Sherry Turkle

Sherry Turkle

Selma Šabanovic (Indiana University, USA) and Linnda R. Caporael (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0315-8.ch001
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Sherry Turkle, a pioneer in the study of technology and the self, is both a scholar and a public intellectual. Using a unique voice and methodology combining ethnographic and clinical interviews, Turkle traces the rise of the computer revolution and the emergence and adoption of different technologies and their affordances—computers, the Internet, social robots. In this process, her theoretical direction also develops from a focus on the self, identity, and finally, social connections and disconnections. This article describes how Turkle’s work chronicles the changing conceptions of human (and machine) possibilities, her recent turn to sociability, and her unique methodologies as major intellectual contributions.
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Pioneering The Study Of Technology And The Self

Sherry Turkle was awarded her Bachelor’s and Doctoral degrees in Sociology and Personality Psychology at Harvard University. She joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1976, becoming a member of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society. In 2001, she founded and directed the MIT Initiative on Technology and the Self. She is now the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology. Her broad education covered a range of fields including the developmental theories of Piaget, sociology, anthropology, and psychoanalysis. After completing her first book, Psychoanalytic Politics: Freud's French Revolution, Turkle made an apparently unusual turn to the study of people's relationships to technology, investigating how Americans were adopting computers as an analog to mind in the emerging “computer culture.”

Her method in these pioneering studies of technological cultures is ethnographic and clinical, relying on a broad scope of formal and informal observations and interviews to understand people’s subjective experiences with technology through their personal narratives as well as depict the broader cultural trends they signify. Another feature of her methodology is its accessibility. Turkle is one of those rare scholars whose scholarly work also contributes to her reputation as widely recognized public intellectual.

Turkle’s scholarly contributions can be characterized in terms of three major conceptual themes: the self interacting with the computer as an evocative object; simulation and playful recreations of identity; and social relationships afforded by the increasingly technological world of computers, the Internet, and social robots and media. While this work is well-known and widely reviewed, this brief article focuses on Turkle's work in a broader framework: her chronicling of the changing conceptions of human (and machine) possibilities, her recent turn to sociability, and her unique methodologies.

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