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"A beautiful book... an instant classic of the genre." --Dwight Garner, New York Times - A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice MIT psychologist and bestselling author of Reclaiming Conversation and Alone Together, Sherry Turkle's intimate memoir of love and work For decades, Sherry Turkle has shown how we remake ourselves in the mirror of our machines. Here, she "A beautiful book... an instant classic of the genre." --Dwight Garner, New York Times - A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice MIT psychologist and bestselling author of Reclaiming Conversation and Alone Together, Sherry Turkle's intimate memoir of love and work For decades, Sherry Turkle has shown how we remake ourselves in the mirror of our machines. Here, she illuminates our present search for authentic connection in a time of uncharted challenges. Turkle has spent a career composing an intimate ethnography of our digital world; now, marked by insight, humility, and compassion, we have her own. In this vivid and poignant narrative, Turkle ties together her coming-of-age and her pathbreaking research on technology, empathy, and ethics. Growing up in postwar Brooklyn, Turkle searched for clues to her identity in a house filled with mysteries. She mastered the codes that governed her mother's secretive life. She learned never to ask about her absent scientist father--and never to use his name, her name. Before empathy became a way to find connection, it was her strategy for survival. Turkle's intellect and curiosity brought her to worlds on the threshold of change. She learned friendship at a Harvard-Radcliffe on the cusp of coeducation during the antiwar movement, she mourned the loss of her mother in Paris as students returned from the 1968 barricades, and she followed her ambition while fighting for her place as a woman and a humanist at MIT. There, Turkle found turbulent love and chronicled the wonders of the new computer culture, even as she warned of its threat to our most essential human connections. The Empathy Diaries captures all this in rich detail--and offers a master class in finding meaning through a life's work.


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"A beautiful book... an instant classic of the genre." --Dwight Garner, New York Times - A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice MIT psychologist and bestselling author of Reclaiming Conversation and Alone Together, Sherry Turkle's intimate memoir of love and work For decades, Sherry Turkle has shown how we remake ourselves in the mirror of our machines. Here, she "A beautiful book... an instant classic of the genre." --Dwight Garner, New York Times - A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice MIT psychologist and bestselling author of Reclaiming Conversation and Alone Together, Sherry Turkle's intimate memoir of love and work For decades, Sherry Turkle has shown how we remake ourselves in the mirror of our machines. Here, she illuminates our present search for authentic connection in a time of uncharted challenges. Turkle has spent a career composing an intimate ethnography of our digital world; now, marked by insight, humility, and compassion, we have her own. In this vivid and poignant narrative, Turkle ties together her coming-of-age and her pathbreaking research on technology, empathy, and ethics. Growing up in postwar Brooklyn, Turkle searched for clues to her identity in a house filled with mysteries. She mastered the codes that governed her mother's secretive life. She learned never to ask about her absent scientist father--and never to use his name, her name. Before empathy became a way to find connection, it was her strategy for survival. Turkle's intellect and curiosity brought her to worlds on the threshold of change. She learned friendship at a Harvard-Radcliffe on the cusp of coeducation during the antiwar movement, she mourned the loss of her mother in Paris as students returned from the 1968 barricades, and she followed her ambition while fighting for her place as a woman and a humanist at MIT. There, Turkle found turbulent love and chronicled the wonders of the new computer culture, even as she warned of its threat to our most essential human connections. The Empathy Diaries captures all this in rich detail--and offers a master class in finding meaning through a life's work.

