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Reclaiming Conversation
Cover of Reclaiming Conversation
Reclaiming Conversation
The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

Renowned media scholar Sherry Turkle investigates how a flight from conversation undermines our relationships, creativity, and productivityand 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.


From the Hardcover edition.

Renowned media scholar Sherry Turkle investigates how a flight from conversation undermines our relationships, creativity, and productivityand 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.


From the Hardcover edition.
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  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 10, 2015
    Digital culture expert and MIT professor Turkle (Alone Together) delivers a sweeping report on the various ways humans have adapted their sense of self and relationships to the digital age. In her opinion, this period has seen a decline in the face-to-face communication needed for self-reflection, empathy, and intimacy. Turkle deftly uses interviews, her expertise in psychoanalysis, and extensive research to examine what is lost and gained as digital communication becomes more pervasive. Additionally, she explores the intersections between emotion and technology, such as apps designed to find romantic partners and algorithms that assess psychological states. She goes on to show that this digital epoch encourages a “friction-free” style of communication, defined by self-editing and the immediate gratification of a Facebook like. She suggests that this approach degrades the quality of performance at work and school, and that democracy is undermined as citizens accept the surveillance provided by social media as a new way of life. Turkle manages nonetheless to summon up a sense of hope, stating, “It is not a moment to reject technology but to find ourselves.” This book makes a winning case for conversation, at the family dinner table or in the office, as the “talking cure” for societal and emotional ills.

  • Kirkus

    August 15, 2015
    The founding director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self explores the danger that text messaging is replacing in-depth, face-to-face conversation. Divided attention has become the new norm as we shift our attention back and forth between our mobile devices and present companions whenever there is a lull in the conversation. "Fully present to each other, we learn to listen...[and] develop the capacity for empathy," writes Turkle (Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, 2011, etc.), but "these days...we find ways around conversation." Throughout this eye-opening book, the author cites some amazing statistics: "average American adults check their phones every six and a half minutes"; "Most teenagers send one hundred texts a day." An even more insidious problem is that "online communication makes us feel more in charge of our time and self-presentation," than speaking to one another. It affords the opportunity to edit what we want to say. Turkle shares an amusing anecdote of how the etiquette of text messaging requires the use of punctuation marks to indicate emotional tone. Adhering to the new norms, she texted her 21-year-old daughter with a brief message to set up a meeting for morning coffee, but her daughter was alarmed. By omitting punctuation, Turkle had inadvertently signaled distress. A more proper message would have been, "Hey...am swinging by the Square tomorrow: ) on my way to a meeting later!!!!!...do you have time for an early breakfast Henrietta's Table? Not dorm food " Online connections with friends and family can also change the tenor of communications, as we edit our posts to encourage positive feedback. More importantly, digital devices encroach on family time, and teenagers are not the only culprits. All too frequently, children complain of the difficulty of gaining their parents' full attention. Turkle also wisely acknowledges the benefits we receive from our digital devices. "It is not a moment to reject technology," she writes, "but to find ourselves." A timely wake-up call urging us to cherish the intimacy of direct, unscripted communication.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Reclaiming Conversation
Reclaiming Conversation
The Power of Talk in a Digital Age
Sherry Turkle
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