Is Technology Driving Us Apart? Maybe Not

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.

Photo Credit: -Ben Thompson via Compfight cc

Bryant Park Looking Toward the Fountain –                Photo Credit: Ben Thompson via Compfight cc

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.

Hampton’s research, up to the point of filming in Bryant Park, focused on how today’s connected world affects people, and by studying communities he came out with a different perspective than many other of today’s university researchers. In his New York Times article Oppenheimer reports:   Continue reading

Sherry Turkle TED Lecture-Connected but Alone?

The TED Talk site just posted the most recent lecture by MIT professor and psychologist Sherry Turkle. It’s embedded below.

In her presentation Professor Turkle  illustrates several of the most compelling issues from her recent book, Alone Together. She points 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?

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5 Tech-Free Times for Families

I am reading Sherry Turkle’s book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Ourselves. Turkle is a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Last Friday she was Ira Flatow’s guest on the NPR’s Science Friday program. Professor Turkle explained how she interviewed more than 300 children and teens who described feeling immense frustration when their parents use technology gadgets at the same time they are supposed to be interacting with their kids.

The Alone Together author, quoted in a January 31, 2011 Washington Post article, AnyBody: Parents are Ignoring their Children for their BlackBerry, points out, “It’s now children who are complaining about their parents’ habits…” During the Science Friday interview Turkle identified five times when children want their parents to put away their phones, Blackberries, and other gadgets and to pay attention. They include: Continue reading