Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet | Study Guide

Sherry Turkle

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Course Hero. "Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet Study Guide." Course Hero. 1 May 2020. Web. 16 June 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Life-on-the-Screen-Identity-in-the-Age-of-the-Internet/>.

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Course Hero. (2020, May 1). Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 16, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Life-on-the-Screen-Identity-in-the-Age-of-the-Internet/

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Course Hero. "Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet Study Guide." May 1, 2020. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Life-on-the-Screen-Identity-in-the-Age-of-the-Internet/.

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Course Hero, "Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet Study Guide," May 1, 2020, accessed June 16, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Life-on-the-Screen-Identity-in-the-Age-of-the-Internet/.

Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet | Introduction | Summary

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Key Takeaways

  • In the first paragraph of the Introduction, Turkle presents the key thesis of her book. The Internet, she asserts, is changing our habits of mind, as well as important features of our sexuality, communities, and identities. At one level the computer is a tool, and at another level, it is a mirror. But at a deeper level, the computer has become the threshold for entry into virtual worlds. Turkle declares that we have begun to live in a different kind of culture: a culture of simulation. Boundaries have begun to erode between the real world and the virtual world.
  • A hallmark of virtual reality is the interactive process of participating in a MUD, or Multi-User Domain. MUDs, says Turkle, are a novel type of parlor game. Participation in a MUD is akin to performance art, street theater, or improvisation. The anonymity of a MUD affords participants the chance to adopt different, and often untraditional, identities. As the saying goes, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."
  • Turkle recalls some of her personal experiences as a young woman living and working in France in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was the era of structuralism and what would become known as postmodernism. She learned that in MUDs the self can be multiple. Turkle declares that, in many ways, computers embody and project the concepts of postmodernism. We are moving from a modernist culture of calculation into a postmodernist culture of simulation.
  • Citing a passage written in 1832 by American author Ralph Waldo Emerson, Turkle remarks that "dreams and beasts are two keys ... to find out the secrets of our nature." She remarks that dreams and beasts were the "test objects" for Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud and British naturalist Charles Darwin, two seminal thinkers of the 19th century.
  • Toward the end of her Introduction, Turkle lists four important recent changes in our relationships with computers. (1) We have accustomed ourselves to "opaque" interfaces. That is to say, we no longer see into machines, but content ourselves instead with a graphical user interface (GUI) that hides the internal workings of a computer. (2) We have learned to accept an interface as reality. Thus, in a sense, we have become accustomed to a representation of the real, rather than the real itself. (3) We have come to accept pondering our relationships with technology. "Boundary questions," or issues of distinction and separation, have become more complex and intriguing as our relationships with technology have deepened. (4) We have attended to the "subjective computer." There is a new realization that computers "don't just do things for us, they do things to us."
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