Reading Reflection: Alone Together by Sherry Turkle


Technology is shaping our modern relationships: with others, with ourselves, with it.

Digital natives like myself utilise modern technology and incorporate it in our everyday lives more rapidly and unceremoniously. We are the lucky ones; lucky enough to be born in the era of the Internet with the ability to be connected to vast pools of information and data allowing us to navigate the world right at our fingertips.

“Technology has become like a phantom limb, it is so much a part of them. These young people are among the first to grow up with an expectation of continuous connection: always on, and always on them.” —Sherry Turkle

Our attention is continuously grabbed by an overabundance of content in our mobile devices. In today’s technology-driven world, people expect to have the means to communicate with others at any given moment. Constant communication through use of technology changes the way people think of themselves and how they communicate.

“What excited me most was the idea that we would use what we learned in the virtual world about ourselves, about our identity, to live better lives in the real world.”  —Sherry Turkle

Sherry Turkle, a distinguished scholar in the area of how technology influences human identity to understand what happens when mind meets machine, is an Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor in the Program of Science, Technology and Society at MIT. She is also the author of the book, ‘Alone Together’ and a guest speaker at TED 2012.

In her book, Turkle suggests that just because digital natives grew up together with the Internet, we tend to see it as all grown up and fully developed, but it is not. Digital technology is still in its infancy and there is ample time for us to reshape how we build it, add to it, and use it.

Turkle studies how our devices and online personas are redefining human connection and communication — and asks us to think deeply about the kinds of connection we want to have. Although I share the same sentiments as Turkle on that in her insightful book, I’d like to offer my critique on an issue that I found disconcerting.


In Chapter 2 of her book: ‘Video Games and Computer Holding Power’ she states that:
“It is an understatement to say that people are ambivalent about the growing computer presence: we like new conveniences but on the eve of a new era, we, by definition, do not know where we are. We are ill at ease even with our children, who are so much at ease with a technology that many of us approach at arm’s length. Parents want their children to have every advantage, but this new expertise estranges them.”

A PBS documentary which aired in 2010 by Digital Nation, also addresses Turkle’s same concern. The purpose of the program was “to examine the risks and possibilities, myths and realities presented by the new digital culture we all inhabit”. However, the most concerning to me is the suggestion that multi-tasking online is not to be applauded but to be concerned because of the impact on one’s social and cognitive abilities.

Research throughout the past decade has shown that technology can enhance literacy development, impact knowledge acquisition, provide greater access to information, support learning and enhance the self-esteem of students. Because technology and our online personas are so ingrained in how we do things today, I believe that it is an advantage for us to be with each other but also elsewhere — experiential learning on the Internet.


Although it is undeniable that each of us, in our everyday interactions, choose between letting technology shape us and shaping it towards human purposes, an open online learning community like Open Source Studio (OSS) isn’t a substitute for traditional learning.

Rather, OSS is a tool to enhance and improve the traditional model of learning. It is an opportunity to suss out, experiment and bring research methodologies into education. In the learning environment, technology can propel and transform academics into a more dynamic and social space where students can work through problems and make their opinions and standpoints known (like in this blog post). By reviewing content and issues that students bring up in the third space, the professor can better prepare lessons and address challenging ideas or questions surfaced through online interaction during face-to-face time in the classroom. The Internet could function as a tool that enables professors to be more in tune with their student’s individual needs and learning patterns. The draw and motivation of schools to participate in offering open online courses like OSS is to discover what aspects of teaching can be done at scale so that scarce resources and energy can be devoted to enhancing learning.

Randall Packer created OSS in 2012; an exploration of new online methodologies for teaching multimedia art. In the ‘Internet Art and Culture’ and ‘Media and Performance’ classes in NTU taught by Packer who is a Visiting Associate Professor —both of which I enrolled in and completed— we create hyperessays that take full advantage of the multimedia capabilities of WordPress: with embedded images, gifs, video, hyperlinks, sound etc. drawn from readings, discussions, previous projects and other research.

