Tag Archives: “Always On”

Digital Reincarnation

Parker Busswood
CNET English 100
Aurelea Mahood
October 9, 2009


In her article “Always-on/Always-on-you: The Tethered Self,” Sherry Turkle makes reference to the widespread use of online social games as a tool for rethinking and experimenting with one’s identity. Users of such games are oftentimes adults who utilize these sites to gain a “feeling of everyday renewal” and escape for a few moments from their real lives. However, online games such as Second Life can also serve as a powerful means by which adolescents can shape their identities and self-images. Over the last decade, online role-playing games have evolved from simple forms of entertainment into influential devices for both adults and adolescents to experiment with and develop their personal identities.

Many believe that those who frequently delve into cyberspace through their avatars are lacking important social skills, negatively impacting their ability to fraternize with people they meet in the real world. The instant gratification and ability to experiment with one’s sense of self that Second Life and similar worlds offer is argued by some to be causing a dependence on these virtual worlds for social contact, potentially leading users to experience discomfiture in real-life social situations. Another characteristic of simulation games such as Second Life is that despite their efforts to faithfully recreate the real world, they experience, to some extent, a lack of verisimilitude in regards to their idealistic depiction of real life. This may not be an issue, however, to players who are eager to escape to an alternate and somewhat utopian vision of their lives and of the world in general.

In spite of these opinions, there is significant evidence to suggest that these digital 3D environments can benefit their users by allowing them to play out various scenarios and work out issues in their real lives, “often related to sexuality or intimacy.” People can utilize their virtual personae in an attempt to resolve certain dilemmas as they encounter them in life. This transference of aspects of people’s lives between the real and virtual worlds allows them to work through a myriad of challenges without experiencing real consequences as a result of their experimentation. The significance of these virtual worlds and their employment as self-help devices is alluded to by Turkle, who states that in these online settings, “the crippled can walk without crutches and the shy can improve their chances as seducers.”

The emergence of sophisticated online role-playing games whose purposes transcend entertainment has enabled users to resolve personal issues and develop their identities through the creation of online personae. Players are able to conceptualize an improved virtual life, providing them with the freedom to evaluate and experiment with various aspects of their lives in order to connect with themselves. These users are able to step back and view their lives from a different perspective and make changes to their online characters that can manifest themselves in the real world. This experimentation with personal identity in virtual realms effectively serves as a digital reincarnation that can have tremendous benefits on those who experience it.

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Regarding: “Being elsewhere” than you might be has become something of a marker of one’s sense of self-importance. (Always on, Sherry Turkle)

According to Sherry Turkle, “being elsewhere” can be defined as people ignoring those they are physically “with” to give priority to online virtual others .(Always on) Despite their physical presence in a certain environment, they are considered as “absent” from the perspective of their correspondents. Such “absence” often makes people they are actually with feel ignored and humiliated.  Is this “absence”, or “being elsewhere” a phenomenon of recently developed behavior patterns caused by modern technology; historically, was there anything similar to this phenomenon? Just imagine a high school classroom in 1920’s.  There are no electronic devices that lead students to somewhere else other than the classroom they are in. All of their eyes are on their teacher. The room is quiet except the teacher’s voice. Still, the students’ mind can be easily drifted to anywhere they want to be. One can be in a secret place where he or she met with his next door sweetheart the other day. Another can think of Charlie Chaplin, which he or she has been passionate about these days. Conventionally, those “being not attentive to some people they are physically with” has been considered “rude” and “highly inappropriate”. The same ethical standard might apply to people’s “being elsewhere” that modern technology; Internet, Blackberry, Ipod and so on has brought in.

Sherry Turkle illustrates how “being elsewhere” becomes a marker of one’s self-importance: students do e-mail during classes; business people do e-mail during meetings; parents do e-mail while playing with their children; couples do e-mail at dinner; people talk on the phone and do e-mail at the same. Once done surreptitiously, the habit of electronic co-presence is no longer something people feel they need to hide. Indeed, “being elsewhere” than where you might be has become something of a marker of one’s self-importance. (Always on) Truly, more and more people are doing e-mails in everyday life. Then, why does students’ doing e-mail have something to do with their sense of self-importance? If business people feel proud of themselves when doing e-mails during meetings, where is their sense of self-importance based on? Maybe it is from the pride in their multitasking skills, or vanity that they can show other people what they are capable of, or self contentment that they are up-to-date with these modern technology. Whatever it is, their basis is so fragile. It could easily be broken by simply realizing everybody else is doing the same thing in front of themselves. When all the people around them do the e-mails, they don’t feel themselves special and important any more. When they are leading a business meeting and watch participants doing e-mails during whole meeting, they come to realize how inappropriate it is to “be elsewhere” and the importance of “being present”. Sooner or later, people’s “not being elsewhere”, or “being present physically and mentally where they are supposed to be” will be a marker of their self-importance.

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My Generation: “Always On”

By Bettina Rezai

Sherry Turkle’s essay “Always On” speaks about how technology is affecting our everyday lives in this generation. For some of us, it has taken some form of our identity. Her outcome of the essay seems to touch most on trying to raise awareness to audiences who may not use it as much, those who are skeptical, and to those who use it so regularly, that most often don’t think about how big its impact is in our world. We are more attached to technology rather than direct connection with people – how often do we talk to people via MSN or Facebook than engaging in a face to face conversation?

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