Reclaiming Conversation

The Power of Talk in a Digital Age eBook

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Renowned media scholar Sherry Turkle investigates how a flight from conversation undermines our relationships, creativity, and productivityand 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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

Praise for Reclaiming Conversation: 

“'Only connect!' wrote E. M. Forster in 1910. In this wise and incisive book, Sherry Turkle offers a timely revision: 'Only converse!'"
—Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows and The Glass Cage

"To reclaim conversation is to reclaim our humanity.  We all know it at some level, and yet how satisfying to find our hunch proved right:  Turkle shows us that to love well, learn well, work well, and be well, we must protect a vital piece of ourselves, and can.   What an important conversation about conversation this is."
—Gish Jen, author of Typical American and Mona in the Promised Land 

"Like the air we breathe, or the water we drink, most of us take face-to-face conversations for granted.  In this  brilliant and incisive book, Sherry Turkle explains the power of conversation, its fragility at present, the consequences of its loss, and how it can be  preserved and reinvigorated."
—Howard Gardner, John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

“Sherry Turkle’s unrivalled expertise in how people interact with devices, coupled with her deep empathy for people struggling to find their identity, shine through on every absorbing and illuminating page of Reclaiming Conversation. We can start remembering how to talk to one another by talking about this timely book.”
—Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School professor and author of MOVE and Confidence

"Digital media were supposed to turn us from passive viewers to interactive participants, but Turkle reveals how genuine human interaction may be the real casualty of supposedly social technologies. Without conversation, there is no syntax, no literacy, no genuine collaboration, no empathy, no civilization. With courage and compassion, Turkle shows how the true promise of social media would be to reacquaint us with the lost of art making meaning together."
—Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock
 
"In a time in which the ways we communicate and connect are constantly changing, and not always for the better, Sherry Turkle provides a much needed voice of caution and reason to help explain what the f*** is going on."
—Aziz Ansari, author of Modern Romance

Praise for Alone Together:

"Savvy and insightful." —New York Times

“What Turkle brings to the topic that is new is more than a decade of interviews with teens and college students in which she plumbs the psychological effect of our brave new devices on the generation that seems most comfortable with them.” —Wall Street Journal 

“Nobody has ever articulated so passionately and intelligently what we're doing to ourselves by substituting technologically mediated social interaction…. Equipped with penetrating intelligence and a sense of humor, Turkle surveys the front lines of the social-digital transformation….” —Lev Grossman, Time Magazine

“Important…. Admirably personal….Turkle’s book will spark useful debate….” —The Boston Globe

“Turkle summarizes her new view of things with typical eloquence…fascinating, readable.” —New York Times Book Review

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