Masthead CMC Magazine / March 1, 1996
 The Gendered Mystique, by Leslie Regan Shade

Turkle: MUDdying Up the Line Between the Virtual and RL

Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet
by Sherry Turkle
Simon and Schuster, 1995
ISBN 0-684-80353-4
$25.00 (US) $34.00 (Canada)

Turkle takes off from her --pioneering work and leads us on an elegant foray into the multiply constructed identities of players of MUDs ("virtual parlor games") and IRC users, in order to discover how the culture of computer simulation is changing our everyday relationships in both the virtual and RL. Tackling the fluidity of identity that people assume in cyberspace constructions as they 'cycle' through RL, and the multiple windows that people operate and behave with, is done through ethnographic participation in virtual environments and in-depth interview with MUDders and other Internet denizens.

Turkle contends that the design, development, and cultural trajectory of computers has habituated us towards opaque technology where "we take things at interface value" (p.23) and where we use the computer as an adjunct to our RL. This living through and on the computer screen is a new way of projecting and acting out our fantasies, as "we are using life on computer screens to become comfortable with new ways of thinking about evolution, relationships,sexuality, politics, and identity" (p.26).

She traces the development of cognitive styles in personal computing through what she calls the modernist sensibility of the IBM PC, versus a postmodernist Macintosh simulation; to a multi-faceted windows environment, more suited to a bricoleur style of thinking and programming, which has created a climate more welcome for women, artists and humanists. Incursions into emergent AI, with the use of bots and agents, software that purports to offer psychotherapeutic benefits, and connectionism, are progressions which for Turkle are indicative of the melding of mind and machine.--

CMC Magazine Index
Contents Archive Sponsors Studies Contact