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Sherry Turkle      

Best-Selling Author of “Reclaiming Conversation”; Expert on Technology and Its Role in Transforming Relationships in a Digital Society; Sociologist and MIT Professor

Professor, author, consultant and researcher, Sherry Turkle has spent the last 30 years researching the psychology of people’s relationships with technology. She is the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT, as well as the founder and current director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, a center of research and reflection on the evolving connections between people and artifacts.

Referred to by many as the "Margaret Mead of digital culture," Professor Turkle has investigated the intersection of digital technology and human relationships from the early days of personal computers to our current world of robotics, artificial intelligence, social networking and mobile connectivity. She has a new book currently in press on the importance of conversation in digital cultures, including business and the professions, called “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age” (Penguin Press, October 2015). Her previous book, "Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other" (Basic Books, 2011), was a featured talk at TED2012, describing technology's influence on relationships between friends, lovers, parents and children, and new instabilities in how we understand privacy and community, intimacy and solitude.

Professor Turkle's exploration into our lives on the digital terrain shows how technological advancement doesn't just catalyze changes in what we do—it affects how we think. Her research also raises critical questions about technology's role in business productivity, asking whether multi-tasking actually leads to deteriorating performance in each of our tasks. Does our always connected state affect our ability, to think, to be creative and to innovate?

Professor Turkle has been profiled in such publications as The New York Times, Scientific American, and WIRED. She is a featured media commentator on the effects of technology for CNN, NBC, ABC and NPR, including appearances on such programs as Nightline, 20/20 and The Colbert Report, and has been named a Harvard Centennial Medalist and a Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year. In 2014 she was named to American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Professor Turkle received a joint doctorate in sociology and personality psychology from Harvard University, and is a licensed clinical psychologist.

Speech Topics


The Power of Conversation: Preserving Human Connection in a Digital World

Technology has not only changed what we do; it has changed who we are, with dramatic impacts on how we work, learn, and think about the world. But how have our new lives of continual connection changed one of our most basic human interactions--namely conversation? Sherry Turkle examines how technology shapes modern relationships, both in personal and professional life, seen through our growing tendency to sacrifice conversation for mere connection. If we recognize this "Flight From Conversation" we will reclaim richer lives at home, in public life, and even at work where the roles of mobile technology and social media have been so widely praised. Many people believe that because we've grown up with the Internet, the internet is all grown up. But we are in the early days of what the Internet has done to shift our social and cultural lives, and Sherry is optimistic that there is plenty of time to change how we build and use our devices to build the kinds of personal and work relationships that are most productive. In particular, she argues, that there is time to reclaim conversation. Without conversation, we shortchange ourselves in our relationships with each other and in our relationships with ourselves, in our capacity for self-reflection. In our work, we face a paradox: a new regime of always-on communication isolates us in new ways that compromise innovation, collaboration, and leadership. Sherry believes now is the time to change our relationship with our devices and with ourselves for a more reflective, fulfilled life.

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

Facebook. Twitter. Second Life. Smart phones. Location-aware services that tell us where our friends are. Technology promises to let us do anything from anywhere with anyone. But it also drains us as we try to do everything everywhere. We begin to feel overwhelmed and depleted by the lives technology makes possible. We may be free to work from anywhere, but we are also prone to being lonely everywhere. We turn to new technology to fill the void, but as technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down. In a surprising twist, relentless connection leads to a new solitude.

Sherry Turkle has explored our lives on the digital terrain for nearly fifteen years. Drawing insights from her book, Alone Together, she presents the power of these new tools to dramatically alter our social lives and our business productivity.

Sherry explains businesses need to reassess the usefulness of some old virtues in todays hyper-connected corporate cultures--in particular, deliberateness and solitude. Questioning whether weve edged ourselves into a paradox, Sherry challenges audiences to address such questions as: What are costs of hyper-connectivity? Are people overloaded connecting but not communicating? How have we bought in to the "myth of multitasking"? Does multitasking keep our brains on a "high," but deteriorate our performance in each of our tasks? And how does this new always on, always connected state affect our ability to think, to be creative, and to innovate?

The Flight From Conversation

A generation has grown up feeling that “It would rather text than talk.” And believing that it is possible to share our attention during almost everything we do. What are the costs of a “flight from conversation” in personal life, among one’s family and friends? What are the costs in the work world? And most important, what can we do about it?

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