30 review for The Empathy Diaries: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Lawson

    It was a bit academic for me, but I enjoyed the story of her life.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    A thoughtful, intimate memoir by the renowned MIT professor and writer on technology and society. I would have enjoyed the inclusion of more of her academic work, but there was lots to enjoy nonetheless. Turkle’s humanistic focus on technology and her reframing of AI as artificial intimacy make this wonderful companion reading for Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Barry Dank

    A great read. She says she writes intimate ethnographies and calls this book a memoir, but given her framework it is an intimate ethnography/memoir. It starts with her growing up in Jewish Brooklyn, in a family in which closeness was structured by closely held secrets, secrets which for her ultimately dealt with identity, her identity. If I were to characterize her family upbringing it would be one of a search for empathy, a search for what is going on here, of her dealing with puzzles, enigmas, A great read. She says she writes intimate ethnographies and calls this book a memoir, but given her framework it is an intimate ethnography/memoir. It starts with her growing up in Jewish Brooklyn, in a family in which closeness was structured by closely held secrets, secrets which for her ultimately dealt with identity, her identity. If I were to characterize her family upbringing it would be one of a search for empathy, a search for what is going on here, of her dealing with puzzles, enigmas, of truly wanting to understand herself and others. It is her family background which launched her life long intellectual/emotional quest leading her to Paris to Radcliffe to Harvard to MIT, and to embracing and marrying and divorcing a computer genius Seymour. Seymour, 20 years her senior, a father figure who valued intellect more than empathy, who valued kindness as an afterthought. For Seymour, brilliance trumped everything, it was the only thing that counted, and he used his brilliance to manipulate everyone, everything, including Sherry. She ultimately did understand Seymour as being just like her father, objectifying her, treating her as an experiment until the experiment was abandoned or it was over. Sherry sought empathy, but she went to all the wrong places. As she states, it was not to be found behind the computer screen, but as she did not state but implied it was not to be found amongst geniuses and their territories at MIT and Harvard, not among the comp tech intellectual elite. I have spent much time with an array of geniuses because I wanted to learn from them, but love them or be loved by them, no way. Their emotional shallowness prevented it. What she seemed to not fully understand is that empathy would not be found at Harvard and MIT amongst the powers that be. MIT wanted to cast her away, no tenure; she did get it, but then most likely had to deal with faculty as so called colleagues who had wanted to get rid of her; yes, she had students, but her faculty so-called colleagues stayed and she stayed with them. What the author never tells us is that had a choice to leave MIT with tenure and choose a univ where there was an empathetic environment. But she did not to this. Why? She could not give up being part of an intellectual elite, a high status/prestige univ? Or was it that she could not give up the excitement of the brilliant for empathy and nurturance. But she did seek a new husband and embrace motherhood. However, she does not write enough about this for the reader to embrace how she made the transition, and how much of a transition it was for her. Did having a new husband, becoming a mother, reflect her going back to her roots, I am not sure. However, if she also became a faculty member at Brooklyn College then I would have been quite sure.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chuck

