Alone Together is a nonfiction book that was written by Sherry Turkle. The theme of the book has created many heated discussions about the influence of technology on human interaction. This essay aims to analyze the introduction of the book. Through the use of ethos, pathos, and logos, Turkle effectively convinces the audience that technology drastically reshapes social life. It creates a comfortable environment but takes away the sincerity out of the relationship.
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The primary audience of this book is diverse: it varies from teenagers and young adults to elders. Turkle makes it clear that she is aware of her reader’s values. For instance, she states that teenagers find “comfort of connection without the demands of intimacy and the idea of technological communion” (Turkle 10). It means that adolescents are open to the idea of exchanging the commitment of relationships for the simplicity that is provided by digital devices. At the same time, the elderly value compassion and attention, but sometimes their families cannot or would not give it to them. However, it is suggested that “robots will cure the troubles of their time of life” (Turkle 18). That is why they are aggressively marketed to old people.
One of the ideas that she expresses in the introduction is that she is troubled by the concept of seeking intimacy with a machine that is not capable of having feelings. In various instances, Turkle uses ethos, which “involves the moral character of the speaker” (Mori 65). The author tries to prove her point by telling that, as “a psychoanalytically trained psychologist, she places high value on relationships of intimacy and authenticity” (6). This particular sentence expresses her worry about the meaningfulness of connections between robots and humans. Moreover, Turkle tries to convince the audience by pointing out that she is s a professional in the field of human interactions. For this reason, her point can be seen by the readers as reliable.
Moreover, the author emphasizes her credibility by using quotes from other sources. For instance, she talks about how she understands authenticity. For her, it “follows from the ability to relate to the other because of a shared store of human experiences: we are born, have families, and know loss and the reality of death” (Turkle 6). That phrase is taken from a French philosopher Levinas, which means that Turkle has researched to fully understand the topic. That fact can convince the audience that a genuine relationship between robots and humans is not possible since robots cannot express empathy.
Another example of ethos is the story of Miriam, the participant in Turkle’s studies, who builds a relationship with a therapeutic robot since she is lonely. The author draws attention to the fact, that even if Miriam “experienced intimacy with another, but she was alone” (Turkle 9). That note means that apart from studying academic sources, Turkle also carried out her investigation. This information serves as evidence of how thoroughly she studied the subject. Thus, her point of view on the authenticity of the relationship between a human and a robot is proven once more.
The next point that the author tries to prove is that people try to simulate their relationship by using technology. To persuade the audience, aside from ethos, Turkle also uses pathos. According to researchers, pathos is “putting the hearer into a certain frame of mind” (Mori 65). For instance, she refers to experiences that many children have played with Tamagotchi and Furbies (Turkle 18). Many children grew up playing with these toys that were specifically designed for providing companionship. That is why this argument allows readers to reflect on their own experiences.
Moreover, Turkle notes that nowadays, teens are preoccupied with their Facebook profiles. She also points out that adolescents do not use phones for calls anymore and prefer texting (Turkle 15). That topic can be considered familiar for many parents since they see the obsession with social media as a major problem. This is another way for the author to influence the audience by recalling the relatable experience.
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In addition, Turkle also talks about the authenticity of Skype calls. Particularly, she mentions the experience of Ellen, one of her participants. Many people can relate to the feeling of missing relatives, and Ellen uses Skype to connect with her grandmother (Turkle 13). However, despite the affordability and overall easy nature of Skype calls, the conversations are not rewarding. This story emphasizes Turkle’s point on how devices can give a sense of connection, but they never manage to provide the same intimacy that real-life conversations have.
After that Turkle makes her next point by saying that humans are vulnerable, and for this reason, technology appeals to their weaknesses. The final rhetorical element that is used by the author in the narration is logos, which employs “logical reasoning to persuade the hearers to act” (Mori 65). As an example, she talks about the Second Life, the game, where people are represented as avatars (Turkle 1) that are more beautiful and richer than in real life. That fact proves that people use technology as a way to explore themselves and experience something they cannot do in real life. However, that method of compensation takes away the satisfaction of the offline world.
Moreover, Turkle further elaborates on the use of robots in elderly care. She emphasizes that despite the positive influence of such devices on older people, robots cannot understand their feelings, unlike relatives or even pets (Turkle 9). Nevertheless, robots appeal to the vulnerabilities of the elderly by giving them the illusion of compassion. People like Miriam, who was mentioned earlier, are often abandoned by their children. For this reason, technology plays a role of a substitute, which compensates for the lack of connection.
Another use of logos is the indication that devices provide people with an instrument to manage a quick-paced life. According to her, “technology has become like a phantom limb; it is so much a part of them” (Turkle 17). They are always online answering texts, sending e-mails, and voicemails to multiple people at the same time. In this way, devices appeal to the necessity of making the most of their time to achieve different goals. However, the more someone tries to accomplish with the help of technology, the busier they become every day.
The author explores a variety of topics that relate to society and technology and effectively presents her own opinions on how digital devices warped the way people communicate. Through the use of ethos, she appeals to the audience’s values of intimacy. As she states, “technology redraws the boundaries between intimacy” (Turkle 11). As a psychology specialist who studied the topic thoroughly, she emphasizes the importance of the authenticity of the relationship. Regarding pathos, she claims that people think of simulation “as second best” (Turkle 17), which is relatable to non-confident teenagers. The author proves her point by using relatable examples of how people imitate relationships with devices or on the internet. Finally, through logos, Turkle applies logical arguments on how “technology is seductive when what it offers meets our human vulnerabilities” (Turkle 1). She presents examples of how devices appeal to people’s needs of connection, which is valuable for the elderly, and a need for effective time management, which is something that young people appreciate.
In conclusion, it would appear that even in the introduction, Turkle makes strong claims about the power of technology. With the use of ethos, she convinces the audience of it is futile to seek intimacy in a relationship with a robot. With pathos, the author persuades the reader that human connections on the Internet are only simulations. Finally, with the use of logos, she persuasively argues that the attractiveness of technology is caused by its ability to appeal to various human vulnerabilities. Turkle successfully employed different rhetorical devices to persuade the audience that technology has a significant influence on society.
Mori, Kenji. “Analysis of the Discourse of Diplomatic Conflict at the UN: Application of Ethos, Pathos, Logos.” Proceedings of 12th International Conference on Humanities & Social Sciences, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Khon Kaen University, Thailand, 2016.
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Hachette UK, 2017.