Mar 21

A culture that contributes to self-reflection

I just came across a good interview with Sherry Turkle that, when compared with her general techno-utopianism in Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, is more representative of her increasingly measured approach to the societal effects of new technologies. Her recent assessments are more nuanced and rather satisfying.

Our society tends toward a breathless techno-enthusiasm: “We are more connected; we are global; we are more informed.” But just as not all information put on the web is true, not all aspects of the new sociality should be celebrated. We communicate with quick instant messages, “check-in” cell calls and emoticon graphics. All of these are meant to quickly communicate a state. They are not meant to open a dialogue about complexity of feeling. Although the culture that grows up around the cellphone is a “talk culture”, it is not necessarily a culture that contributes to self-reflection. Self-reflection depends on having an emotion, experiencing it, taking one’s time to think it through and understand it, but only sometimes electing to share it.

Interviewer: Is this a bad thing?
The self that grows up with multitasking and rapid response measures success by calls made, emails answered, messages responded to. In this buzz of activity, there may be losses that we are not ready to sustain. We insist that our world is increasingly complex, yet we have created a communications culture that has decreased the time available for us to sit and think, uninterrupted. (Else 2006)

Else, Liz. (2006). I’ll have to ask my friends. New Scientist, 191, 48-49.

Side-note: I think the Second Life enthusiasts are getting to me. Step away from the kool-aide, people.

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