    Technology makes us forget what we know about life. -- The Empathy DiariesFocusing especially on children, Sherry Turkle has been a pioneer in investigating the relationship between people and computers. Her 1984 book The Second Self was well received by the public, but as Turkle recounts in The Empathy Diaries, it did not do much to help her tenure case at MIT. Her colleagues criticized her research as insufficiently rigorous, lacking in experimental data, and not seriously academic because it Technology makes us forget what we know about life. -- The Empathy DiariesFocusing especially on children, Sherry Turkle has been a pioneer in investigating the relationship between people and computers. Her 1984 book The Second Self was well received by the public, but as Turkle recounts in The Empathy Diaries, it did not do much to help her tenure case at MIT. Her colleagues criticized her research as insufficiently rigorous, lacking in experimental data, and not seriously academic because it was published by Simon & Schuster rather than by an academic press. Although Turkle was initially denied tenure, she appealed the decision, which was subsequently reversed. As a woman researching human-computer interaction, and placed at an institution long dominated by men, Turkle has fought more than her her share of academic battles, and her skepticism about the human costs of technological immersion has not always endeared her to others. Her new book is forthright in chronicling those issues, as well as revealing some rather embarrassing family secrets. Ironically, its title does not fully announce its content, since two of the most important people in it -- her long-absent biological father (Charlie Zimmerman), and her first husband (Seymour Papert) -- seem virtually incapable of empathy. When Turkle eventually located Charlie, she discovered that he had used her as a child-subject in some rather appalling psychological experiments. And it's surprising that Turkle was able to endure ten years with Papert, who was initially dishonest about his past marriages, and who more than once suddenly remembered that he was due at a conference on another continent, leaving his wife to host a dinner party at which he then failed to appear. For Papert, being regarded as brilliant could apparently be considered an excuse for terrible behavior. (Another notable example is Steve Jobs, who gets a cameo in this account.) I suppose it's impossible to compose a memoir that's entirely devoid of self-aggrandizement; however, Turkle's honest depiction of her own vulnerabilities and failings serves as a counterbalance to that tendency. The Empathy Diaries is in part an intellectual autobiography, so it naturally includes extended summaries of Turkle's research career, beginning with Jacques Lacan. But this seems likely to curtail its appeal. The book ends rather abruptly. Having devoted considerable space to describing her chaotic first marriage to Seymour Papert, Turkle dispatches her decade-long second marriage in just two sentences. At that point, she seems mainly interested in drawing out conclusions from her research, which is what her Epilogue accomplishes. Sherry Turkle is clearly a bright, sophisticated, and interesting woman, and The Empathy Diaries is receiving a lot of acclaim. But when a book like this one is released with great fanfare and gushing reviews, a letdown of some readers can only be expected. I confess to being one of them.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    This is a very interesting book. Turkle has been at MIT almost her whole career. She is something of an outsider because she is an ethnographer rather than a data scientist. She studies the intersection of technology and empathy (or what makes humans unique from machines). The book is also a memoir and Turkle's family background is, of course, wound up in her professional ideas. In the first half of the book, Turkle lays all the family secrets on the line and the reader feels that she really und This is a very interesting book. Turkle has been at MIT almost her whole career. She is something of an outsider because she is an ethnographer rather than a data scientist. She studies the intersection of technology and empathy (or what makes humans unique from machines). The book is also a memoir and Turkle's family background is, of course, wound up in her professional ideas. In the first half of the book, Turkle lays all the family secrets on the line and the reader feels that she really understands herself and wants to share her complete story. But then, abruptly, we find out she has a daughter from a second marriage which she barely mentions. Was she not ready to share the whole story? There are lots of fascinating insights into the kind of people who were on the cutting edge of computer technology at MIT (her first husband, 20 years her senior, was one of them.) But Turkle's experiences plus what we now know about the Media Lab at MIT, paint a different picture. Some of them were pretty nutty and unethical. Turkle was initially denied tenure but she fought back and this was reversed. I was left with mixed feelings about the quality of her scholarship, and the defense of her theories at the end of the book seem a little out of place. But the book is worth a read. It is full of great stories -- like the time Steve Jobs visited MIT and Turkle was tasked with the dinner preparations. He ate nothing saying it "was the wrong kind of vegetarian." Turkle says it took her years to ask herself why she was fixing dinner rather than being in the meetings with Jobs and all the other faculty.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Phi Beta Kappa Authors

    Sherry Turkle ΦBK, Harvard University, 1970 Author From the publisher: For decades, Sherry Turkle has shown how we remake ourselves in the mirror of our machines. Here, she illuminates our present search for authentic connection in a time of uncharted challenges. Turkle has spent a career composing an intimate ethnography of our digital world; now, marked by insight, humility, and compassion, we have her own. In this vivid and poignant narrative, Turkle ties together her coming-of-age and her pathbr Sherry Turkle ΦBK, Harvard University, 1970 Author From the publisher: For decades, Sherry Turkle has shown how we remake ourselves in the mirror of our machines. Here, she illuminates our present search for authentic connection in a time of uncharted challenges. Turkle has spent a career composing an intimate ethnography of our digital world; now, marked by insight, humility, and compassion, we have her own. In this vivid and poignant narrative, Turkle ties together her coming-of-age and her pathbreaking research on technology, empathy, and ethics. Growing up in postwar Brooklyn, Turkle searched for clues to her identity in a house filled with mysteries. She mastered the codes that governed her mother's secretive life. She learned never to ask about her absent scientist father--and never to use his name, her name. Before empathy became a way to find connection, it was her strategy for survival. Turkle's intellect and curiosity brought her to worlds on the threshold of change. She learned friendship at a Harvard-Radcliffe on the cusp of coeducation during the antiwar movement, she mourned the loss of her mother in Paris as students returned from the 1968 barricades, and she followed her ambition while fighting for her place as a woman and a humanist at MIT. There, Turkle found turbulent love and chronicled the wonders of the new computer culture, even as she warned of its threat to our most essential human connections. The Empathy Diaries captures all this in rich detail--and offers a master class in finding meaning through a life's work.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Flora Crew

