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The picture below (Hopper, 1932) suggests that the absence of conversation is not new.

You wouldn’t know that if you swallowed The New York Times publicity for Sherry Turkle’s latest book, Reclaiming Conversation, which apparently argues that smart phones are alienating everyone from everyone else. A front cover essay in the September 26 NYT Sunday Review by Professor Turkle combined with a forthcoming rave review of the new book by novelist Jonathan Franzen–huh, a novelist? when there are many expert researchers who could have reviewed?–and a 2012 preview by Turkle as well as a 2013 one–leave quite an impression that smart phones have silenced Americans.

Deja vu all over again (requiescat in pace, Yogi Berra).

In 2011, Times reviewer Michiko Kakatuni gave Turkle’s previous book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, a strong thumbs-up and science journalist Jonah Lerner  (later discredited) wrote the Sunday book review, albeit with some criticisms. One should also note that Professor Turkle has long been the go-to source on the social consequences of digital communications for the Times.

All this coverage despite researchers’ skepticism, based on systematic evidence, about the claim that digital technology is alienating Americans. (My earlier comments are here and here.) Indeed, the Times itself published a piece last year in the Magazine entitled, “Technology Is Not Driving Us Apart After All,”reviewing some of the science. I guess someone at the paper did not get the memo.

So, what am I complaining about now?

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