Sherry Turkle

Sherry Turkle is Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT and the author, most recently, of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.

Diary: Tamagotchi Love

Sherry Turkle, 20 April 2006

I take my 14-year-old daughter to the Darwin exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History. The exhibition documents Darwin’s life and thought, and somewhat defensively presents the theory of evolution as the central truth that underpins contemporary biology. The exhibition wants to convince and it wants to please. At the entrance there are two turtles from the Galapagos Islands....

From The Blog
24 February 2017

As I was preparing to speak at Seymour Papert’s memorial last month, I turned to my 1980 copy of Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas. The hardback first edition. The one with the orange cover that had the photo insert of a young girl commanding a floor Turtle. She had programmed a computer in Logo to instruct the Turtle to sketch out a bear, and she looks happy as she surveys the results of her work. Next to her is a young boy. He is laughing, joyful. His body cradles the Turtle, his hand lovingly grazes its back. The girl is Miriam Lawler, the daughter of the psychologist Bob Lawler who was one of Seymour’s students and collaborators. The boy is the nephew of John Berlow, Seymour’s editor. These children grew up with Logo. The joy in the photo is part of their everyday experience of living in the Logo culture. It illustrates many of Seymour’s most powerful ideas about objects and learning.

From The Blog
26 October 2016

On 9 March, I went to Washington, DC to consult with the Commission on Presidential Debates, a non-partisan organisation founded in 1987 that runs the election debates. Any candidate who receives at least 15 per cent support in five national polls is eligible to take part. In practice, this usually means that a Republican faces a Democrat in three commission-sponsored televised debates.

When I was a graduate studying psychology in the Seventies, I was taught that multiple personality was a rare, almost unheard of disease. One textbook said that there was one multiple per million people; another that there had been fewer than a dozen diagnosed cases in the past fifty years. I went through graduate school, internship, psychoanalytic training, and 15 years of clinical practice in Boston without ever meeting a patient who exhibited symptoms of multiple personality. I was never assigned, and never read, any book or article on the subject. And I never knew or heard of anyone who had such a patient in treatment.

Diary: The Hillary Wars

Sherry Turkle, 22 October 1992

At the Boston Park Plaza on 2 September, Hillary Clinton is speaking to over 1500 supporters, mostly women, each of whom has paid $250 for a sandwich and a chance to hear her. The Republican National Convention has only just ended, so Clinton gets warm laughter and applause when she thanks Phyllis Schafly, Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan for the attacks that have brought out her defenders in such great numbers. She speaks of an America where women have a right to make choices about their bodies, their careers and their families. She speaks of equality in jobs and pay and of decent education and health care for everyone. Join her. Join Bill. We can make the future. I remember how I felt listening to John Kennedy’s inaugural address as a 12-year-old schoolgirl. I was excited but anxious, aware that I was too young. It wasn’t yet time for my generation. Perhaps it would be time now. Embarrassed by my reverie and my emotion, I pull myself back to the present. Clinton is no longer speaking. At my table sit a lawyer, a real-estate broker and an architect. They are debating whether she is ‘too hard’.

Dynasty: Lacan and Co

Sherry Turkle, 6 December 1990

Freud believed that psychoanalysis was so deeply subversive of people’s most cherished beliefs that only resistance to psychoanalytic ideas would reveal where they were being taken seriously. In 1914 he wrote that ‘the final decisive battle’ for psychoanalysis would be played out ‘where the greatest resistance has been displayed’. By that point it was already clear that it was in France, the country of Mesmer, Bernheim, Charcot, Bergson and Janet, France with its long literary tradition of exquisite sensitivity to the psychological, that resistance to psychoanalysis was greatest. ‘In Paris itself,’ reflected Freud, ‘the conviction seemed to reign … that everything good in psychoanalysis is a repetition of Janet’s views with insignificant modifications, and that everything else is bad.’ Despite early interest by the Surrealists, there was no French psychoanalytic society until 1926, and for over a quarter of a century it remained small, its members badly stigmatised by their medical peers. Before World War Two, the French had rejected psychoanalysis as a German inspiration; after the war it fared only a little bit better with a new image as an American import.

War Zone

Sherry Turkle, 23 November 1989

All his life Donald Winnicott took great pains to present himself as an orthodox Freudian. Yet few ‘Freudians’ have been more radical in their departures from orthodoxy. Winnicott’s central ideas about mothers and infants, about nurture and cure, about the authenticity of self, are evocative and powerful, but they are nonetheless heresy. Freud saw the triangle of Oedipal loves as a crucible for the development of personality; Winnicott focused on the earliest bonding of mother and child. Freud portrayed people driven by the contradictions of desire into frustrating and ambivalent attachments; Winnicott stressed that only in attachments can human beings find an authentic self. And Winnicott’s most important theoretical contributions, unlike Freud’s, are never described in terms of the differences between the sexes.

Why are you here?

Sherry Turkle, 5 January 1989

On 16 June 1953 an administrative session of the Paris Psychoanalytic Society passed a vote of no confidence in its President, Jacques Lacan. Lacan’s theory was at war with internationally-dominant trends in ego psychology. His short analytic sessions took liberties with practices that others saw as sacred. And in relations with colleagues, Lacan disturbed the peace by insisting that traditional psychoanalytic societies undermined psychoanalytic truths. With the no confidence vote, Lacan resigned his presidency, and the Paris Society split in two. During his lifetime, the French psychoanalytic movement would be torn by four such schisms. In each, analysts would be forced to make a choice for or against Lacan.


Listening to Lacan

5 January 1989

Mr Cohen (Letters, 30 March) need not fear I have made a shift towards the rabid. My purpose both in Psychoanalytic Politics and in my recent review of the early Lacan seminars is to understand what Lacan was trying to tell us, why so many people stopped to listen, and what paying attention to him can teach us. I underscore ‘trying’ because, beginning with Freud, psychoanalytic theory teaches...

Alone Together is a work of atonement for the things Sherry Turkle missed or got wrong in her earlier work on computers and people.

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My space or yours?

Peter Campbell, 17 October 1996

In the world which is entered by way of the computer people are often not what they seem; they may hide behind their screens and offer false descriptions of themselves. The boundaries between...

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Ego’s End

John Sturrock, 22 November 1979

Sherry Turkle has written a reasonable, useful and heroically neutral book on the Lacan phenomenon: the sudden celebrity in France as maître à penser of Jacques Lacan, an elderly...

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