    I had read some of her work, and knew she was around my age. I sent off for the book before it was released. I was supposed to get it by UPS but ended up having to go pick it up at the ups outlet near where I live. I started reading it when I got up yesterday. I was feeling somewhat envious of her academic life until I got to the part where her mother died in 1968, the year I got married. I had to put the book down for awhile. It was very sad. It made me glad I had my mother until 1982. I cried a I had read some of her work, and knew she was around my age. I sent off for the book before it was released. I was supposed to get it by UPS but ended up having to go pick it up at the ups outlet near where I live. I started reading it when I got up yesterday. I was feeling somewhat envious of her academic life until I got to the part where her mother died in 1968, the year I got married. I had to put the book down for awhile. It was very sad. It made me glad I had my mother until 1982. I cried a lot when she talked about the death of her relatives, starting with her mother's death. It was really an intense reading for me. I had an uncle who was an experimental psychologist, and I know he also did experiments on me though not to the extreme that her real father did on her. There was so much in the book I identified with. I was extremely impressed with the breadth of her reading. I have tried to read Lacan at various times or summaries of his thoughts by various authors. I have read some of Freud and other psychoanalytic writers. I had heard of the 65 but did not know too much about it. It was really a delightful experience to read the book although it was painful to read at times.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Daphne Tebbe

    I really enjoyed this book. I remember reading Sherry Turkle's book "The Second Self" while I was in college in the '80s. I believe it was in a class on artificial intelligence, which at the time was completely foreign and frankly seemed ridiculous to me. Little did I know how groundbreaking she was in her field, and how forward thinking my professor must have been to assign this book published by (gasp!) Simon & Schuster instead of an academic press. "The Empathy Diaries" is Turkle's memoir of I really enjoyed this book. I remember reading Sherry Turkle's book "The Second Self" while I was in college in the '80s. I believe it was in a class on artificial intelligence, which at the time was completely foreign and frankly seemed ridiculous to me. Little did I know how groundbreaking she was in her field, and how forward thinking my professor must have been to assign this book published by (gasp!) Simon & Schuster instead of an academic press. "The Empathy Diaries" is Turkle's memoir of her childhood, education, and emerging professional life at MIT, as a young faculty member bridging the discipline of psychology with computer culture - what she describes as a study of "the emotional and social aspects of computer culture." I was riveted by how it all fit together. She spends the last chapter reflecting on where we are today, especially after spending time in lockdown and heavily supported by (dependent on?) technology. As she observes, "The computer offered the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship," and, "As technology became our lifeline, we realized how much we missed the full embrace of the human." She warns, "If you don't teach your children to be alone, they'll only know how to be lonely." Much to think about here.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Florent Diverchy

    I read this book without knowing who Sherry Turkle was. The book was listed on the EDGE.org website, and that was enough reason for me to read it. I was so surprised by the content, that I don't even want to talk about it so that future readers can discover this book with the same surprise I have. A few facts however: * This may be the best memoir I have ever read. * This book raises a lot of important questions in many directions * French people (like me) will find an extra dimension to this book as I read this book without knowing who Sherry Turkle was. The book was listed on the EDGE.org website, and that was enough reason for me to read it. I was so surprised by the content, that I don't even want to talk about it so that future readers can discover this book with the same surprise I have. A few facts however: * This may be the best memoir I have ever read. * This book raises a lot of important questions in many directions * French people (like me) will find an extra dimension to this book as a part of it plays in Paris, just after Mai 68. * Those who have learnt the Logo programming language as a young child at school (like me) will find another extra dimension to the book. * The Epilogue in itself touches to the core of Sherry Turkle work and makes me want to read all her books. * In the end, you can only feel love & empathy fo her.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Zibby Owens

