Alone Together

Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

by Sherry Turkle

Number of pages: 384

Publisher: Basic Books

BBB Library: Communication, Technology and Globalization

ISBN: 9780465031467

About the Author

Sherry Turkle is the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Editorial Review

Alone together is a book written by Sherry Turkle who is a Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT. She traces back technology and its invasion into our lives and its impact in our behaviors, expectations, and way of thinking. She elaborately through many examples shows how it has affected our life generally and our social life specifically. Online connections were first conceived as a substitute for face-to-face contact, when the latter was for some reason impractical: Don’t have time to make a phone call? Shoot off a text message. But very quickly, the text message became the connection of choice. We discovered the network—the world of connectivity—to be uniquely suited to the overworked and overscheduled life it makes possible. And now we look to the network to defend us against loneliness even as we use it to control the intensity of our connections. Technology makes it easy to communicate when we wish and to disengage at will. We make our technologies, and they, in turn, shape us. So, of every technology we must ask, does it serve our human purposes?  

Book Reviews

"Turkle concludes that 'Our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other.'" Bloomberg

"Alone Together is the culmination of years of empirical research. Turkle has watched people interact with machines and socialise on digital networks. Her inquiry starts out clinical and becomes philosophical."The Guardian

"In Turkle’s latest book, Alone Together, this optimism is long gone. If the Internet of 1995 was a postmodern playhouse, allowing individuals to engage in unbridled expression, Turkle describes it today as a corporate trap, a ball and chain that keeps us tethered to the tiny screens of our cellphones, tapping out trite messages to stay in touch." The New York Times

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Wisdom to Share

As we put in our many hours of typing—with all fingers or just thumbs—we may discover that we miss the human voice.

Humans need to be surrounded by human touch, faces, and voices. Humans need to be brought up by humans.

When we lose the “burden” of care, we begin to give up on our compact that human beings will care for other human beings.

The most common justification for the delegation of care to robots focuses on things being “equal” for the person receiving care.

Texting, interrupted by bad reception, incoming calls, and other text messages can compromise the intimacy it promises.

If lonely, you can find online a continual connection. But this may leave you more isolated, without real people around you.

In the flow state, you have clear expectations and attainable goals.

Our devices provide a sense of safety in a place of excluding concentration.

With robots, we are alone and imagine ourselves together.

Nothing is wrong with computer games but looking to them for amusement is one thing; looking to them for a life is another.

Online, you have a chance to write yourself into the person you want to be and to imagine others as you wish to them to be, constructing them for your purposes.

Alone with your thoughts, yet in contact with an almost tangible fantasy of the other, you feel free to play.

And, although you are alone, the potential for almost instantaneous contact gives an encouraging feeling of already being together.

At a screen, you feel protected and less burdened by expectations.

Teenagers report discomfort when they are without their cell phones as they need to be connected in order to feel like themselves.

As we communicate in ways that ask for almost instantaneous responses, we don’t allow sufficient space to consider complicated problems.

Now, we have found ways of spending more time with friends and family in which we hardly give them any attention at all.

Technology makes it easy to communicate when we wish and to disengage at will.

Overwhelmed by the volume and velocity of our lives, we turn to technology to help us find time.