The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit

The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit

Sherry Turkle

Language: English

Pages: 362

ISBN: 0671468480

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In The Second Self, Sherry Turkle looks at the computer not as a "tool," but as part of our social and psychological lives; she looks beyond how we use computer games and spreadsheets to explore how the computer affects our awareness of ourselves, of one another, and of our relationship with the world. "Technology," she writes, "catalyzes changes not only in what we do but in how we think." First published in 1984, The Second Self is still essential reading as a primer in the psychology of computation. This twentieth anniversary edition allows us to reconsider two decades of computer culture -- to (re)experience what was and is most novel in our new media culture and to view our own contemporary relationship with technology with fresh eyes. Turkle frames this classic work with a new introduction, a new epilogue, and extensive notes added to the original text.

Turkle talks to children, college students, engineers, AI scientists, hackers, and personal computer owners -- people confronting machines that seem to think and at the same time suggest a new way for us to think -- about human thought, emotion, memory, and understanding. Her interviews reveal that we experience computers as being on the border between inanimate and animate, as both an extension of the self and part of the external world. Their special place betwixt and between traditional categories is part of what makes them compelling and evocative. (In the introduction to this edition, Turkle quotes a PDA user as saying, "When my Palm crashed, it was like a death. I thought I had lost my mind.") Why we think of the workings of a machine in psychological terms -- how this happens, and what it means for all of us -- is the ever more timely subject of The Second Self.











construct theories that will help them situate the computer in the world of living and not-living things and neutralize what seems threatening about it. How do children come to define the ideas of life, thinking, and feeling in a way that takes account of what computers can do? A New Disorder: “Are Smart Machines Alive?” In the discussion of the children on the beach, Robert said that he thought Merlin was alive. Long before computers appeared, children held unorthodox views about what things

a setting like Austen, ideas about programming travel the way ideas travel in active, dynamic cultures. They sweep through, carried by children who discover something, often by chance, through playful exploration of the machine. Gary and his fellow decoders finally presented their discoveries to the authorities with pride of authorship. At Austen programming tricks and completed programs are valued—they are traded and they become gifts. In traditional school settings, finished book reports are

white. In their emotional lives the “hard masters” are practiced in creating reductive models of the complex. In their intellectual lives they do so as well. In many ways, the hard masters’ black and white representations of everyday life ( Jeff talks about the friends he loves and the former friends he hates) are similar to their formalized representations of objects. Objectifying and identifying with a sprite or a pulley or a Newtonian particle—all of these useful simplifications for doing

as a kind of opiate. One thing is certain: for the technical hobbyists of that first generation, part of what made the personal computer satisfying was that it felt like a compensation for dissatisfactions in the world of politics and the world of work. Understanding how the computer can be used in this way requires that we step back and look once again at styles of programming. The “hard masters” among children demanded control. But here, for this community of adults, something new is added to

simulation consumers reminiscent of people who can pronounce the words in a book but don’t understand what they mean? We come to written text with centuries-long habits of readership. At the very least, we have learned to begin with the journalist’s traditional questions: Who, what, when, where, why, and how? Who wrote these words, what is their message, why were they written, and how are they situated in time and place, politically and socially? The dramatic changes in computer education over

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