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Alone Together Hardcover – 3 Feb 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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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: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 423,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I still think about this book, even a couple of years after I read it - perhaps because what it has to say is increasingly relevant. Although I think the chapters on robots are less relevant and less interesting (who uses tomogotchi anymore?), I think what they have to say about humans emotionally identifying with technology does set the reader up for the very important second half of the book, which talks about how our social relationships have been heavily influences by technology. It surprised me, for example, that teenagers never use the telephone anymore because it causes so much anxiety! That spontaneous-being in the world has kind of ceased to exist, only to be replaced by the well-crafted social media persona. The proposed effects of this are both interesting and devastating and I think everyone - especially parents - should read this book. In fact, I hope she writes an update in a few years so we can chart how we've progressed in an increasingly digital environment. (I don't, for the record, think that the internet is a bad thing! Just that we should all be more aware of how we use it and how it impacts and will impact our lives.)
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I haven't quite finished reading this book, I'm a 3rd of the way through. So far there's lots of talk about trials with robots and children. At times I find the writing a bit clunky and formulaic. I'm waiting to get to the good bit about where the impact of technology on our lives is headed. For the time-being it is mainly fascinating learning about the research being carried out on robots and how we relate to them.
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