Tag Archives: Sherry Turkle

Simulated Authenticity

Parker Busswood
CNET English 100
Aurelea Mahood
February 5, 2010

SIMULATED AUTHENTICITY

“Authenticity in the age of digital companions,” an article by MIT professor Sherry Turkle, explores the ever-changing landscape of human-machine interactions and delves into the issue of relational authenticity. Evolving technologies have allowed for the development of increasingly complex and sophisticated “relational artifacts” (Turkle 502) that are designed to communicate with humans realistically. The interactive nature of these digital companions can potentially allow users to experience therapeutic benefits through their relationships with these devices. However, as relational technologies continue to develop, spawning more faithful recreations of human characteristics and emotions, the “erosion of the line in the sand” (512) between humans and machines could forever impact the way we view and develop personal relationships.

Many studies, including those conducted by Turkle and her colleagues, have demonstrated the therapeutic ability of relational robots in a variety of settings, particularly in elder-care situations. By modeling a user’s behaviour and feelings, robots such as Paro are able to provide sick, elderly, or depressed people a means by which they can comfort themselves and attempt to resolve personal issues. Despite the fact that these relational artifacts are unable to understand or care about their users’ problems, their ability to respond to environmental stimuli and “push our Darwinian buttons” allows them to “inspire ‘the feeling of friendship’” (511). Even though the robot has lacks the capacity to understand or care about its user, it is interesting that people are able to experience beneficial effects based on the illusion that a digital creature appreciates and cares about them.

Although using digital companions may be advantageous for therapeutic purposes, this shift from human-to-human relationships to developing simulated relationships with machines marks a paradigm shift in the way we view authentic relationships. As the exposure of each successive generation to computational objects becomes more widespread, so too does the tendency to forge relationships and feel complex emotions towards these devices. The experiences that people have with digital companions could potentially result in less value being placed on authentic emotions or aliveness as a prerequisite for relationships. Another concern with integrating robotic technology into our culture is that we as a society will delegate more tasks to robots, becoming more reliant on the technology to handle responsibilities such as caring for the elderly.

The human desire to interact and build relationships with robots and other relational artifacts despite their lack of ability to understand or care about their user’s thoughts and feelings “indicates that traditional notions of authenticity are in crisis” (502). With the advent of sophisticated robotic technology, humans are no longer restricted to authentic relationships with each other, but rather they can interact and simulate relationships with machines. The continued expansion and development of relational technology will inevitably lead to closer replications of human emotions and abilities, blurring the line between authentic human relationships and those experienced with computational objects. This phenomenon illustrates the growing potential for a revolutionary shift from relationships based exclusively on human interaction to those which involve machines that simulate the authenticity of a human relationship.

Word count: 498

WORK CITED

Turkle, Sherry. “Authenticity in the age of digital companions.” Interaction Studies 8.3 (2007): 501-517.  Communication & Mass Media Complete. EBSCO. Web. 3 Feb. 2010. <http://web.mit.edu/sturkle/www/pdfsforstwebpage/
ST_Authenticity%20in%20age%20of%20digi%20comp.pdf
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In Your Business

        I know everything about everyone. I know that the boy with the red hair, sitting in front of me, has a fear of family gatherings. Every time a holiday comes around, he gets sick. It’s not that he’s pretending, it’s just that the thought of all his family in one space, at one time, makes him feel nauseous. So he opts out by sleeping on the couch, until it’s all over. This boy is not a friend or a companion, I know these things about him simply because we share the same bus route home. I sit and I mind my own business, but I hear things. People all around me are on their phones, having conversations with people miles away, it’s like I’m in a zombie land. In “Always On/ Always On You: The Tethered Self,” Sherry Turkle talks about the use of technology in public spaces. Places that were once public, have become private for people and what Turkle calls their “tethering technologies.”

       I spend a considerable amount of my day on public transit. People stare forward and talk, completely disconnected from the here and now. I may listen to my ipod or read my book but I am aware of what’s happening around me. However, I can’t say that for the majority of the people who I ride the train, or take the bus with. People that I have encountered seem to be completely content with sharing their weekend plans, life failures and current sexual fantasies while sitting next to me on rapid transit. Sherry Turkle talks about people being tethered to their mobile phones, but has it really come to a point where people can share things so personal in what you would call a public space?

        After hearing a man on the train leave a voicemail for someone, I was convinced that people were having these private conversations to attract attention. It was rush hour and the train was packed full. This ordinary man was leaning against the glass and I could hear him talking into his cell phone. He was going on about how he had just gotten out of the hospital, because days earlier, he suffered a heart attack. I wasn’t the only one listening, the entire train was engaged in the mans dramatic story. A woman even looked up at him to offer her seat. The man looked a little sad and shook his head. Clearly he knew that people were listening to his conversation, but did he care?

         Maybe it isn’t that this man was looking for attention, or the hopes of finding a seat, but he was doing what seemed important at the time. He needed to tell his friend what happened to him, and he found the time to do so while riding the train. Even if this was the case, I didn’t need to know that this particular man had suffered a heart attack, or that the red head boy felt nauseous at the sight of his extended family. I know far too much about the people of Vancouver because they are connecting to what matters to them, and they are doing so on the train and in cafes. There are no public places, only spaces where people go, always connected to their “tethered self.”

Ruby Flynn

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Digital Reincarnation

Parker Busswood
CNET English 100
Aurelea Mahood
October 9, 2009

DIGITAL REINCARNATION

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.

Word count: 498

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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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Sherry Turkle and Tethering

By Erin Carolan

Sherry Turkle’s piece “Always On” instantly drew me in to a world of cell phones, cyborgs, laptops and PDA’s, bringing the issue of our crumbling social communication standards into focus.  Turkle explores the idea that we are “tethered” to our everyday technologies, and sneaks that concept into each different topic she discusses, urging us to keep this point in focus.   

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