In “Constructions and Reconstructions of Self in Virtual Reality,” Sherry Turkle observes vastly different relationships with technology than those we have today. The days of spending hours playing video games are not long gone, but the technology that consumes our time has greatly developed, leading many people to debate whether this change is for worse or for better.
In her 1994 article, Turkle writes of students who spend 70, 80, up to 120 hours per week playing in MUDs, changing their identity, and living in an alternate reality. She concludes their stories with positive reasons as to how MUDs helped them, rather than hurt them, through times of transition, depression, and confusion because they were able to use these internet worlds to discover themselves and apply that to their real lives once they unplugged.
As technology has boomed in the past couple decades, time spent in front of a screen has only increased for most, with thousands of apps and social media sites to “connect” with “friends.” The problem, as Turkle discusses in her TEDTalk (which we talked about in class and you can watch here), is that we replace real meaningful relationships with the ones we have over Twitter and Facebook.
With today’s technology, we never unplug. We never lack an outlet to be heard. We are never alone. Our constant contact with the Internet has changed how we interact with one another and ourselves, which poses the question, how much of ourselves is our technology?
Is our constant connection with technology changing us into a form of cyborgs? We have so quickly welcomed technology into our world and let it become an essential part of our lives that we cannot imagine going through our days without it. It shapes our identity, as Turkle discusses in her book Alone Together (which you can read an excerpt of here).
We all know technology provides incredible connections and resources, but we need to take a closer look at how it defines us in our day-to-day lives, the communities that have formed through technology, and what impact that has on different cultures, which is what I’m interested in learning about in this class.