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The Source:

Life on the Screen ” is a book written in 1995 by psychologist Sherry Turkle about human interaction with machines, particularly computers.

Intended Audience:

The intended audience is anyone who interacts with and through technology. I think it particularly addresses our generation because we are the first wave of children who grew up with computers, and Turkle was very interested in how being raised with technology affected the way we view the world.

Major Themes and Relation to Cybercultures:

This book directly addresses many of the topics covered by other class materials. Its main themes are Internet addiction, the thin line between real life and virtual reality, and the blurry boundary between human and machine.

Turkle writes about online identities and interactions in MUDs like LambdaMOO, discussing the effect that person-to-person contact through multiple online identities can have on real life. Some people get so addicted to virtual realities that their real life becomes just another facet, no more important than any of their computer lives. We have blurred the line between simulation and reality.

She writes about daily interactions that we have with machines themselves, tinkering with software and working with user-friendly macs. She discusses the idea of bots and programs that can respond with intelligence, making us feel as if we have relationships with our machines. Turkle uses the example of a program designed to answer questions in imitation of a psychotherapist to show how computer-human interaction can make it hard to see the line between human and machine.

The book specifically focuses on our generation growing up with interactive technology. Turkle says it is easy for us to see the boundary between human and machine, but that we are still comfortable with the idea that an inanimate object can think and have a personality (83). She discusses the ideas of emerging artificial intelligence, and talks about the day when computer programs can beat us at our own games. She looks into the question of how artificial intelligence changes our outlook on natural life.

Section three of the book, titled "On the Internet" has especially good connections to cybercultures. Turkle says we are learning to see ourselves as “plugged in technobodies”(178), a very similar idea to Haraway’s cyborg. She looks at the idea of online identities, chat rooms, and role-playing as an escape (makes me think of Angela from Catfish), and wonders how much truth there is to the saying “you are who you pretend to be”. She claims that while online identities can be therapeutic, there is also a danger of addiction. She addresses the social construction of gender online, and the issues of deception and identity crisis. In general, this book gives new and interesting examples and opinions on almost all the topics we covered in cybercultures.

Why I Chose to Share This Source:

I chose to share this source because Gurak mentioned it on p.152 and I thought it sounded interesting, and after reading it I thought it had some great information. The idea of being addicted to the Internet and computers is very applicable to our generation. We spend hours and hours online every day, and I think it’s important to consider how this affects the way we interact with each other and how it changes our view of the world. This book definitely relates to all of our other readings and class materials, and was well written and easy to read. It was filled with great examples and relatable personal experiences. If you like psychology or computers, professor Turkle’s ideas will definitely interest you.

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