Sherry Turkle "Broadband is going to create a crisis about the simulated and the real. So much experience is going to be about not being there."
(FORTUNE Magazine) – Sherry Turkle is a professor of the sociology of science at MIT. A clinical psychologist who has studied people's relationships with technology, she is the author of The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit and Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. She was interviewed by FORTUNE's Nicholas Stein.
I think about broadband as an intensive and extensive computational presence in which the computer doesn't become just an instrumental machine to get things done--to do things for us--but a subjective machine that changes us, does things to us. It opens up the computer as a partner in daily life in a way that it hasn't been before.
Computers are more and more going to be that kind of second self, that kind of projection of who we are into this larger space. Broadband is going to give us the possibility to project ourselves into the computational world, onto the Internet, into the virtual spaces of self.
The more complicated computer networks get, the more people use them as models for their own minds. People used to say, "No, no, the mind can't be like a computer." But when the computer is seen as an evolutionary, complicated web of connections, when it has biological metaphors for talking about its software and its programming, people do begin to experience their minds more like machines. It really changes the question of how people address what is special about being a person.
You're going to have a presence in your home. Is that presence going to be something that looks machine-like, or is that presence going to feel increasingly creature-like?
As virtual experiences that come with broadband take over from being-there, in-your-body experiences, the issues of human development and human sense of self take over. What kinds of relationships will people have with the actor aspect of the machine? How will they change our representations of self, how we represent ourselves to other people?
The Internet is a place of experimentation on your identity--in positive as well as negative ways. Broadband is going to leave open, both for commercial reasons and because people will want it, many opportunities for people to interact in spaces where anonymity is part of the design of the space. People will use all kinds of permutations and combinations of media until their emotional needs are met. What you're going to get with broadband is just more ability to pick and choose and have some applications where people want to keep that veil--giving them new ways to do it.
It's going to create a kind of crisis about the simulated and the real. The notion of what it is to live in a culture of simulation--how much of that counts as real experience and how much of that is discounted--is going to become more and more in the forefront of what people think and talk about, because so much experience is going to be about not being there. And we don't quite have it together yet for how we count that experience.