|HUMAN IDENTITY IN CYBERSPACE
March 25, 1997
in this forum:
How have computers affected education and learning? Is the personality used in computer interaction a second self? Will electronic communication lead to a resurgence in writing skills? How will the Internet and technology advances affect the children of today psychologically? Will the have vs. havenot dilemma become the passionate vs. the totally uninterested? psychologically? Additional questions and comments . Paul Muller of Greenwich, CT, asks:
We have pioneered a program in Greenwich which acquaints Senior Citizens with e-mail and the Internet. It is held at two private schools in the area, taught by members of their faculty with coaches being a combination of computer literate seniors and students aged 10-12 years old. Our motive aside from the inter-generational experience is to expose Seniors to a world developing around them to which they may have been oblivious and also to give them a level playing field with their grandchildren.
Questions: What dangers could be lurking in this attempt to relieve Seniors of boredom, expose them to the world developing around them, etc? Any thoughts you might have re minefields we should be aware of would be appreciated.
MIT professor Sherry Turkle responds:
I don't see minefields here . . . I see lots of possibilities and ways to make this a more positive experience.
One of the nicest features of what you are doing is the intergenerational aspect of the program. And also the fact that you are combining an experience on the net with an experience with face-to-face interaction. I think that this mix of virtual and embodied experience is where the entire computer culture is going. There are a lot of fears that circulate about our being "sucked into virtual reality" and taken away from our face to face relationships, but I think that these fears are not founded. These seniors are brought together to learn about using online resources . . . they should be encouraged to continue their own community both on and offline. I think that as a culture, we are just beginning to learn how to explore the opportunities on the boundary between the physical and virtual . . . how to integrate the two. It seems to me that your project provides a workshop, a testing ground for ideas. Good job.