    As someone who thinks a lot about empathy and believes it is the central force to improving the world, The Empathy Diaries grabbed me immediately. It opens with the author trying to find her father and then figuring out a secret as to why her mother kept him from her. I was pulled into the story right away. This is a story of her mom's reasoning and how the author initially used empathy to get closer to her mother so she could figure out what her mother wasn't saying what happened with her fathe As someone who thinks a lot about empathy and believes it is the central force to improving the world, The Empathy Diaries grabbed me immediately. It opens with the author trying to find her father and then figuring out a secret as to why her mother kept him from her. I was pulled into the story right away. This is a story of her mom's reasoning and how the author initially used empathy to get closer to her mother so she could figure out what her mother wasn't saying what happened with her father. Eventually, empathy helped her understand her mother and why she never told her the truth. Empathy started out as the author's strategy for survival, soon helped her find the connections she needed most - to her mom, to her past, to her father, and to herself. To listen to my interview with the author, go to my podcast at: https://zibbyowens.com/transcript/she...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Litz-Neavear

    I got this book from the library after hearing the author interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air. She is obviously brilliant and I found her family story fascinating. I enjoyed reading this book the most when she was describing her family members and her relationships with them. When she speaks of her work, I was less enthralled. Her academic focus remind me of an epistemology course I took in high school! Although I read a lot about educational and psychological theorists in college and graduate school I got this book from the library after hearing the author interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air. She is obviously brilliant and I found her family story fascinating. I enjoyed reading this book the most when she was describing her family members and her relationships with them. When she speaks of her work, I was less enthralled. Her academic focus remind me of an epistemology course I took in high school! Although I read a lot about educational and psychological theorists in college and graduate school, I admittedly struggled when I had to read the theoretical works themselves! (Piaget, Freud, and Erikson had amazing ideas but weren't exactly light reading.) But it's not her fault that she is a lot smarter than I am...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Diane Pomerantz

    I had to sit with my response to Dr. Turkle's beautifully written book, which recounts her personal, intellectual and professional journey, in order to adequately articulate how masterfully, I believe, she has shared this journey with the reader. I always find titles to be particularly meaningful and it is certainly the case here. Dr. Turkle poignantly describes, with great sensitivity, the early foundational elements that at times were painful and difficult, that underlie all of her achievement I had to sit with my response to Dr. Turkle's beautifully written book, which recounts her personal, intellectual and professional journey, in order to adequately articulate how masterfully, I believe, she has shared this journey with the reader. I always find titles to be particularly meaningful and it is certainly the case here. Dr. Turkle poignantly describes, with great sensitivity, the early foundational elements that at times were painful and difficult, that underlie all of her achievements. She does this with a depth of understanding that does not detract from her love and gratitude for what she was given - The Empathy Diaries is a perfect title.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Clarke

    The first half of the book was the most fascinating to me in it’s vivid descriptions of family relationships and experiences. It has rich emotional content. The last third of the book I struggled with as I have rudimentary knowledge of the field of psychology and even though I recognized some of the famous names (Bettelheim, Erickson),I found it hard to relate to as it referred to very specific academic content. I highly recommend this book however and think that it has a wide appeal despite the The first half of the book was the most fascinating to me in it’s vivid descriptions of family relationships and experiences. It has rich emotional content. The last third of the book I struggled with as I have rudimentary knowledge of the field of psychology and even though I recognized some of the famous names (Bettelheim, Erickson),I found it hard to relate to as it referred to very specific academic content. I highly recommend this book however and think that it has a wide appeal despite the pedagogical content.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    I really enjoyed the story of her life. The whole first section was very compelling- and made me think of parents and grandparents in NY. I got a bit lost in the deep discussion of her academic pursuits - primarily in her early days... as she discusses current human/tech connections- all that made more sense. She weaves in only a little misogyny that female Researchers and academics experienced... I’m sure there was more. She has had an interesting and seemingly quite full life...although much sti I really enjoyed the story of her life. The whole first section was very compelling- and made me think of parents and grandparents in NY. I got a bit lost in the deep discussion of her academic pursuits - primarily in her early days... as she discusses current human/tech connections- all that made more sense. She weaves in only a little misogyny that female Researchers and academics experienced... I’m sure there was more. She has had an interesting and seemingly quite full life...although much still seems unexplored about her real inner self. Probably more of a 3.5 stars

