Sherry TurkleAs a Professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT, Sherry Turkle is well-known for her research on digital technology and human relationships. For over 30 years, Professor Turkle has been researching the psychology of people’s relationships with technology and how it affects personal relationships, creativity, and productivity. Professor Turkle has appeared on various news channels like CNN, NBC, ABC, and NPR as an expert on the social and psychological effects of technology. To share her theories and research with the public, Turkle has written multiple books and a few articles on the topic, as well as given a TED Talk. Her books include “Alone Together: Why we expect more From Technology and Less From Ourselves,” and most recently “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.” While Turkle is a fan of technology, she states that too much reliance on it for communication can be detrimental to relationships. Turkle believes there’s a time for the phone and a time for real conversation. Esquire magazine has named Turkle one of 40 under 40 who are changing the nation.
Turkle’s research is based on the concept that we, as a society, are together but alone - while we are more connected than ever, we feel more alone than ever. In her TED talk, she says:
“We text, email, shop, gamble, and play games while in meetings, in class, at dinner, and during playtime - all times that used to be sacred. We are essentially alone together. Does this disconnect us from ourselves and reality?”Communication technologies have the capacity to change a person’s personality. When someone hides behind a screen, they gain the confidence they don’t have when face to face. Technology offers the opportunity to delete, edit, and craft our conversations to make sure we are presented in the way we desire. Conversations, on the other hand, happen in real time and are uncontrollable. In this sense, technology promises simplicity while real conversation promises complexity. In Turkle’s opinion, technology supports the “Goldilocks Effect,” limiting the amount of time and effort needed to sustain a relationship to “just enough.” Technology allows us to only pay attention to the things that interest us, holding all else at a distance. This may be desirable in some cases, but in the case of conversation, it runs the risk of creating pretend empathy.