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)

Articles

SNL Comedian Plays MIT Scientist in NYC Play

July 6, 2016

Emotional Fantasy: AI Can Pretend to Love Us, but Should We Love It Back?

May 26, 2016

Can We Close the Empathy Gap?

May 12, 2016

To Start Talking, Stop Texting

May 10, 2016

Huffington Post logo

Sherry Turkle On How Technology Can Impact Human Connection

April 21, 2016

A Conversation with MIT's Sherry Turkle About Conscious Consumption of Tech

April 11, 2016

Spiked logo

The Crisis of Attention

February 2016

christian science monitor

Reclaiming Conversation: What We Lose When We're Always Online

December 2, 2015

TIME Magazine logo

7 Steps to Saving Conversation at Work

November 30, 2015

truthdig logo

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

October 23, 2015

Washington Post logo

The Book That Will Have Everyone Talking About How We Never Talk Anymore

October 1, 2015

New York Times logo

Sherry Turkle’s ‘Reclaiming Conversation

September 28, 2015

New York Times logo

Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.

September 26, 2015

NPR logo

Podcast: Making The Case For Face To Face In An Era Of Digital Conversation

September 26, 2015

Forbes logo

Sherry Turkle's Solution To The Downside Of Screen Relations: Conversation

April 20, 2014

Saving the Lost Art of Conversation

December 22, 2013

New York Times logo

The Documented Life

December 15, 2013

TIME Magazine logo

Unexpected at Ford's 'Go Further' Conference: Thinking About Panglossian Futurism

June 25, 2013

Livescience logo

Human-Robot Relations: Why We Should Worry

February 18, 2013

NPR logo

In Constant Digital Contact, We Feel 'Alone Together'

October 17, 2012

New York Times logo

The Flight from Conversation

April 21, 2012

New York Times logo

‘Friends’ Without a Personal Touch

February 21, 2011

"Alone Together": An MIT Professor's New Book Urges Us to Unplug

January 24, 2011

Wall Street Journal

Hit Send, Take a Bow

January 18, 2011

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?

Are You A Conversational Organization?

One of the realities of corporate life is that office technology leads us to make a Faustian bargain with everyday office technology: What we gain from “always on” efficiency and responsiveness because of our digital devices is compromised by what we lose because of the isolation, disengagement and distraction that comes with digital life. Social psychologist Sherry Turkle calls our work dilemma that of “pilots in the cockpit.” Too often, we are too busy communicating online to have the conversations that count – on the phone or face-to-face. At every level, people find ways to move telephone or in-person conversations to screens on which they feel less vulnerable and more in control.

In this talk, Turkle makes an impassioned case for pivoting back to conversation-based relationships. The ultimate aim is to become a conversational organization that values empathy, authenticity and engagement. The conversational organization also values relational over transactional encounters. When employees recognize the difference, they understand when an email offers little value and a telephone call delivers what they need. Everyone in the organization is in a better position to choose the right tool for a job.

The conversational organization leaves space for vulnerability on the path to learning instead of holding out the false promise of perfection as an ideal. And it understands that the capacity for solitude and the capacity for relationship and conversation go together. With these underpinnings, employees will be more effective at relationships as they develop a competence for attention and focus. They will thrive – and so will your business.

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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Books & Research

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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