The Corporate Professor   /   Spring 2012   /    Interview

A Conversation with Sherry Turkle

James Nolan and Sherry Turkle

Examining a robot at Detroit Navy Week; U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jon Rasmussen/Released; flickr.

Why we expect more from technology and less from each other.

James Nolan: You’ve spoken of your book, Alone Together, as a book of repentance. I'm wondering if you could reflect on that statement, in particular as it relates to your two previous books, Life on the Screen and The Second Self.

Sherry Turkle: I admit that characterization is probably on the strong side. In fact, I did express reservations in The Second Self and Life on the Screen, particularly about people getting stuck in simulated worlds, where things are friction free and less complex than in the real world. That lack of complexity is seductive. And I have always been concerned about the seductions of simulation as children grow up. But in general, the first two books were books of discovery. I felt that psychologists—both clinicians and research psychologists—were not paying sufficient attention to the vast new terrain of digital life. Computers were evocative objects that offered psychology so many new questions. From the very beginning, confronted with even simple electronic toys and games computers, children were confronted with the Piagetian questions about what is alive and, indeed, what it means to be a person. And then, in virtual worlds, people were able to play with identity in new ways.

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