ISSUED: 9 September 2015
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens
SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University students, faculty, and staff along with community members are encouraged to explore how technology impacts personal relationships through this year’s common reading, “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other” by Sherry Turkle, the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé professor of the social studies of science and technology in the program in science, technology and society at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Common Reading program offers activities throughout the school year that encourage students, faculty, staff, and members of the community to read the book and further explore its theme. The book is required reading for all students taking first year experience classes. Professors teaching in all majors are encouraged to incorporate the book into their classes.
“It’s well suited for any discipline, really,” said Shannon Holliday, coordinator of the Common Reading program. “I see it as a campus-wide book club. Anyone who wants to read it can jump in at any point in the game throughout the year and then attend events and just be part of the experience.”
Holliday said Turkle has been studying the topic of how technology impacts our personal lives for more than 30 years.
“She’s looked at it in terms of children being exposed to digital toys like Furbies and Tamagotchis, which were popular in the 80s, to kids today playing with iPads and cell phones, and teenagers having friendships and relationships through texts,” Holliday said.
The book is based on interviews Turkle did over a 15-year period with children and adults that explored how technology impacted their personal relationships.
“It’s looking at how social networks change our relationships with one another,” Holliday said. “How having a phone constantly tethered to us changes how we relate to one another socially and also what that might be doing to us individually.”
In the book, Turkle questions whether society is moving ahead without stopping to think about the moral, ethical, or psychological ramifications.
“I think she’s really just urging a sense of caution as we go forward and is encouraging us to stop and think about where it’s taking us before we just jump boldly into the future, which is what we all do because the technology is so seemingly useful and entertaining,” Holliday said. “There are many benefits to technology. It’s changed our lives tremendously and rapidly and I think she’s urging us to stop, take a pause, and look at the impact. We can still shape where it’s taking us and we should.”
Holliday said the book is really well suited for a college common reading program because students are already using technology both in and out of the classroom.
“Almost everyone in the community and on campus is in some way connected digitally,” she said.
Holliday hopes everyone reads the book, thinks about it, discusses it, participates in the ongoing discussion, and attends the events that are planned throughout the year. They include the following events that are free and open to the public:
- “The Disappearance of Ruby Young,” a student-written, -directed, and -acted play, Tuesday, October 20 at 3:30 p.m., Wednesday, October 21 at 6 p.m., and Friday, October 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Reynolds Hall.
- Student Panel Discussion about Technology Past, Present, and Future, Wednesday, October 21, 11 a.m. in the Erma Ora Byrd Hall Auditorium, sponsored by the Shepherd University Foundation.
- “Sherry Turkle and the Internet Hype Cycle: From Delight to Disillusionment,” a lecture with Dr. Elliot King of Loyola University’s Emerging Media Program, Wednesday, November 4, 5 p.m. in the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies auditorium.
Holliday said more events will be planned throughout the year. For more information about the Common Reading program, visit www.shepherd.edu/commonreading.
Listen to the interview with Shannon Holliday HERE.
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