Technology: Rebuttal to Turkles “Alone Together”

// Posted by on 04/13/2014 (11:52 PM)

The New York Times article “Technology is not driving us apart after all” takes an interesting perspective on how technology has (or has not) effected interpersonal communication.  The article discussed a social experiment conducted by Rutgers Professor, Keith Hampton. Hampton decided to recreate an old experiment conducted in the 1960s and 70’s  (by sociologist, William Whyte) in which he examined how people used and interacted in public settings. Using hidden cameras, Whyte filmed people gathering in public spaces, observed how they behaved, where they migrated to, how long their conversations lasted etc. Using this experiment as a point of comparison, Hampton observed how people communicated within a public space in contemporary society, as we are in the midst of a “communication revolution”. Hampton’s research challenged the widespread concept that today we are overly “plugged in” and completely engrossed in technology at the expense of face-to-face communication. Using 38 hours of comparable film footage, Hampton’s research found that only “10% of modern adults were seen to be using their phones, while actual face-to-face communications and meetings were up significantly”, further “People on the phone were not ignoring lunch partners or interrupting strolls with their lovers; rather, phone use seemed to be a way to pass the time while waiting to meet up with someone, or unwinding during a solo lunch break,” (Hampton).  Hampton claims humans are really “bad” at looking back in time, and that we over idealize how things used to be, and how people really behave, when in reality, things have not really changed all that much. Hampton goes on to challenge and criticize Turkles book “All together”, in which she claims public space isn’t communal anymore, and her theory that no one interacts in these public spaces anymore, because they are so engrossed in their own technological worlds. Hampton claims there isn’t enough real evidence to prove this, and theorizes that our idea that technology has alienated us is a product of our own romanticism of the past. His work shows that over the last few decades, our tendency to communicate with others has actually grown rather significantly. We are looking back at the world without technology through rose colored lenses in a way, technology isn’t necessarily making us isolated or disengaged, it may be changing how we interact, but Hampton’s research seeks to oppose the common stigma or “misperception” surrounding technology and communication.


Why do you think there has become this widespread cynicism surrounding modern technology, or “technological dissidence”?  Do you think technology is really alienating us? Why do you think hipsters are either so closely associated with technology (bloggers, photographers etc.) but on the other end, perceived to be so far removed from,  or the ‘counter culture’ to this digital revolution in which we are living in?



Hampton’s Research Video !!!!


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Deirdre said...

I think there’s some validity in Hampton’s statement that we over-idealize the past and think that we used to be able to ignore the distraction that today we are more focussed on. Clearly technology plays a major role in life today and it is irrefutable that some people use it too much, and that it makes them absent from their lives in many ways. I think the cynicism about modern technology is understandable; whether or not people are willing to admit it we are far more isolated from one another in so many ways. On the other hand, though, many social networks and technologies are now (more than ever) geared toward connection and private messaging. Thus, I see why some people don’t think that technological innovations and our growing obsession with them are making us more alone.
I read an article in Wired a few months ago called “How Gadgets Ruin Relationships and Corrupt Emotions.” In it, the author claimed that isolation is a result of our obsession with technology, and that this isolation fuels our obsession. This is interesting to think about– will the cycle ever stop? We already use apps like tinder and hinge for relationship purposes, and so much of what we know about each other is learned through technology- online, via text, email, etc. So I wonder how will our relationships with one another continue to change. I guess it all depends on the direction in which technology goes. And that means that the level and types of use of technology in America determine the ways we interact with each other–and that it will continue to determine that and maybe always has.

// 04/14/2014 at 10:19 pm

Kevin said...

I think that the biggest reason people are so cynical towards technology is because it is becoming more and more engrained in our lives. It is as if we cannot live without it. Granted, there are major benefits to technology and it makes our lives much easier, but I do not think that anybody doubts that. I think the cynicism comes from this “addiction” or “dependence” we are starting to get on our technology. This is especially concerning when considering the children who were born into this technological age. I read this article recently weighing the pros and cons of technology in the classroom for children. Here is the link:

And consider this quote: “Dr. O’Keeffe worries that all the clicking and swiping is impeding good ol’ fashioned jumping, grabbing and running. ‘For children under 5, it’s not the use of technology that’s the issue,’ she says. ‘It’s the need for them to develop other skills.’ She points out that children spending more time with screens has led to a dip in the amount of time they spend reading, and that they are slower to develop key motor skills like the ability to tie shoes.

This is what makes me somewhat cynical of technology. I am fully aware that technology has amazing possibilities to educate children, but shouldn’t they learn how to crawl before they can walk so to speak? I think that we are fully capable of handling ourselves with technology, but I think that may be largely due to the fact that we grew up without it. Is it possible that utilizing technology even before the age of 2 could have major effects on children’s ability to learn basic human interaction/sharing skills? I think the answer is yes, and that is what makes me somewhat cynical towards technology.

// 04/15/2014 at 5:47 pm