|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? How can the Internet help Seniors combat boredom and relate to other generations? Will electronic communication lead to a resurgence in writing skills? Will the have vs. havenot dilemma become the passionate vs. the totally uninterested? psychologically? Additional questions and comments . Sumana Harihareswara of Stockton, CA, asks:
I'm 15, so I've grown up my whole life around computers and am fairly at ease with the Internet. But those even younger than me are even more at ease with them.
How will the Internet and technology advances affect the children of today psychologically? And is it possible to have a truly warm and sympathetic real relationship, carried on solely by e-mail?
MIT professor Sherry Turkle responds:
I would answer your question by analogy with the history of the telephone. I think that the first generation of people who used the telephone were not comfortable integrating it into the "rest of life." It was sort of an alien object, for use on special occasions and for special purposes. But then, it became something that people used to extend their relationships; they used their familiarity with it to make it work for them. I see this as the process that is currently unfolding in regard to the Internet. A generation that grows up completely comfortable with it will be in the best position to turn it to the most positive human ends.
As to your second question, I think that e-mail allows for a "real" relationship just as written correspondence always has. There are some kinds of connections that are, however, engaged by face-to-face contact and I think that the most powerful use of e-mail is when it is used to extend the spontanaiety and "presence" of relationships where people have met face to face.
It is a more fluid medium than traditional correspondence because of the sense of instantaneous contact . . . you can send a message out and get a message back when you are in the same emotional state as when you sent out your original message. This of course is not true with traditional correpsondence.