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Alone Together Hardcover – 3 Feb 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (3 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465010210
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465010219
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 3 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 96,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The idea of gadgets betraying us takes on a more lurid hue when we consider having sex with robots"!!! They go on to call the book "subtle and interesting."
--The Guardian

About the Author

Sherry Turkle is the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, the founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, and a licensed clinical psychologist. She is the author or The Second Self and Life on the Screen. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By dr_sign on 20 Mar. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
'Alone Together' is the third volume in a trilogy produced over three decades by Sherry Turkle, a psychoanalyst based at MIT, the preceding volumes being 'The Second Self' (1984) and 'Life on the Screen' (1995). I read each one soon after publication and found them engrossing, thought-provoking and well-illustrated with illuminating case-studies and insightful observations. The current volume is in two parts: the first develops themes from 'The Second Self' (here related to `sociable robots'), the second from 'Life on the Screen' (which focused on the construction of identities online). Because of the limitations of space, my comments here focus on Part Two. Whereas the earlier volumes were relatively upbeat about the implications of new technologies, the tone of the current volume feels markedly more jaundiced, alerting us to some potential social costs of `social media'.

Provocatively, the main refrain is that in an online culture we are always connected (Turkle says `tethered'), but are rarely (meaningfully) connecting. Although (somewhat ironically) one may hear the same sentiment in a current commercial for a well-known matchmaking website, Turkle's nuanced stance `is not romantically nostalgic, not Luddite in the least'; indeed, she remains `cautiously optimistic'. This is a seriously reflective work well-informed by extensive ethnographic studies. The focus on authenticity and intimacy recalls the concerns voiced by Socrates in Plato's 'Phaedrus' about an earlier technological development--publishing one's ideas in written form--in particular the fear that communication at a distance would undermine genuine (face-to-face) human discourse. This has been a recurrent anxiety throughout the history of communication technologies.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D&D TOP 50 REVIEWER on 25 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback
Turkle describes herself as a psychoanalytically trained psychologist who works as an anthropologist at MIT. She offers fascinating early insights in the ways technology is changing society. Her book is well-written and jargon-free: her thoughtful views of what she learned in over a decade of combining research and personal interviews describe a new world that's simply alien to babyboomers like me who are proud of the way we've mastered the computer, email, IM, iphone, ipad, kindle, websearching, shopping online - many of us have even created our own websites.

The first half of the book is about robot pets, an insight into toys that can learn and seem alive, and how humans - especially children and the elderly - treat them and are affected by them. The second half of the book is about social media. I was shocked (but somehow not surprised) at what she has learned about our new ways of relating:

- the astounding way children and the elderly react to these latest robot pets, who seem real, make demands (suffer when not looked after well) and appear to learn - how they speak to, and treat, these robots - invariably as if they are living creatures - as well as how these robots are meeting many needs for "human" contact;
- the intent is to create ever-more-sophisticated robots who will be used for babysitting and to caretake the infirm - Turkle even discusses marriage between human-like robots and humans as a real possibility, although she expresses her concerns about the inevitable loss of intimacy and authenticity;
- so many ignored children, whose parents text all the way through family dinners and even when collecting them from school (to the extent that they even fail to say hello as the child gets into the car!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Dr. G. SPORTON on 19 Jun. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Turkle's excellent book attempts to balance the flow of enthusiasm for digital technology and techno-boosterism of sci-fi style futures by examining how humans as social actors engage with technology. It is a forlorn hope that some symmetry could be achieved with the raging determinism of the technology corporates with their blythe dismissal of most of Turkle's objections, but this joins a growing list of critical works about the ethics and implications of technology as determined by technologists. It certainly seems clear from this book that creative, empathetic, intelligent and enquiring minds are developing the very technologies that will reduce these qualities in the rest of us.

In effect, this is two books. The first half deals with the kind of interactive robotics that can be introduced precisely because of our neglect of one another: comfort robots for the elderly and interactive ones for kids. The stories that emerge from Turkle's observations of interactions between people and machines in this context are unquestionably disturbing. The common justification is that, given most people working in old age or child care don't bring their human qualities to bear in their work, so what if a robot replaces them? So, here we have the best minds of the age working in well funded labs to design robots that will release us from our obligations towards one another. Robots, Turkle warns, will turn out even better than humans as they won't ever let us down, and the idea clearly alarms her.

The second section is about how the always-on network has altered our perception of social engagement with one another.
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