An extension of the multimedia presentation, hyperessays promote stronger memory links than text alone. The Internet provides students with access to materials like images, news articles, literature, videos etc. By utilising these resources, comprehensibility is enhanced through student control and annotations as well as hyperlinks to different media. It also grants students quick and easy access to different parts of instructional materials when a textbook is not used; allowing the students to more easily digest information in manageable bite-sized pieces.

Digital technology motivates and engages students. When students have a choice in their assignment, see the relevancy, or can self-assess with professor feedback intertwined, motivation increases. When students are given more choice in their tasks, those tasks in turn are more meaningful and increases the students’ intrinsic motivation.

While technology is indeed an escape route to awkward alone situations, it hasn’t completely destroyed how human beings communicate with each other; especially in the online learning environment. However, I do find this issue just needs to be better anticipated and redefined for the betterment of future students.

Reading Reflection: Mindsharing by Lior Zoref


While researching about the power of the Internet and how our network practices have changed our lives within the last decade, I came across an idea called ‘Mindsharing” in a book I found at the National Library. Mindsharing was the term coined by Israeli-based “crowd wisdom researcher” and public speaker, Lior Zoref. Mindsharing, he notes, comes from similar ideas as crowdsourcing.

mindsharing!The Art of Crowdsourcing Everything:

Crowdsourcing, a modern business term coined in 2005, is defined by Merriam-Webster as the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from a large pool of people in the online community. Crowdsourcing is distributed problem-solving. By distributing tasks to a large group of people, you are able to mine collective intelligence, assess quality and process work in parallel.

Mindsharing, on the other hand, means to utilise the power of social media and crowd wisdom to improve our work and personal lives. Former Microsoft marketing and online services guru, Zoref, takes an informative look at the way crowds can help us make better, smarter decisions. By this logic, you’ll get better results if you ask lots of people for advice, because groups can actually provide more accurate answers than experts.

With access to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc, we are able to turn to mindsharing to find information about topics like relationships, finance, careers and many more. It invites people to think with us instead of for us and goes beyond our circle for advice and support.

In his 2012 Ted Talk at Long Beach Convention Centre, Zoref brought a live ox out on stage and invited the audience through crowdsourcing to guess its weight. The average of the crowd’s guesses pegged the animal at 1,792 pounds —only three pounds less than its actual weight, supporting Zoref’s idea that crowds can be smarter than individuals.

Zoref refers to studies such as Mark Granovetter’s 1973 paper on the strength of less intimate relationships, or “weak ties.” We’ve long recognized that a diverse group of acquaintances might be able to create a better solution to a problem than our more biased friends and families. However, never before have we had such ready access to a huge number of acquaintances as we do now in the era of social media and mobile connectivity.

“If we learn to rely on and trust the wisdom of the crowd, our decisions will be better, quicker, and easier. It is important to note that when we Mindshare, we aren’t asking others to think for us, but rather, to think with us. Through actively Mindsharing, you can access the global brain, which is far more powerful than any individual brain, and hack your way into a better career, stronger relationships, and the fulfillment of virtually any dream or goal you can imagine.”

—Lior Zoref

This idea of mindsharing can be brought back to the practices of OSS. We are able to hang out on the class site where our posts are being brought together and on our classmate’s personal websites to discuss their works and progress and offer our input. On the OSS platform, we can easily post an open-ended question on our research posts for our peers and even professors to respond to; just like in social media. Social media is truly an example of how learning and research has changed through collaboration, connecting and communication tools.

Great minds think alike.
Creative minds think together.

OSS is hence a very powerful and open-environment medium for professional and academic growth for digital natives; for we are presented with a much larger platform and resources to be more immersed in research. There, digital natives like us are able to apply what we have learnt navigating social media to our academic work. By leveraging technology through OSS in our academic journey, we are now able to engage in many-to-many collective form of participation, develop and engage in new modes of social interaction, social media, and mobile connectivity.

Additional sources & links:
Best Passive Income Model Podcast with Lior Zoref
7 Tips to becoming a Crowdsourcing Ace