Sherry Turkle

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Sherry Turkle

Best-Selling Author of “Reclaiming Conversation™”; Expert on Technology and Its Role in Transforming Relationships in a Digital Society; Sociologist and MIT Professor

Biography

Professor, author, consultant and researcher, Sherry Turkle has spent the last 30 years researching the psychology of people’s relationships with technology. She is the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT, as well as the founder and current director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, a center of research and reflection on the evolving connections between people and artifacts.

Referred to by many as the “Margaret Mead of digital culture,” Professor Turkle has investigated the intersection of digital technology and human relationships from the early days of personal computers to our current world of robotics, artificial intelligence, social networking and mobile connectivity. Her New York Times best-seller, “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age” (Penguin Press, October 2015), focuses on the importance of conversation in digital cultures, including business and the professions. Her previous book, “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other” (Basic Books, 2011), was a featured talk at TED2012, describing technology’s influence on relationships between friends, lovers, parents and children, and new instabilities in how we understand privacy and community, intimacy and solitude.

Professor Turkle’s exploration into our lives on the digital terrain shows how technological advancement doesn’t just catalyze changes in what we do – it affects how we think. Her research also raises critical questions about technology’s role in business productivity, asking whether multi-tasking actually leads to deteriorating performance in each of our tasks. Does our always-connected state affect our ability to think, to be creative and to innovate?

Professor Turkle has been profiled in such publications as The New York Times, Scientific American and WIRED. She is a featured media commentator on the effects of technology for CNN, NBC, ABC and NPR, including appearances on such programs as Nightline, 20/20 and The Colbert Report, and has been named a Harvard Centennial Medalist and a Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year. In 2014, she was named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Professor Turkle received a joint doctorate in sociology and personality psychology from Harvard University, and is a licensed clinical psychologist.

Videos

Books & Research

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

(Penguin Press, October 2015)

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

(Basic Books, January 2011)

Evocative Objects: Things We Think With

(The MIT Press, September 2007)

Simulation and Its Discontents

(The MIT Press, March 2009)

The Inner History of Devices

(The MIT Press, October 2008)

Biography

Professor, author, consultant and researcher, Sherry Turkle has spent the last 30 years researching the psychology of people’s relationships with technology. She is the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT, as well as the founder and current director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, a center of research and reflection on the evolving connections between people and artifacts.

Referred to by many as the “Margaret Mead of digital culture,” Professor Turkle has investigated the intersection of digital technology and human relationships from the early days of personal computers to our current world of robotics, artificial intelligence, social networking and mobile connectivity. Her New York Times best-seller, “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age” (Penguin Press, October 2015), focuses on the importance of conversation in digital cultures, including business and the professions. Her previous book, “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other” (Basic Books, 2011), was a featured talk at TED2012, describing technology’s influence on relationships between friends, lovers, parents and children, and new instabilities in how we understand privacy and community, intimacy and solitude.

Professor Turkle’s exploration into our lives on the digital terrain shows how technological advancement doesn’t just catalyze changes in what we do – it affects how we think. Her research also raises critical questions about technology’s role in business productivity, asking whether multi-tasking actually leads to deteriorating performance in each of our tasks. Does our always-connected state affect our ability to think, to be creative and to innovate?

Professor Turkle has been profiled in such publications as The New York Times, Scientific American and WIRED. She is a featured media commentator on the effects of technology for CNN, NBC, ABC and NPR, including appearances on such programs as Nightline, 20/20 and The Colbert Report, and has been named a Harvard Centennial Medalist and a Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year. In 2014, she was named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Professor Turkle received a joint doctorate in sociology and personality psychology from Harvard University, and is a licensed clinical psychologist.

Speech Topics

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

A generation has grown up feeling that “It would rather text than talk.” And believing that it is possible to share our attention during almost everything we do. What are the costs of a “flight from conversation” in personal life, among one’s family and friends? What are the costs in the work world? And most important, what can we do about it?

