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.




















culture in the making. A computer culture that in one way or another touches us all. And because it affects our lives in so many ways, this book takes its questions about this nascent culture from many perspectives. From the perspective of psychological development I ask how computers enter into the process of growing up. Computers affect children very differently at different ages. I found three stages in children’s relationships with computers. First there is a “metaphysical” stage: when very

biological,” consciousness becomes a property only of animals. With computational objects the pattern is very different. Many children allow the machine to be conscious long after they emphatically deny it life. Tucker, who denied it life because of its batteries, is a good example of what this split looks like, although he is only six. For Tucker, the not-alive machine has consciousness and malicious intent. Adults, of course, hold onto the fact that computers are not selfaware as a sign of

to get these two very differently structured machines to behave similarly. This way of thinking landed Dennis in a more comfortable spot. All of the similarities between his behavior and Adolescence and Identity 149 that of his father, similarities that he didn’t like and wanted to be able to change, were on the level of a higher-order language that was reprogrammable. The machine analogy left him with an optimism not unlike Carla’s. The trick was to find a way to do the reprogramming. Dennis

You had a right answer. You could go for the right answer, and if you got it, no discussion. I was so insecure. I always felt that that kind of certainty, the science certainty, would be great for me. But I thought it was beyond me. At my job as social science and philosophy editor, there is always ambiguity. The art is in the judgment call. I got a computer when they began to seem reliable, when you wouldn’t be spending all of your time hunting after some genius to fix it, and I started to do

insist on treating their computers like bicycles. They labor to make the computer transparent. Professional computer scientists work to develop technology that does not demand technical knowledge of its user, to develop “human interfaces” that will make relating to computers more like holding a conversation and less like taking apart a bicycle. But, at least for now, many are unwilling to accept the computer as an entity whose underlying structure can safely be ignored. They demand some sense of

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