For my reading assignment, I decided to look into Sherry Turkle’s The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit. She talks about thinking of the computer as the second self, as a part of the social and psychological lives, to look deeper past the surface of what computers are used for to better understand ourselves as humans. She does that by talking about how the computer affects us to better understand our relationships with the world, by asking different people of different ages to understand as many perceptions of the computer and its other technologies. In the introduction she quotes a PDA user who felt “a death” when their Palm died, and felt that they were going to “lose their mind”. To have technology become an extension of one’s self is something that many of us unconsciously do in 2019, to rely on them in order to curate daily lives, or to make spreadsheets.
“Are the new generations of simulation consumers reminiscent of people who can pronounce the words in a book but don’t understand what they mean?”
Turkle talks about a time when computers were all code, and that children were made to learn programming in simple forms, to “create their own world” with their own set of rules, while “virtuality seemed new”. She also argues of how “transparency” of technology was changed, such that people no longer found an interest in computer literacy in their daily use of technology. I found it interesting, given that most of technology now relies on a visual interface that covered code, and to quote a professor, create an experience that keeps the technology invisible. It was the total opposite of what I was told to do. She makes some valid points that it allowed for important thinking skills, and to “demystify” technology, allowing children, and also adults, a sense of control.
Going on her tangent about the new era, Turkle mentions the world and culture of simulation, games such as The Sims, in particular. These are all complex simulation games that require a huge working system that can survive while being manipulated by a player. But these systems were already set up by someone else, a simulated world created by someone for an individual to experience, rather than manipulate fully and have any sort of authority. In a sense, she talks a lot about the power one had in their lives by being able to code in a world where technology was booming.
“Technology catalyzes changes not only in what we do but in how we think. It changes people’s awareness of themselves, of one another, of their relationship with the world.”
Looking back to the start of our project, Matapolis, our goal was to hope that people would try to play “bad” in our simulation, to question things that happen in the scenes that were shown to them. I felt like I agreed with many things that Turkle had to say, and it gave me some sort of validation in the kind of project that we were making. Simulations were not supposed to be realistic, but to question the “real”. The second self was a way to reflect on where we, as humans, stood in nature, to question our being.
Turkle, Sherry. “Video Games and Computer Holding Power.” In The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1984-2005.