Sherry Turkle’compassionatly’us’- for Ada Lovelace Day.

The quote below, written in 2004, by Sherry Turkle re-considers ‘The Second Self‘, a book she wrote in 1984. It illustrates a significant stance in academic writing: the valid use of the personal, emotional, and subjective to justify an essential point. Turkle has a substantial history of critical, contextual and theoretical contribution to the field of academic research in technology and the social implications and bonds that can develop through working with computers, programming and more. Her work is inspirational and engaging, and I am happy that she includes her readers in her writing by using terms like ‘we’ and ‘us’. I occasionally bump up against the academic world for the use of these words in my own research. I sometimes wonder though if it is fear which urges the trend to objectify most academic presentation and writing. Fear of including others? Fear of making a opinionated stances?As the increase in public communication systems like facebook, twitter, and MySpace are adopted by our youth are our systems of relaying information not transforming? Are the patterns by which we exchange information and share across networks not become more elastic? This is exciting! Maybe these new systems will allow more validated use of the subjective within academia. Or maybe I am way out of line, caught in a dark age already, as this amazing woman has been using terms like ‘we’ and ‘us’ for ages. Her compelling stance gives voice for us to write for a community and as a community, and expresses reason for engaging subjectively with our public.

The Second Self reflected the innocence of a time that had only the most primitive experience of computer networking. The year 1984 was iconic for technological anxieties, but there were heady dreams of a global village. Today, although the utopian promise of a small world through communications has increasing reality and continuing appeal. Never have we more needed to put ourselves in the place of those with different values and histories. Our experience over the past twenty years has also been sobering. Many of us read only what we have programmed our computers to bring to us; many of us speak, even if to internationally distributed communities, only to those with whom we agree. Many of us communicate all the time, but with greater speed and less depth. Have we achieved a more global reach with a more parochial grasp? If our encounters with computers don’t help us to deal more compassionately and carefully with one another, then what will our attitudes, formed through our relationships with them, contribute to our fragile and threatened world?

TURKLE, S., The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit – 20th Anniversary ed., MIT Press, 2005, p. 299.