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Evocative Objects: Things We Think with Hardcover – 10 Aug 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press (10 Aug. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262201682
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262201681
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2.1 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 681,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Authors

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Product Description


"Evocative Objects is a collection of great richness and complexity. Reading these essays transforms one's sense of the most commonplace objects, and prompts us to explore the palimpsest of the past within us." --Jill Ker Conway, President Emerita, Smith College, author of The Road from Coorain "Original, absorbing, and beautifully written, this collection of essays will forever change the way you look at the objects in your life." --Helen Epstein, author of Children of the Holocaust and Where She Came From: A Daughter's Search for her Mother's History

About the Author

Sherry Turkle is Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT and Founder and Director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. A psychoanalytically trained sociologist and psychologist, she is the author of The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (Twentieth Anniversary Edition, MIT Press), Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, and Psychoanalytic Politics: Jacques Lacan and Freud's French Revolution. She is the editor of Evocative Objects: Things We Think With, Falling for Science: Objects in Mind, and The Inner History of Devices, all three published by the MIT Press.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Neil Armstrong on 7 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was suggested to me as I am an artist who often works with existing objects as an integral aspect of my work. It is a good bedtime read in the sense that you can dip in and out of these thoughtful and wide ranging essays... all very well written and accessible; snapshots into their authors lives.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By G. Dexter on 19 Jan. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a fascinating and thought provoking book which I have enjoyed a great deal . However, the Kindle edition suffers from odd formatting with seemingly arbitrary page and section run ons. The main irritation is that the footnotes aren't clickable, which means a lots of paging backwards and forwards to the relevant section. Very annoying in an academic book.
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By J on 13 Jun. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A mixed bad in every sense of the word. The sheer range of responses is impressive, and found myself connecting with many of them on a number of different, and often unexpected, levels. I did find, however, as I got into the latter part of the book, that it felt rather like eating a rich chocolate dessert; what tasted great at first was beginning to feel a little sickly and too much of a good thing.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
thought-provoking and easy to read 11 Dec. 2007
By A. Philley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book because it seemed to get to ideas I've been using in my latest painting project. Turkle gives a very nice and brief introduction to how she became interested in objects as a path to philosophy and ways of thinking about the world. The vignettes are rather random and I think quite beautiful. This is not a book that will have a great final point. It meanders and allows you to make associations and hopefully draw some conclusions about your own life and the objects in it. I also like that the book itself is a wonderful object. About the size of a hymnal or some other type of book meant to be held and easy to carry around. A very nice book as a gift for someone who has too many things!
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
"Evocative Objects" -- insightful and absorbing 10 Oct. 2007
By Alice K. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is a gem. In this collection of essays, the authors reflect on how a seemingly simple object - a rolling pin, a train, a pair of ballet slippers - can serve as an emotional marker and play a powerful role in understanding relationships, life transitions and loss. I'll recommend this book to my book group because it should prompt a lively discussion about the evocative objects of the members.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
"Evocative Objects" --elegant and evocative 8 Oct. 2007
By shrink reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
THis is a lovely book, a treat for the imagination. Sherry Turkle has arranged these short essays with photographs and artfully chosen bits of literature, psychology, or cultural theory for accompaniment. Her own essays are erudite, clear, and beautifully written. REading this will prompt enjoyable meditations on your own evocative objects.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
It's a mistake to believe that things are "just" things 3 Jun. 2009
By Stephen Hage - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Book Review submitted by: Stephen J. Hage, [...]

This is an unexpectedly delightful yet seriously thoughtful book that invites you reexamine your relationship to objects, about which, you seldom, if ever think.

It's a collection of essays written by humanists, designers, scientists and artists--thoughtful individuals--that disclose the fluidity and complexity of being alive by revealing their very personal relationships with objects as mundane as a rolling pin and as banal as comic book superheroes.

Each essay is paired with writings from philosophy, history, literature and theory which resonate with the essay in ways that illuminate both what the essayist is saying and what he or she means.

Each essay, in a very different way, demonstrates why it is a mistake to assume that objects are nothing more than inanimate collections of atoms and molecules. They show instead that objects can be and often are capable of evoking potent emotional responses dealing with grief, fear, loss, love, hatred, abandonment, intellectual curiosity, poverty and existence.

Here's a taste of what's in store for you should you choose to read this book:


Before the essay the paired writing offers this: "To get to the idea of playing it is helpful to think of the preoccupation that characterizes the playing of a young child. The content does not matter. What matters is the near withdrawal state, akin to the concentration of older children and adults. The playing child inhabits an area that cannot be easily left, nor can it easily admit intrusions. This area of playing is not inner psychic reality. It is outside the individual but it is not the external world. Into this play area the child gathers objects or some sample derived from inner or personal reality...[Thus] in playing, the child manipulates external phenomena with dream meaning and feeling [And] there is a direct development from transitional phenomena to playing, and from playing to shared playing, and from this to cultural experiences." --D. W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality

The essay is about the experiences of a little girl with an actual stuffed bunny and explores how, at first, she finds it no different from "the rest of the pastel objects" of her world. As you follow the story you learn how the little girl (the author's sister) develops the idea that a she can love a bunny.

Next you come to understand how she deals with the separation anxiety associated with the realization that when she begins nursery school she won't be able to take Murray with her. Later you learn how the little girl infuses Murray with a life of his own in a utopian setting with provinces and capitals and a complicated topography. And finally the author reveals this about Murray: "...he has given me a ringside seat at the performance of Shayna's imagination, even as I remind myself that in fact it was she, as his creator who bought me the ticket to that seat."

This book will make you laugh and cry, say WHAT(?) and oh yeah, I know exactly what that feels like. I found reading it like riding an intellectual rollercoaster that forced me to reexamine not only objects but my relationship with and to them.

The book begins and ends with an essay by Sherry Turkle which adds to the reading experience and further illuminates how and why objects, can and do become powerfully evocative.

I recommend this book without reservation.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
On our connections to eveyday things 8 Feb. 2009
By L. King - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
My own experiences echoes that of the previous reviewer David Block. Turkle opens up an interesting subject for discussion but I was expecting a deeper analysis. The closing essay by Turkle indicates and reviews points of interest but but doesn't satisfy. I was expecting Turkle to say more to tie the ideas together.

The bulk of the book is a collection of essays by researchers at MIT about particular objects that they have imbued with personal meaning. Most of these are quite enjoyable, the ones that stood out for me include Carole Strohecker on "Knots", Judith Donath on her "1964 Ford Falcon" (I was the last owner of a 1964 Ford Fairlane and can relate) and Howard Gardiner on "Keyboards" (I'm reading him in another book)... as I review the index every single essay except Turkle's is memorable.

Initially I tried to read the book in a single setting, and then got bored - it was good, but not all at once. I then finished it bit by bit, sipping the experiences. I'd recommend this as a gift book for someone who is a collector or who someone like myself just likes to browse in antique and craft shops for interesting items. I'd also recommend this book for writing teachers as a jumping off point for student essays.

Perhaps the best response to reading this book is to write your own personal chapter about similar objects in your own life, perhaps one that connects you to a previous generation. For example I have a scalloped bowl designed to look like a leaf of lettuce that belonged to my mother and before that my grandmother. Its slightly chipped , but I use it carefully once a year in memory of them.
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