Imagining the Internet Predictions Project
 
More from Sherry Turkle

Watch for a nascent culture of virtual reality that underscores the ways in which we construct gender and the self, the ways in which we become what we play, argue about, and build. And watch for a culture that leaves new space for the idea that he or she who plays, argues, and builds might be doing so with a machine. - 1994
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We are able to step through the looking glass. We are learning to live in virtual worlds. We may find ourselves alone as we navigate virtual oceans, unravel virtual mysteries, and engineer virtual skyscrapers. But increasingly, when we step through the looking glass, other people are there as well ... We have the opportunity to build new kinds of communities, virtual communities in which we participate with people from all over the world, people with whom we converse daily, people with whom we may have fairly intimate relationships but whom we may never physically meet. - 1995
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We are moving toward a culture of simulation in which people are increasingly comfortable with substituting representations of reality for the real. - 1995
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In the story of constructing identity in the culture of simulation, experiences on the Internet figure prominently, but these experiences can only be understood as part of a larger cultural context. That context is the story of the eroding boundaries between the real and the virtual, the animate and the inanimate, the unitary and the multiple self, which is occurring both in advanced scientific fields of research and in the patterns of everyday life. - 1995
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As human beings become increasingly intertwined with the technology and with each other via the technology, old distinctions between what is specifically human and specifically technological become more complex. Are we living life on the screen or life in the screen? Our new technologically enmeshed relationships oblige us to ask to what extent we ourselves have become cyborgs, transgressive mixtures of biology, technology, and code. The traditional distance between people and machines has become harder to maintain. - 1995
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Even as people have come to greater acceptance of a kinship between computers and human minds, they have also begun to pursue a new set of boundary questions about things and people. After several decades of asking, "What does it mean to think?" the question at the end of the 20th century is, "What does it mean to be alive?" We are positioned for yet another romantic reaction, this time emphasizing biology, physical embodiment, the question of whether an artifact can be a life. - 1995
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The Internet has become a significant social laboratory for experimenting with the constructions and reconstructions of self that characterize postmodern life. In its virtual reality, we self-fashion and self-create ... Is this a shallow game, a giant waste of time? Is it an expression of an identity crisis of the sort we traditionally associate with adolescence? Or are we watching the slow emergence of a new, more multiple style of thinking about the mind? - 1995
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The unconscious has its own, structured language that can be deciphered and analyzed. Logic has an affective side, and affect has logic. Perhaps the models of human mind that grow from emergent AI [Artificial Intelligence] might come to support a more integrated view. The interest of psychoanalysts in these models suggests some hope that they might, but there is reason to fear that they will not ... Information processing left affect dissociated; emergent AI may try to integrate it but leave it diminished. - 1995
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The language of "society" is helping to disseminate the idea that machines might be able to think like people and that people may have always thought like machines ... Because the constituent agents of emergent AI offer almost tangible objects-to-think-with, it prepares the way for the idea of mind as machine to become an acceptable part of everyday thinking. - 1995
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If the politics of virtuality means democracy online and apathy offline, there is reason for concern. - 1995
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Increasingly centralized databases provide a material basis for a vastly extended Panopticon that could include the Internet. Even now, there is talk of network censorship, in part through (artificially) intelligent agents capable of surveillance. From Foucault's perspective, the most important factor would not be how frequently the agents are used or censorship is enforced. Like the threat of a tax audit, what matters most is that people know the possibility is always present. - 1995
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In the postwar atomization of American social life, the rise of middle- class suburbs created communities of neighbors who often remained strangers ... We seem to be in the process of retreating further into our homes, shopping for merchandise in catalogues or on television channels, shopping for companionship via personal ads. Technological optimists think that computers will reverse some of this social atomization, touting virtual experience and virtual community as ways for people to widen their horizons. But is it really sensible to suggest that the way to revitalize the community is to sit alone in our rooms, typing at our networked computers and filling our lives with virtual friends? - 1995
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What if my virtual apartment is destroyed...? What if you kidnap my virtual dog ... what if you destroy him and leave his dismembered body in the MUD? In the physically embodied world, we have no choice but to assume responsibility for our body's actions ... The possibilities inherent in virtual reality, on the other hand, may provide some people with an excuse for irresponsibility, just as they may enable creative expressions that would otherwise have been repressed ... The challenge is to integrate some meaningful personal responsibility in virtual environments. Virtual environments are valuable as places where we can acknowledge our inner diversity. - 1995
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Virtual spaces may provide the safety for us to expose what we are missing so that we can begin to accept ourselves as we are. Virtuality need not be a prison. It can be the raft, the ladder, the transitional space, the moratorium, that is discarded after reaching greater freedom. We don't have to reject life on the screen, but we don't have to treat it as an alternative life either. We can use it as a space for growth ... Like the anthropologist returning home from a foreign culture, the voyager in virtuality can return to a real world better equipped to understand its artifices. - 1995
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I want to know what we are becoming if the first objects we look upon each day are simulations into which we deploy our virtual selves. - 1995
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The culture of simulation may help us achieve a vision of a multiple but integrated identity whose flexibility, resilience and capacity for joy comes from having access to our many selves. But if we have lost reality in the process, we shall have struck a poor bargain. - 1995
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Although it provides us with no easy answers, life online does provide new lenses through which to examine current complexities. Unless we take advantage of these new lenses and carefully analyze our situation, we shall cede the future to those who want to believe that simple fixes can solve complicated problems. Given the history of the last century, thoughts of such a future are hardly inspiring. - 1995
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We have seen the computer as a tool, as mirror, and as gateway to a world through the looking glass of the screen. In each of these domains, we are experiencing a complex interweaving of modern and postmodern, calculation and stimulation ... As people have become more and more comfortable psychologizing computers and have come to grant them a certain capacity for intelligence, the boundary dispute between people and machines now falls on the question of life. - 1995
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With mechanistic roots in the culture of calculation, psychoanalytic ideas become newly relevant in the culture of simulation. Some believe that we are at the end of the Freudian century. But the reality is more complex. Our need for a practical philosophy of self knowledge has never been greater, as we struggle to make meaning from our lives on the screen. - 1995

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