Sherry Turkle sees the use of computers for communication as a new way of conceptualizing an individual as a combination of a number of distinct selves manifested through inner multiplicity or multiple subjectivity, rather than the how an individual is identifiable as a whole “self.”
She views computers as new avenues with which an individual acquires what she calls, “objects to think with.” They are also acting as people’s new companions. According to Turkle, the computer provides a platform through which the individual can have a perception of himself and that of others. Her argument in this essay is centered on recognizing the computer as what she calls, “objects to think with.” The argument arises from her study of the computer’s artificial intelligence, research on computer use and the work of “connectionist,” who are behavior psychologists.
Turkle is a sociology professor at MIT. She focuses much of her research on psychoanalysis and the interaction between people and technology. In the essay “The Ghost in the Machine,” Turkle analyses how people have interacted with computers, not just as a way of communicating or helping people to achieve complex tasks, but also as a psychological connection between people and machines – the computer, in this case. She achieves this through a multifaceted analysis of computers’ artificial intelligence, a study on how people use the computer and relate this to behavior psychologically. Turkle analyses how individuals interact with the computer and in essence how they create multiple version of “selves.” The essay is focused on tech savvy individuals who have integrated computers so well in their lives that the computer has become a companion. She even romanticizes the topic with an example of a person-to-computer interaction, and this helps to create vibrancy in the article so that the reader is drawn in. She says people have successfully integrated the multiuser domains available through computers to present themselves as different people. Turkle uses formal diction throughout her essay. There is, however, wide use of psychology and technology language throughout the essay. She uses vivid descriptions that evoke the audience thoughts throughout most part of the essay. For instance, in order to help the audience understand how she reaches her conclusion, Turkle uses illustration to arouse the audience’s thoughts. She, for instance, provides an illustration about how an individual who played a virtual game inspired by the TV series Star Trek felt like the game was more real than real life. She builds up her argument on these illustrations very successfully to produce a logically structured argument.
This essay is extremely technical and the target audience is academics. It marries behavior psychology with technology and as such forms a critical reference for studies in these fields. The formal diction of this essay and the way Turkle analyzes the main points makes it useful for the intended audience. In my opinion, this essay would make very little impact on people with knowledge in either of the fields, behavior psychology and technology. Furthermore, it would also require the audience to have a considerable amount knowledge about both of the subjects in the essay to make a perfect impact. After all would not some of the people who are widely used in the essay to illustrate technology aspects find it hard to understand how their behavior with computers is used to understand their interactions with computers?
Turkle, S. (1995). Ghosts in the Machine. The Sciences.