asks is whether living through a machine is really living, or is it the risks, dangers, discomforts of life what makes living worthwhile.
Turkle mentions how people need to be connected through modern surrogates - text messages, email, social media accounts/avatars, etc. If this is how some people prefer to form relationships, then what happens to those who choose not to participate in those areas. If you need to be connected to technology be social, what about those that can't connect, or don't want to? Are they treated differently because they aren't always available and connected through technology?
This article was really interesting in discussing the relationship that people have with technology. Its truly amazing how attached people get to technology. Some people have panic attacks if separated from their smartphone for a short while. Its as if the piece of technology is an extension of themselves, or else a dear friend without whom they would be unable to decided what they should do for the night. I have heard of the computer game involving the character Milo before. I’ve also watched a demonstration of the game online and I think its amazing how realistic the boy seems and how your input to the character affects his development in an almost infinite number of ways. Its also interesting how the goal of the game is to build a relationship with the character, an artificial being. Why doesn’t the player just go have a conversation with another real human being?
As Ms. Turkle began, I was unsure how I would feel about her opinion, and as I read further I found that I agreed with some points. I have often thought about how much time I use being connected to technology, or what is a proper amount. It's hard to determine, since societal norms are shifting towards more connections.
In many of her examples, it seems that humans are growing tired of putting forth effort in a lot of ways and find that robots are an easy solution because there is so little risk in most of these technological endeavors. If one has a robot "friend" that they no longer want, getting rid of it is much easier than a human friend.
I thought that what she said, "After an evening of avatar-to-avatar talk in a networked game, we feel, at one moment, in possession of a full social life, and, in the next, curiously isolated, in tenuous complicity with strangers," was quite true. I feel like I could have been actually doing something when I engage in some other form of technological mediation.
This page contains a single entry by Capper Nichols published on March 25, 2013 3:43 PM.
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