  15. 5 out of 5

    Liz Gray

    Turkle has written and taught about the impact of technology in our lives for decades. In this excellent memoir, she weaves her personal story with her professional one, and shows the importance of empathy to both. I was especially fascinated by the way she kept returning to her childhood, her youth, and her relationships with family members in order to understand herself and others. A fabulous book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Highly recommended. Turkle's most personal book. Her frought, but loving home in Brooklyn --a house of secrets. As she grew up she was always able to combine feeling with intellect. This served her well academically and later at MIT. This book fleshes out her ideas about psycholanalysis, esp. French version and later computers and mind in books like The Second Self. Highly recommended. Turkle's most personal book. Her frought, but loving home in Brooklyn --a house of secrets. As she grew up she was always able to combine feeling with intellect. This served her well academically and later at MIT. This book fleshes out her ideas about psycholanalysis, esp. French version and later computers and mind in books like The Second Self.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lloyd Cruz

    Great job author, I really like your writing style. I suggest you join NovelStar’s writing competition this April. If you are interested kindly check this link https://www.facebook.com/104455574751... for the mechanics of the writing contest this April and also, I am sharing your book in Facebook to help reach readers. Thank you Great job author, I really like your writing style. I suggest you join NovelStar’s writing competition this April. If you are interested kindly check this link https://www.facebook.com/104455574751... for the mechanics of the writing contest this April and also, I am sharing your book in Facebook to help reach readers. Thank you

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marie Highby

    An Extraordinary Read This book is extraordinary and it’s scope as well as a delight to read. We’re lucky that Sherry Turkle persevered in her life and, in a sense, that’s what this book is about.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    One of the most unusual memoirs I’ve read. The author weaves the story of her personal life an her career with remarkable compassion and intelligence. Her wisdom and intelligence, as she looks back at a long career, is quit apparent & compelling to me.

  20. 4 out of 5

    LecturerRich

    read up to page 41. I not sure what I was expecting but I did not think it would an actual diary. I am reading reclaiming conversation and I guess I thought it would be an extension of that. I may come back to it but as of right now I doubt it

  21. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Excellent start, but the author began an excessive and detailed focus of her academic pursuits mid-way through.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Edna

    Like bios and this was a good one...My only quibble was that the ending seemed forced and abrupt but I also think endings are hard and often not as well done as the rest of the writing...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mary Kinietz

    Such a good book mixing memoir with her research.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

    Interesting, but at times slow

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karla Kitalong

    I enjoyed reading about her life, and I wonder how the heck she managed to achieve such a stature with many obstacles in her way--parents, first husband, tenure committee.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ann Douglas

    A fiercely honest and highly self-reflective memoir.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Utterly enviable early adult life. She'll always have Paris and the Ivy League after an up from struggle childhood. Well done, but puzzled by the breathless reviews. Utterly enviable early adult life. She'll always have Paris and the Ivy League after an up from struggle childhood. Well done, but puzzled by the breathless reviews.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Justine Chen

    These are the type of stories I love to read. I hope I can see your work in NovelStar. There are also a lot of talented writers in that platform. You may check their group on Facebook.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Angel Mayumi

    For such a great story, a lot of audience must read your book. You can publish your work on NovelStar Mobile App.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Druie

    It was ok. I think the end was rushed. An intense set of life experiences.

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