Time, Space, Identity. Oh, and attention-sharing.

Confrontation between old and new perspectives around acceptable uses of technologies are vivid in Always On, Turkle’s Chapter 8. For example, a middle-aged man is incredulous to learn that a woman he invited to dinner was blogging the conversation while at the table, and teenagers do not understand the question when Turkle asks whether being interrupted by Facebook messages or texts when doing homework is distracting, because, as they explain, “’That’s just how it is. That’s just my life.’”

Examining changing notions of time, space and identity in interesting ways, Turkle notes that “Distinctions blur. Virtual places offer connection with uncertain claims to commitment. “  Pointing out the irony in our approach to adopting technologies thought to be time-savers, Turkle shows that these tools can then end up enabling much greater access to our lives and activities, therefore arguably taking more time. She also articulates what she terms “our new kind of time: the time of attention sharing.” As educators we cannot overlook the ramifications for learning and teaching if attention is shared, and if the meaning of attention is changing.

While Turkle’s insights are extremely valuable, she sometimes draws sweeping generalizations that beg to be questioned. For example, she mentions “the risk that we come to see others as objects to be accessed – and only for the parts we find useful, comforting, or amusing.” (154) Yet it seems important to me to remind ourselves that humans have treated each other as entities (or objects) with resources to be taken advantage of since long before digital social media existed.

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