Reclaiming Conversation

Reclaiming Conversation

The Power of Talk in A Digital Age

Book - 2015
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Renowned media scholar Sherry Turkle investigates how a flight from conversation undermines our relationships, creativity, and productivity - and why reclaiming face-to-face conversation can help us regain lost ground.
We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.

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.

We develop a taste for what mere connection offers. The dinner table falls silent as children compete with phones for their parents' attention. Friends learn strategies to keep conversations going when only a few people are looking up from their phones. At work, we retreat to our screens although it is conversation at the water cooler that increases not only productivity but commitment to work. Online, we only want to share opinions that our followers will agree with - a politics that shies away from the real conflicts and solutions of the public square.

The case for conversation begins with the necessary conversations of solitude and self-reflection. They are endangered- these days, always connected, we see loneliness as a problem that technology should solve. Afraid of being alone, we rely on other people to give us a sense of ourselves, and our capacity for empathy and relationship suffers. We see the costs of the flight from conversation everywhere- conversation is the cornerstone for democracy and in business it is good for the bottom line. In the private sphere, it builds empathy, friendship, love, learning, and productivity.

But there is good news- we are resilient. Conversation cures.

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.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2015.
ISBN: 9781594205552
1594205558
Branch Call Number: 302.231 TURKLE S
Characteristics: 436 pages ; 25 cm

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sandraperkins
Jul 28, 2019

This book makes a number of important points. I think it would have been a better (and shorter) book with more editing. It seems repetitive in some places; it wanders around and comes back to the same points multiple times; and perhaps it was not necessary to tell EVERY story in this book. But there is a lot of valuable information, and it is still well worth reading.

IMPORTANT and disturbing: The decline in face to face conversation (and replacing it with texts, emails and social media) has led to a serious loss of empathy. Young people are not able to “put themselves in the place” of other children. They can’t read the signals that show someone has been hurt.

Frankly, I have also noticed a serious lack of empathy among some adults and certain public figures.

Many people today prefer to send an email or text instead of committing to a face to face conversation or a telephone call. It feels more efficient. I have done this myself, I must admit.

Lots of people are uncomfortable with the idea of a face to face conversation, or even a phone call. They want to edit their responses before sending them. They fear being “put on the spot” in an actual conversation in real time. A real conversation goes too fast; they cannot keep up. They are afraid that they might say the wrong thing, or say it poorly. They fear losing control.

Good news: But people are resilient! In only 5 days at a summer camp that bans all electronic devices, children showed increased capacity for empathy (and other positive results).

The author asks three interesting questions about politics and social policy in the digital age:

1. While the internet gives us the possibility of sharing our views with anyone in the world, it can support information silos where we don’t talk to anyone who doesn’t agree with us. (Sound familiar?) People do not like posting things that their followers won’t agree with, so technology can sustain and encourage ever more rigid partisanship.

2. When politics goes online, people tend to think only of political action they can do online—what is quick and easy. “The slow, hard work of politics—study, analysis, listening, trying to convince someone with a different point of view—these can get lost.” Technology may give us the illusion of progress without the demands of action.

3. Digital communication makes surveillance easier, whether we are concerned about the government or Google or Facebook. Our communications and private information become a commodity sold to the highest bidder. The author asks, “What is democracy without privacy?”

There is a lot of great information in this book. It is worth the effort to dig it out.

ser_library Apr 15, 2016

interesting point that I understood in the first few chapters, I found myself wondering about the introvert/extrovert continuum which Turkle did not consider

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sky123
Feb 02, 2016

One mode of interaction is "Google jockeying": While a speaker is making a presentation, participants search the web for appropriate content to display on the screens - for examples, definitions, images, or opposing views. Another mode of interaction is "back-channeling," in which participants type in comments as the speaker talks, providing running commentary on the material being presented. p.218

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sky123
Feb 02, 2016

The world's largest conference call provider, used by 85 percent of Fortune 100 firms, studied what people are doing during meetings: 65 percent do other work, 63 percent send email, 55 percent eat or make food, 47 percent go to the bathroom and 6 percent take another call ... Darius Lehrer, a thirty-six-year-old manager at ReadyLearn, sums up meeting etiquette: "You come in, get some coffee, work on your laptop, listen for your name to be called, make your contribution, and then go back to yoiur computer. A good meeting leader will give you a 'heads-up' signal about five minutes before she calls on you so that you can close out your email and get ready to speak." p.254-5

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