Sherry Turkle, The 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 the Self, has devoted her life’s work to studying the effects of technology on human relationships.
When Turkle spoke at Calvin College’s January series, a colleague of mine wondered aloud if she was “an alarmist,” and others in the audience who came to the microphone seemed to agree. When new technology first arrives on the scene, her detractors said, don’t they always prophesy doom and gloom? And are you, Professor Turkle, not just more of the same?
Is Turkle an alarmist, a prophet of doom, or an incisive seer? Her latest book, Alone Together, is a difficult and at times depressing read. It is not difficult because of complex subject matter or writing style; it is emotionally difficult because we recognize our own selves and lives in the conclusions she draws. Sometimes the picture is so gloomy that you just have to put the book down for a while.
And yet, you will find yourself picking it up again, because you know that what Turkle wants to tell us is important and painfully relevant to how we live and work today.