Connected but Alone, Program or Be Programmed, We are all Cyborgs Now

Tags:  itp networked media

Connected, but Alone

Sherry Turkle is a science and technology professor at MIT who studies the psychology of human relationships with technology. She gave a TED talk in 1996 about how the Internet would teach us about ourselves and help us to live better lives in the real world. In 2012 she gave another TED talk, also about the Internet, but argued that it is changing our lives in ways that we don’t want.

Turkle says that our phones are changing who we are. Behaviors that would have been considered crazy 20 years ago are now commonplace. For example, texting during meetings or conversations. We end up alone when we are with other people. When we are with other people we are also connected to multiple other places.

The sum of many little communications does not add up to one real conversation. Our technologies give us a illusion of friendship and companionship without the burden of actual friendship. We need to learn to be comfortable being alone, [technologically] disconnected from other people. Only when we are alone will we be in touch with ourselves and be able to form real connections with others.

Program or Be Programmed

Douglas Rushkoff is a writer and media theorist who studies the biases of technology and the impact of media on society. In his book Program or Be Programmed, he writes about how new technology such as writing and printed text created a societies of elites who control the new technology but with the rest of humanity one step behind. Computers are yet another new technology that will have a pivotal impact on the evolution of humanity. Rushkoff does not want this new technology to be controlled by elites (programmers) with everyone else one step behind. In his book he outlines 10 "commands" designed to provide guidance to humanity to avoid that fate.

I created a presentation on Rushkoff's talk to share with the class.

We are all Cyborgs Now

Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthropologist who studies how technologies like cell phones are evolving humans into power powerful creatures. In her talk We are all Cyborgs Now, she cites the traditional definition of cyborgs as "an organism to which exogenous components have been added for the purpose of adapting to new environments." This definition typically applies to physical modifications of humans. She applies this definition to mental extensions as well, and observes that technology and our cell phones are providing such an extension to our mental selves.

Case argues that there are psychological effects resulting from our evolution into cyborgs. We are no longer taking the time for mental reflection or alone-time. This is necessary for proper mental development.