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The Power of Talk March 15, 2016

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.
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I have a confession (not really). While ostensibly a techie, I have two degrees in psychology.  I may have learned something in the process.  I am currently reading MIT researcher Sherry Turkle’s fascinating Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in The Digital Age.  The book is about how a flight from conversation undermines our relationships, creativity, and productivity.

It is an amazing book. It sends you in so many different directions.  Let me start with this.  We like to think that automation frees us from routine, boring tasks so that we may be creative.  Except that automation is also causing us to be automatons, dependent upon constant stimulation from the web, from Facebook, from tweeting, from texting, to prevent ourselves from feeling alone.

As we text, IM, and email to maintain connections, she believes that we have lost the ability to hold face to face conversations, with all of the spontaneity they hold. Instead, we avoid such encounters, instead wanting to edit our responses to make sure they are perfect and neutral.

All of us will recognize the behavior that she describes. For most of us, it is not pathological (I hope).  For some of us, it undoubtedly is.  Does it affect our creativity, and our authenticity?  I think it might.

If you read one serious book this year, this is the one.

I am decidedly not anti-technology. Yet any functioning adult who has spent time with themselves will intimately understand her message.  It is a sobering one.  It is not anti-technology either, but it shows, starkly, how technology may be changing us.

Homo superior? Or homo inferior?  At this point, I have more doubts than ever.

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