Sharing Alone with Sherry Turkle

This is a awesome talk by Sherry Turkle. Turkle is a professor in the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT and the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self.

She is the author Alone Together : Why we expect more from technology and less from each other and this talk introduces the book.

The pitch here : mobile and social take us away from real time conversation. It helps us setting enough distance with each others so that we can control conversation while editing our texting, posts, emails. We can therefore control the image we present about ourselves. As such, these tools not only change the way we do but they also change the way we are.

Profound and powerful it is strongly recommended. I recognized myself in some of the examples and I’m sure you also will. The second part (as of 09:30mns) is scary in how people wish devices could become more human.

A question to my Social Business Activists friends : how do we deal with this on a personal level and on an enterprise one ?

Some transcripts one click away.

Parents text and email during breakfast while children complain about not having their parents full attention. And the same children deny each others their full attention as they’re texting (therefore are not together) while they are together.

We remove ourselves from grief and revery and go into our phone. Why does it matter ? It matters to me because we’re setting ourselves into troubles. Troubles in how we relate to each other but also troubles in how we relate to ourselves, our capacity for self reflection.

This fifty year old business man told me he feels he doesn’t have colleagues anymore at work. When he goes to work, he doesn’t stop to talk to anybody, he does not call, he says he doesn’t want to interrupt his colleagues because they’re too busy on their email. But then he stops himself and says I’m not telling you the truth. Actually I’m the one who doesn’t want to be interrupted.

People want to control the distance with their relationships : not too close, not too far, just right. But what might be right for this middle age businessman might be a problem for an adolescent that needs face to face relationship.

A 18 year old who does everything via texting told me “someday, but certainly not now, I would love to learn how to have a conversation”. When I ask what’s wrong with having a conversation, people say : “it takes place in real time, and you can’t control what’s you’re gonna say.” That’s the bottom line : texting, email, posting, all these things help us present ourselves as we want to be. We get to edit and that’s mean we get to delete, and we get to retouch, not too little, not too much, just right.

Human relationships are rich, messy and demanding. We’re cleaning them up with technology. We sacrifice conversation for mere connection. We seem to stop caring.

That feeling that no one is listening to me is very important in our relationship with technology. This feeling makes us want to spend time with machines that seems to care about us. We expect more from technology and less from each other. Technology appeals us most where we are most vulnerable. We’re lonely but we are afraid of intimacy. We are designing technology that gives us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. We turn to technology to keep us connected in ways we can easily control.

Constant connection is changing the way people think of themselves. It’s shaping a new human being. The best way to describe it is : “I share therefore I am”. We use technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings. Before it was, I have a feeling, I want to make a call. Now it’s : “I want to have a feeling, I need to send a text”.

Wonderful speak, do yourself a favor and spend the 20 mns of this TED talk.

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