These days we have so much debate about whether or not digital devices are decreasing our face-to-face communication and our quality of life.
If you are interested in this debate, check out a fascinating January 17, 2014 article in the New York Times Magazine. In Technology Is Not Driving Us Apart, writer Mark Oppenheimer describes how Rutgers University Professor Keith Hampton and his associates filmed the human interactions at Bryant Park — a New York City park just behind the New York Public Library— to discover how people interact in public spaces. In the process, researchers wanted to learn more about how today’s digital devices affect those interactions.
Professor Hampton based his work on the research of William H. Whyte, a sociologist who filmed people interacting in urban public spaces to learn more about their behavior and what they do. Whyte did his filming in the late 1960s and 1970s, calling it the Street Life Project. Studying the films, Whyte tried to discern what people liked to do, how they conversed, how long those conversations lasted and in what locations.
In her presentation, Professor Turkle illustrates several of the most compelling issues from her recent book, Alone Together. Shepoints out that technology may give us an illusion of togetherness with others, but she challenges us to understand that digital connectedness is not a substitute for person-to-person interaction.
Are we hiding from each other even as we are connected?
With fewer face-to-face conversations with one another are we less able to learn how to have conversations with ourselves?
Do feelings that no one is really listening to us make us want to spend more time with machines that make us feel like these devices are listening to us?
Are people increasingly willing to settle for the pretend empathy of devices and robots?