My post earlier this week referenced Sherry Turkle. Here is more about her from a review of her new book, Evocative Objects: Things We Think With. In this book she pursues more than the psychological/sociological implications of computers and life on line. She has extended the concept of the “evocative object” to computers as well as other objects.

A number of other scholars have explored the implicit power of things. Two examples are James Elkins’ The Object Stares Back and What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images, by W. J. T. Mitchell. Then there is my own ongoing research into the highly evocative objects of my personal life. This is a very real domain for me and for most artists.

Here’s an excerpt from Penelope Green‘s review:

Objects and artifacts have long been Professor Turkle’s stock in trade. When she arrived at M.I.T. in the 1970s…Professor Turkle brought a humanist’s eye to the device that her new colleagues had become enamored of: the computer.

To her, it was an “evocative object,” a “companion to emotion, and a provocation to thought.” She looked beyond what the computer could do for us to what it might do to us, as individuals and as a society. As a sociologist of science, she spent years studying hacker culture, child programmers and gamers…Her new book uses a similar approach to illuminate more familiar objects. A vacuum cleaner, a closet, photographs, a linty pill in an old wallet — each is examined through varying lenses of anthropology, philosophy and psychoanalysis.

For instance, a datebook and that linty pill, an antidepressant no longer taken by its owner, together bring to life Michel Foucault’s and Roland Barthes’s ideas about a disciplinary society and how its members learn to discipline themselves. As indigestible as this premise sounds, the book is actually a very tasty read…Gifts and heirlooms hold particular power for social theorists like Professor Turkle. She writes about how a gift retains something of its giver and so becomes animate, and about gift-giving as an ancient form of social glue.

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