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Life on Screen

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Sherry TurkleEdit

Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet [1995]Edit

In this 1995 follow-up to The Second Self, Turkle expands her previous work beyond the one-on-one of user/computer into an internet-based ecology while maintaining her psychoanalytic and ethnographic-based methodology. With the aid of the Internet, the computer is amplified as a tool that allows you to exist in multiple contexts--to not just have a second self but plural yet distributed selves. Turkle is significantly interested in the phenomenon of splitting minds that is involved in navigating and managing multiple one existences, raising the inevitable question of how these digital lives relate to our "RL". Turkle looks to these communities as profitable sites for considering the construction and reconstruction of identity. Similarly, these sites enable possibilities of new human/technology connections, as well as postmodernism. Turkle writes: "...this is not a book about computers. Rather, it is a book about the intense relationships people have with computers and how these relationships are changing the way we think and feel" (22). Computers have become an object that generates ideas about new relations to politics, sex, emotion, relationships and identity.

Turkle believes that these internet-based worlds finally make good on the promises of post-structuralist theory--notions of decentered selves, plays of signifiers, fragments, fields and desiring connections. Usefully, Turkle does acknowledge a more hierarchical and progress-based method of understanding computing, what she identifies as a computational modernist aesthetic: "In other words, computational ideas were presented as one of the great modern metanarratives, sotires of how the world worked that provided unifying pictures and analyzed complicated things by breaking them down into simpler parts" (19). The ultimate goal of the computer was to become the faster calculating engine.

But in constrast to this history, computers were also effecient simulators. Just as the mind was once understood as merely a centralized structure with programmed rules (modernist), decentering and complexity theory have become the norm.

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