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

Facebook. Twitter. Second Life. “Smart” phones. Location-aware services that tell us where our friends are. Technology promises to let us do anything from anywhere with anyone. But it also drains us as we try to do everything everywhere. We begin to feel overwhelmed and depleted by the lives technology makes possible. We may be free to work from anywhere, but we are also prone to being lonely everywhere. We turn to new technology to fill the void, but as technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down. In a surprising twist, relentless connection leads to a new solitude.

Professor Turkle has explored our lives on the digital terrain for nearly fifteen years. Drawing insights from her book, “Alone Together” (Basic Books, 2011), she presents the power of these new tools to dramatically alter our social lives and our business productivity.

Professor Turkle explains businesses’ need to reassess the usefulness of some old virtues in today’s hyper-connected corporate cultures – in particular, deliberateness and solitude. Questioning whether we’ve edged ourselves into a paradox, she challenges audiences to address such questions as: What are costs of hyper-connectivity? Are people overloaded connecting but not communicating? How have we bought in to the “myth of multitasking”? Does multitasking keep our brains on a “high,” but deteriorate our performance in each of our tasks? And how does this new always-on, always-connected state affect our ability to think, to be creative, and to innovate?

The Power of Conversation: Preserving Human Connection in a Digital World

Technology has not only changed what we do; it has changed who we are, with dramatic impacts on how we work, learn, and think about the world. In particular, the technologies of constant connection has encouraged a “flight from conversation” in every domain. We text, not talk, in our relationships with children, spouses and partners, and business colleagues.

Professor Turkle examines how technology shapes modern relationships, both in personal and professional life, seen through our growing tendency to sacrifice conversation for mere connection. If we reclaim conversation, we will achieve richer lives at home, work, and in the public sphere. After her most recent investigations of how conversation works in private, professional, and public life, Professor Turkle argues that there is time and necessity to Reclaim Conversation™ as well as constructive solitude. As we do this, we will teach students to relearn the discipline of focusing on one thing at a time. And managers will have a new forward-thinking task: to help workers learn the capacity for collaborative conversation and productive solitude. Right now we undermine solitude as we undermine conversation. At a cost: both are good for the bottom line.

Without conversation, we shortchange ourselves. Our relationships with ourselves and others suffer. At work, we face a paradox: a new regime of always-on communication isolates us in ways that compromise innovation, collaboration, and leadership. Turkle believes now is the time to design for our vulnerability to always-on connection. We have an opportunity to design technology and social environments for a better fit with our most reflective, creative, and profitable life.

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Recommendations

“Turkle deftly explores and explains the good and bad of this ‘flight from conversation’ while encouraging parents, teachers and bosses to champion conversation, use technology more internationally and serve as role models.”

—Success, A Best Book of 2015

“Alone Together is a brilliant, profound, stirring, and often disturbing portrait of the future by America’s leading expert on how computers affect us as humans. She reveals the secrets of ‘Walden 2.0’ and tells us that we deserve better than caring robots. Grab this book, then turn off your smart phones and absorb Sherry Turkle’s powerful message.”

—Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School Professor; Author of Evolve!, Confidence, and SuperCorp

“Sherry Turkle is the Margaret Mead of digital culture. Parents and teachers: If you want to understand (and support) your children as they navigate the emotional undercurrents in today’s technological world, this is the book you need to read. Every chapter is full of great insights and great writing.”

—Mitchel Resnick, LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research and Head of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Laboratory

“No one has a better handle on how we are using material technology to transform our immaterial ‘self’ than Sherry Turkle. She is our techno-Freud, illuminating our inner transformation long before we are able see it. This immensely satisfying book is a deep journey to our future selves.”

—Kevin Kelly, Author of What Technology Wants

“Sherry Turkle has observed more widely and thought more deeply about human-computer relations than any other scholar. Her book is essential reading for all who hope to understand our changing relation to technology.”

—Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education

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Turkle, Sherry