Experiment Alone Together

| May 11, 2014

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Book – Alone Together by Sherry Turkle
Here are the instructions for Topic one: The experiment.
In Alone Together, Sherry Turkle writes:
And with constant connection comes new anxieties of disconnection, a kind of panic… In interviews with young and old, I find people genuinely terrified of being cut off from “the grid.” People say that the loss of a cell phone can “feel like a death.” One television producer in her mid-forties tells me that without her smart phone, “I felt like I had lost my mind.” Whether or not our devices are in use, without them we feel disconnected, adrift. A danger even to ourselves, we insist on the right to send text messages while driving our cars and object to rules that would limit the practice. (16)
Do you yourself have the kind of relationship to technology that Turkle describes? First, estimate how much time you spend using devices such as a computer or a phone to communicate with others; do you prefer to talk directly, or to use email or text messaging? Do you belong to social media sites such as Facebook? Try to be honest; don’t worry about what you “should” do, try to explain what you do.
Then, experiment. For a 48-hour period, go about your daily routine, and try to keep as accurate a log of your emailing, texting, social networking, phoning, Skypeing, web-surfing, and so on, as you possibly can. How much of this communicating is for school or work? How much is for exchanging important or practical messages (i.e., “I’m at the store, do we need milk?”). How much is for fun, or for time-killing, or procrastination?
Then, for another 48-hour period, avoid all such contact completely, or at least as much as is feasible. (Of course, be sensible and arrange for any emergency messages to come through! And the experiment would not apply to any communication done for work or school.)
Afterwards, consider what you did instead of spending time “tethered,” as Turkle would put it. Did you have the kind of experience that Turkle says the people she interviewed typically have? If so, how so? If not, why not?
After your experiment, find two other people and briefly explain what you did. Ask them if they think they would have the same reaction as you, or as Turkle’s interview subjects upon being “off the grid,” and why.
When you are done,
Write a 4-6 page paper about how closely your experiment matches with Turkle’s ideas. Would your experience support or challenge her conclusions? Why or why not? —
(A Works Cited page should be provided if you cite any other sources besides from Turkle’s book. QUOTE TURKLE DIRECTLY at least three times in appropriate places — and no, the quote in these instructions does not count!)
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