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The Flight from Conversation

| June 26, 2012

by Jim Bruce

Today’s reading is “The Flight from Conversation”by Sherry Turkle.  The article appeared in the April 21, 2012 edition of the New York Times.  Professor Turkle is a psychologist and Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT.  She is the author of a number of books including “Alone Together:  Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.”  If you’d like to hear Professor Turkle speak on this subject, check out her TED talk at <>.

Turkle begins:  “We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating.  And, yet we have sacrificed conversation for more communication.”  She continues, “We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being ‘alone together’.”  Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be.

As opposed to human relationships which are rich and messy and demanding, texting and email and posting let up present the self we want to be.  We can edit, we can retouch, we can delete.  Just right.  And, according to Turkle as we edit, retouch, and delete, we move from conversation to connection.  We short-change ourselves, and overtime we stop caring and we forget that there is a difference. 

“We expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationships.  Always-on/always-on-you devices provide three powerful fantasies:  that we will always be heard; that we can put out attention wherever we want it to be;  and that we never have to be alone.

Turkle is a partisan for conversation.  To make room for conversation she urges that we all take some deliberate steps:

1.  Create device free zones.

2.  Demonstrate the value of conversation.

3.  Talk to one another about what really matters.

4.  Really listen to each other, even to the boring parts.

Turkle closes the piece:  ”So I say, look up, look at one another, and let’s start the conversation.“

And, I join her by encouraging you to have more real conversations this week.  Instead of sending that email, get out of your office, walk down the hall, and have a conversation.


.  .  .  .     jim