Computer training and systems must allow more personal freedom if
many of today's workers and students are to willingly enter the
inform ation age, according to Dr. Sherry Turkle, a member of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Program in Science,
Technology and Society and author of the bestseller "The Second Self:
Computersand the Human Spirit."
The computer, she said, is "a powerful psychology medium, a mind
tool." Like the Rorschach test, the end user's personality dominates
his computer use.
Firms and schools which adopt standardized computer systems and
training, therefore, must take steps to insure individual freedom in
system acceptance and applications. Failure to do so could hamper
their productivity in the modern economy and result in unexpected
"Once somebody decides that a computer calls for a way of being
that is not their way, it is very hard to get them back the other
way," she said.
Computers are unique among modern mechanization in their
attraction to mankind, Turkle indicated. As a 12-year-old student
told her, "when you program a computer, you take a little piece of
your mind and you put it in the computer's mind, and you come to
think of it differently.
"And as she later said," Turkle continued, "you come to think of
Computers offer three "hooks" to emotional affection that are not
associated with VCRs, European sports cars, or diamonds, she noted.
- Computers offer a "mind to mind" relationship. The key to the
videogame explosion, for example, was a player's ability to "psyche
out" not the game program, but its programmer.
- Computers offer a promise of perfection mankind continually
seeks. With modern word processing, users have the ability to create
perfect texts, whereas with the typewriter, correction fluid and a
dictionary are a must.
- Computers offer an illusion of companionship without intimacy.
This is the key, Turkle said, for in our sped-up society, people
today are suffering under a strange paradox. They are lonely, and
yet they are terrified of intimacy.
"If you step back and think about it, the computer plays into this
problem in a particularly meaningful way. It is interactive and yet
reactive," she said.
"It isn't necessarily a bad thing. It has to do with our ability
to project pieces of our mind into another matter."
Turkle identified three different styles in which people
approached computers. The styles, she said, proved a strong
indicator of how users think of themselves.
Risk vs. Reassurance - Many people use computers to "create a safe
structured universe," she said. …