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January 20, 2014


Matt Maldre

After reading Putnam's "Bowling Alone" back in the early 00s, I finished the book wishing he provided more solutions instead of problems. I'm glad to hear that people who were more engaged online ended up being more connected in real life.

Now if you could clarify the last paragraph. At first it's saying that Turkle's claim that technology is ruining social interactions in public space. But then in the same paragraph you state that "only 3% of people talk on cellphones in public spaces." Are you providing that stat to counter Turkle's claim?

Richard Prouty

Yes. Hampton attacks Turkle's anecdotal approach. Here's the paragraph in the article:

[Hampton] crudely summarized his former M.I.T. colleague Sherry Turkle’s book “Alone Together.” “She said: ‘You know, today, people standing at a train station, they’re all talking on their cellphones. Public spaces aren’t communal anymore. No one interacts in public spaces.’ I’m like: ‘How do you know that? We don’t know that. Compared to what? Like, three years ago?’ ”

Matt Maldre

Thanks for the response, Richard!

Yeah, I agree with you. How does Turkle know that? In some ways, public spaces are _more_ communal, thanks to foursquare checkins, tagged instagram posts. We can view how other people view specific spaces.

John Hupp

I thought "Alone Together" was a book by Elizabeth Collins Cromley about the history of apartment buildings in New York City... Which is to say, societal alienation predates smartphones.

Richard Prouty

You're right: Elizabeth Collins Cromley wrote Alone Together A History of New York's Early Apartments. However, Sherry Turkle wrote Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. The latter book is the one to which Hampton is referring.

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What Is One-Way Street?

One-Way Street [Einbahnstrasse, 1928] was Walter Benjamin's first effort to break out of the narrow confines of the academy and apply the techniques of literary studies to life as it is currently lived. For Benjamin criticism encompasses the ordinary objects of life, the literary texts of the time, films in current release, and the fleeting concerns of the public sphere. Following Benjamin's lead, this blog is concerned with the political content of the aesthetic and representations of the political in the media. As Benjamin writes in One-Way Street, "He who cannot take sides should keep silent."