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

Sherry Turkle

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Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet | Quotes


Computers, too, lead us to construct things in new ways.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 1

Turkle's central thesis is that computer technology has had, and continues to exert, a major influence on how we think about ourselves and our identity. The computer is not merely a tool or a mirror but a shaping influence on our lives.


From their first appearance ... video games brought the computer culture into everyday life.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 2

Turkle argues that video games have offered their fans freedom from the constraints of physical reality. Thus, video games have extended the dimensions of the human imagination and have broadened human experience.


Children, as usual, are harbingers of our cultural mindset.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 3

Turkle pays special attention to the development of children's cognition, relying to a particular degree on the theories and analyses of the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. Turkle herself includes in her book a number of interviews and anecdotes related to children's usage of computers and video games.


We are social beings who seek communication with others. We are lonely beings as well.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 4

Turkle impartially maintains both sides of this paradox throughout her book. She explains that humans typically become apprehensive when they are evaluated side by side with machines. At the same time, humans have displayed a willingness "to relate to the computer."


By the 1990s ... AI had done more than enter the mainstream; it had become the mainstream.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 5

For Turkle, the quality of "emergence" in information processing has slowly but surely won out over an older, more fact-and-rule oriented approach. "Emergence" places a higher value on experience and tinkering (so-called "bricolage") than on rules. "AI" in this quote is the standard abbreviation for "artificial intelligence."


Today more than ever we blur the line between simulation and reality.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 6

The blurring and sometimes the transgression of boundaries are among the major ideas of Turkle's analysis in Life on the Screen. Participation in MUDs (Multi-User Domains) and in other forms of virtual reality offers computer users a provocative bundle of alternatives to real life.


MUDs imply difference, multiplicity, heterogeneity, and fragmentation.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 7

Throughout her book, Turkle emphasizes the strange but strong appeal of MUDs. She also vigorously stresses the creative and constructive ways in which individuals can work through their challenges by adopting multiple, alternative identities.


These days, the Internet is the new unknown.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 8

Turkle published Life on the Screen in 1995. Readers of her book should keep in mind that in 1995 there were fewer than 100 million Internet users worldwide. The World Wide Web was only a few years old. By 2014 Internet usage had grown to nearly three billion users.


If the politics of virtuality means democracy online and apathy offline, there is reason for concern.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 9

The context for this quote is Turkle's discussion of many people's aspirations that computers and virtual reality will serve to counteract social fragmentation and extend democracy. However, Turkle concludes that many people have been "both tantalized and frustrated" in this regard.


You can have a sense of self without being one self.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 10

This quote tallies with Turkle's previous comment about the appeal of multiple identities offered by MUDs. The assumption of varying "personae" does not necessarily imply a vacuum or a dissolved sense of self.

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