Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Alone Together: Friends in Cyberspace Psychological Side Effects Sherry Turkle

Tags: Loneliness in Cyberspace Friends Like Avatars Discarded Often Alone Together Turkle Creativity

Since I spend a considerable time along reading and writing, I noticed that I really immensely enjoy talking to friends on the phone much more than I remember in the past and also love talking to friendly Eugene friends, shoppers and checkout people which I also enjoy, something I did not do much in New Jersey and Los Angeles because even smiling can be as dangerous as driving.

Ms. Turkle's book Alone Together really answered my gut feeling why I would not enjoy texting, Face Booking, and Twittering. i find even the comments to articles in the New York Times really dumb and superficial. The letters to the editor are just the opposite.

Since the mid-1990s, Americans have become dumber and dumber. I even noticed this when my day-night job became recruiting chemists and engineers at dinners in the mid 1970s. My thesis professor Herbert C. Brown agreed with me when he complained that he could not get the same caliber of Ph.D. candidates to conduct research. One Korean manager told me that if it was up to him, he would only hire immigrants because they were the best. At this time many of the best started becoming medical doctors, a more lucrative and secure profession. The worst doctor I had was a former engineer! Now 30-40 percent of MIT physicists and mathematicians go to Wall Street.

Creativity has gone down 20 percent since the Internet in the USA. http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11264 Even at MIT, students admitted that they could not sit down and write an essay longer than 15 minutes at a time. Creativity, unlike what is often reported, depends on a vast storage of information from more than one area in our brain. That is why experts are often poor at innovating because they know too much about failures and are stuck in old ideas and information.

Getting an idea from Google is like getting our computer to come up with an original idea. Ludicrous. The Chinese who scored the highest in Science, Math, and Reading are also the most creative. More and more immigrants and women are coming up with the best ideas in science.

Jim Kawakami, Feb 22, 2011, http://jimboguy.blogspot.com

Alone Together: Friends in Cyberspace Psychological Side Effects, Michiko Kakutani, NY Times, Feb 21, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/books/22book.html?src=me&ref=general Teenagers who send and receive six to eight thousand texts a month and spend hours a day on Facebook. Mourners who send text messages during a memorial service because they can’t go an hour without using their BlackBerries. Children who see an authentic Galapagos tortoise at the American Museum of Natural History and can’t understand why the museum didn’t use a robot tortoise instead. High school students who wonder how much they should tilt their Facebook profiles toward what their friends will think is cool, or what college admissions boards might prize. ...

In two earlier books, Ms. Turkle — a professor of the social studies of science and technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a clinical psychologist — put considerable emphasis on the plethora of opportunities for exploring identity that computers and networking offer people. In these pages, she takes a considerably darker view, arguing that our new technologies — including e-mail messages, Facebook postings, Skype exchanges, role-playing games, Internet bulletin boards and robots — have made convenience and control a priority while diminishing the expectations we have of other human beings.

Ms. Turkle’s thesis here — some of which will sound overly familiar, but some of which turns out to be savvy and insightful — is that even as more and more people are projecting human qualities onto robots (i.e., digital toys like the Furby and computerized companions like the Paro, designed to provide entertainment and comfort to the elderly), we have come to expect less and less from human encounters as mediated by the Net.

Instead of real friends, we “friend” strangers on Facebook. Instead of talking on the phone (never mind face to face), we text and tweet. Technology, she writes, “makes it easy to communicate when we wish and to disengage at will.” ...

the author has spent decades examining how people interact with computers and other devices — her first book on computers and people, “The Second Self,” was published in 1984; the next, “Life on the Screen,” in 1995 — and by situating her findings in historical perspective, she is able to lend contextual ballast to her case studies.

Many of the adolescents cited in her book express a decided distaste for using the phone. One high school sophomore says telephone calls mean you have to have a conversation and conversations are “almost always too prying, it takes too long, and it is impossible to say ‘good-bye.’ ” Another student says: “When you talk on the phone, you don’t really think about what you’re saying as much as in a text. On the telephone, too much might show.” ...

There are other consequences to constant networking as well. When we are always tethered to our offices, our families, our friends — even when hiking in the woods or walking by the ocean — then solitude becomes increasingly elusive, and creative, contemplative, carefully considered thought increasingly gives way to immediate, sometimes ill-considered reactions. ... (Zucker, Genius at NBC,Today Show head at 25, destroyed programming at NBC. Hammer, a woman and former head of PBS in Boston, saved NBC cable by listening to her staff and taking risks. Jim)

... the larger and important points she wants to make in this volume — the notion that technology offers the illusion of companionship without the demands of intimacy and communication without emotional risk, while actually making people feel lonelier and more overwhelmed.

“Once we remove ourselves form the flow of physical, messy, untidy life — and both robotics and networked life do that — we become less willing to get out there and take a chance,” she writes. “A song that became popular on YouTube in 2010, ‘Do You Want to Date My Avatar?’ ends with the lyrics ‘And if you think I’m not the one, log off, log off, and we’ll be done.’ ”