Thanks to Alternet I came across this interesting brief interview by Bill Moyers of Sherry Turkle.
Sherry Turkle on Being Alone Together from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.
Turkle was promoting her latest book, Alone Together, in which she examines the phenomenon, particularly evident in the young today, of always being electronically connected. It is a familiar topic for about anyone, but Turkle's thoughtful examination provides some insights into what it is, how it has developed and where it may be taking us.
I found particular resonance in Turkle's comments about the early years of the development of the internet and on-line networking. Like her, I was optimistic about the potential of the medium for expanding access to information and achieving more effective self-realization. However, as she points out, some of the early success and optimism was reliant on the fact that people were accessing the on-line world through stationary computers. After the information was gathered and digested, people had the opportunity to turn off the machine and take their new information out into the real world. Now, the machine is very often always with us; there is less opportunity for reflective consolidation and there is also a degradation in performance due to the toll taken by constant multi-tasking.
While I mostly agree with Turkle's take on the current state of the networked society, I think there is probably more to the issues than was apparent in Moyer's interview. Some of the downside she sees seems likely to be a generational issue. It would be interesting to see her ideas shared in a forum with some bright teenagers, some social networking promoters and maybe an anthropologist.
I came across an opposing view of technology and networking in a recent review by Walter Isaacson of Smarter Than You Think by Clive Thompson in the New York Times book reviews.