Sherry Turkle investigates how a flight from conversation undermines our relationships, creativity, and productivity—and 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.
Richard Sennett, the GSD's Senior Loeb Fellow for 2012 (and faculty member at New York University and the London School of Economics) is talking about the "Architecture of Cooperation":
With an eye toward the architecture, the art, the literature, and the technology of urban life, Richard Sennett gives an account of the search for shelter and the fear of exposure to strangers and new experience in Western culture â€“ and how these two concerns have shaped the physical fabric of the city. â€œWhy do we avert our eyes when we encounter the unaccustomed?â€ asks Sennett. In answer, he moves between past and present from the assembly hall of Athens to the Palladium Club; from Augustineâ€™s City of God to the Turkish baths of the Lower East Side; from eighteenth-century English gardens to the housing projects of East Harlem; from Nietzscheâ€™s Birth of Tragedy to subway graffiti. The Conscience of the Eye is an exploration of the politics of vision.
Drawing on interviews with dismissed IBM executives in Westchester, New York, bakers in a high-tech Boston bakery, a barmaid turned advertising executive, and many others, Sennett explores the disorienting effects of the new capitalism. He reveals the vivid and illuminating contrast between two worlds of work: the vanished world of rigid, hierarchical organizations, where what mattered was a sense of personal character, and the brave new world of corporate re-engineering, risk, flexibility, networking, and short-term teamwork, where what matters is being able to reinvent yourself on a dime. In some ways the changes characterizing the new capitalism are positive; they make for a dynamic economy. But they can also be destructive, eroding the sense of sustained purpose, integrity of self, and trust in others that an earlier generation understood as essential to personal character.The Corrosion of Character enables us to understand the social and political context for our contemporary confusions and Sennett suggests how we need to re-imagine both community and individual character in order to confront an economy based on the principle of â€œno long term.â€
â€œPublicâ€ life once meant that vital part oneâ€™s life outside the circle of family and close friends. Connecting with strangers in an emotionally satisfying way and yet remaining aloof from them was seen as the means by which the human animal was transformed into the social â€“ the civilized â€“ being. And the fullest flowering of that public life was realized in the 18th Century in the great capital cities of Europe. Sennett shows how our lives today are bereft of the pleasures and reinforcements of this lost interchange with fellow citizens. He shows how, today, the stranger is a threatening figure; how silence and observation have become the only ways to experience public life, especially street life, without feeling overwhelmed ; how each person believes in the right, in public, to be left alone. And he makes clear how, because of the change in public life, private life becomes distorted as we of necessity focus more and more on ourselves, on increasingly narcissistic forms of intimacy and self-absorption. Because of this, our personalities cannot fully develop: we lack much of the ease, the spirit of play, the kind of discretion that would allow us real and pleasurable relationships with those whom we may never know intimately.
Living with people who differ - racially, ethnically, religiously, or economically - is the most urgent challenge facing civil society today. We tend socially to avoid engaging with people unlike ourselves, and modern politics encourages the politics of the tribe rather than of the city. In this thought-provoking book, Richard Sennett discusses why this has happened and what might be done about it. Sennett contends that cooperation is a craft, and the foundations for skillful cooperation lie in learning to listen well and discuss rather than debate. In Together he explores how people can cooperate online, on street corners, in schools, at work, and in local politics. He traces the evolution of cooperative rituals from medieval times to today, and in situations as diverse as slave communities, socialist groups in Paris, and workers on Wall Street. Divided into three parts, the book addresses the nature of cooperation, why it has become weak, and how it could be strengthened. The author warns that we must learn the craft of cooperation if we are to make our complex society prosper, yet he reassures us that we can do this, for the capacity for cooperation is embedded in human nature.