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 | Part 2, Chapter 3 : Of Dreams and Beasts (Making a Pass at a Robot) | Summary

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Key Takeaways

  • Turkle begins this chapter by emphasizing the major role played by young people in the evolving culture of the Internet: "Children are growing up in the computer culture; ... the rest of us are ... naturalized citizens."
  • In an illuminating example, Turkle contrasts "transparency" with "opacity" by comparing an old-fashioned tube radio with a modern radio. In the former object, the inner workings of a radio are plain to see; in the latter object, the inner structure remains hidden.
  • Commenting on the research of Jean Piaget, who studied cognitive development in children beginning in the 1920s, Turkle remarks on a three-stage progression concerning young children's recognition of "aliveness." First, she says, for the very young child everything active may be alive. Second, only things that appear to move on their own are considered to be living. Finally, motion is refined to a concept of a more subtle combination of growth, metabolism, and respiration.
  • Children began to think psychologically about computers for two reasons. First, the machine itself acted as if it had a mind because it responded to humans. Second, one could not see inside a computer. Thus, its operations were "opaque," and it seemed to be endowed with both speech and reason. Children came to regard computers as neighbors.
  • Over time, children's attitudes toward computers shifted. Once personal computers had been around for a decade, many children ceased to worry about boundaries between humans and machines. Children gradually became more comfortable with the concept that machines can think and possess a personality. But they know that computers are not alive; they are machines. Paradoxically, however, they ascribe qualities to computers that undermine the human/machine distinction.
  • Turkle's discussion of the human/machine boundary issue leads to a brief consideration of the Turing test. This model for considering the essential differences between machines and people was first proposed by British mathematician and logician Alan Turing. The criteria for the Turing test were sharply challenged by American philosopher John Searle during the early 1980s.
  • Turkle then turns to a discussion of "bots," or autonomous computer programs that can interact with users. She references the program "Julia," which can chat with computer users of MUDs. Turkle reports that "reactions to Julia are ambivalent."
  • Turkle's next topic is the contest established in 1991 by American inventor Hugh Loebner as a follow-up to the Turing test.
  • Turkle also discusses the work on alternative artificial intelligence by Australian-American roboticist and MIT researcher Rodney Brooks. One of Brooks's goals has been to construct completely autonomous "mobots," or mobile robots. Another intriguing project, undertaken by researcher Pattie Maes of the MIT Media Lab, has been to create "agents," or cyberspace robots, that can sort electronic mail. Maes's project is part of a general trend of people "coming to terms with the idea of intelligent artifacts," according to Turkle.
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