Tag Archives: MIT

Sherry Turkle – Alone Together

Via Google/YouTube:

Consider Facebook — it’s human contact, only easier to engage with and easier to avoid. Developing technology promises closeness. Sometimes it delivers, but much of our modern life leaves us less connected with people and more connected to simulations of them.
Sherry Turkle (wikimedia)
In “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other“, MIT technology and society professor Sherry Turkle explores the power of our new tools and toys to dramatically alter our social lives. It’s a nuanced exploration of what we are looking for—and sacrificing—in a world of electronic companions and social networking tools, and an argument that, despite the hand-waving of today’s self-described prophets of the future, it will be the next generation who will chart the path between isolation and connectivity.

Sherry Turkle is the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT. She is frequently interviewed in Time, Newsweek, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, on NBC News, and more. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Update 20110707: A similar talk for the RSA:

If you’d like more, MIT World has a two hour video of a conversation with Turkle in which she describes her evolving appraisal of the impact of digital technology:

Related: Is Facebook making us sad? Stanford University research and Sherry Turkle’s new book Alone Together suggest that social networking may foster loneliness (Slate Magazine)

American Exceptionalism

American ExceptionalismThe Washington Post recently touched on the fascinating topic of American Exceptionalism, since it appears to be increasingly used as a distinction in American politics as to who is a patriot and who isn’t (which of course is hardly a new battle). It certainly is comical to see some people drape themselves in it as if it were a good thing. To wit, the WaPo article starts off with:

Is this a great country or what?

“American exceptionalism” is a phrase that, until recently, was rarely heard outside the confines of think tanks, opinion journals and university history departments.

But with Republicans and tea party activists accusing President Obama and the Democrats of turning the country toward socialism, the idea that the United States is inherently superior to the world’s other nations has become the battle cry from a new front in the ongoing culture wars. Lately, it seems to be on the lips of just about every Republican who is giving any thought to running for president in 2012. (…)

That the average American thinks their country is the greatest country in the world shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has encountered one either in cyberspace or in real life. It’s greatness (or superiority) is extolled remarkably often even in casual conversation, even though, as is claimed in the introduction to the concept in Wikipedia, some would argue that is not meant to express superiority:

American exceptionalism refers to the opinion that the United States is qualitatively different from other nations. Its exceptionalism stems from its emergence from a revolution, becoming “the first new nation”, and developing a unique American ideology, based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism and laissez-faire”. This observation can be traced to Alexis de Tocqueville, the first writer to describe the United States as “exceptional”. Although the term does not imply superiority, some writers have used it in that sense. To them, the United States is a “shining city on a hill”, and exempt from historical forces that have affected other countries.

In the 1960s “postnationalist” scholars rejected American exceptionalism, arguing that the United States had not broken from European history, and had retained class inequities, imperialism and war. Furthermore, they saw every nation as subscribing to some form of exceptionalism. (…)

Certainly some rather notorious examples of other nations with very similar thinking (i.e. that their particular god was on their side and/or had a special purpose for their nation) aren’t very difficult to find in history.

Continue reading American Exceptionalism