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Book review: ‘Alone Together’

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Are recent tech triumphs such as text messaging changing we interact with people for the worse? Turkle believes they are.

MIT professor Sherry Turkle sounds like a crotchety old man. Oh, she writes with an academic tone, and she’s clearly done her research, but her main thesis comes straight from your grandpa: Robots are scary; text messaging and Facebook are bad. Sure, that’s a simplification of Turkle’s argument, but it’s a fitting one; Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other is filled with simplifications and misunderstandings.

The Details

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other
Two stars
By Sherry Turkle

In discussing text messaging, Turkle writes, “We don’t ask the open-ended ‘How are you?’ Instead, we ask the more limited ‘Where are you?’ and ‘What’s up?’ These are good questions for getting someone’s location and making a simple plan. They are not so good for opening a dialogue about the complexity of feeling.” Text messaging isn’t supposed to open a dialogue, and “What’s up?” is young-person-talk for “How are you?”

Alone Together has a lot of fascinating research subjects (like Andy, a senior who treats his Real Baby Doll like his ex-wife Edith). And I do agree with some of Turkle’s conclusions (e.g., that devices can keep us distracted and isolated)...but the way she gets there ain’t pretty.

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