Title: Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age
Author: Sherry Turkle
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: October 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Preeminent author and researcher Sherry Turkle has been studying digital culture for over thirty years. Long an enthusiast for its possibilities, here she investigates a troubling consequence: at work, at home, in politics, and in love, we find ways around conversation, tempted by the possibilities of a text or an email in which we don’t have to look, listen, or reveal ourselves. Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkle argues that we have come to a better understanding of where our technology can and cannot take us and that the time is right to reclaim conversation. The most human—and humanizing—thing that we do. The virtues of person-to-person conversation are timeless, and our most basic technology, talk, responds to our modern challenges. We have everything we need to start, we have each other.
I was quite intrigued by what Turkle had to say about how conversation is adapting as we become more and more reliant on our devices and our digital world. As someone in her mid-twenties who bought her first smartphone at 18 and received her first tablet at 20, I feel like technology and digital conversations has never been integral to my sense of self, nor to my conversations with my friends. It has certainly acted as an aid for connecting with other when I am not physically present, however I have always preferred face-to-face conversation with family and friends, opting for coffee or a long chat on the phone to texting or email.
Turkle brings up many valid points about how our phones and staying “connected” has changed the way we interact and converse with one another. It has always been a huge pet peeve of mine to be hanging out with someone, especially someone who I may not have seen in a while, and their cell phone has to be present, as though my presence and conversation is not enough to hold their attention or to appease their anxiety about being connected to others. I firmly believe in setting technology aside in social situations, trying to avoid using it as a crutch for social awkwardness or discomfort. There is nothing like a face to face, meaningful conversation with another person. Social media and technology cannot replace this.
Now, Turkle’s book certainly takes a strong stance in order to argue her point. Her conclusions can come across as being one sided. The reader must keep in mind that there are two sides to the coin. Turkle barely touches upon the vast number of people who do not rely on their devices for connecting with others. I do think she discusses something that is a problem in our world as we embrace and adapt with technology, but there are other perspectives to consider. I would have liked to see some hard statistics to support the material and I would have liked Turkle to discuss those who reject reliance on technology and why they are doing so in a world where technology is so ubiquitous.
I really thought Turkle took the time to thoroughly explore how our devices have permeated most aspects of our life: family life, romance, friendship, work, etc. It’s a well-rounded approach that leads the reader to consider the involvement of technology in every aspect of his/her life. It’s easy to envision yourself as a witness in nearly every situation and scenario that the author discusses. Additionally, Turkle’s points on technology and child rearing were shocking, but also very real. I’ve witnessed for myself the effect that constant connectivity to a device can have on both a parent and a child.
It certainly is a thought provoking book, though, and well written and argued. It’s very topical with our ever-changing technologies and our involvement with social media. Certainly food for thought.