Blog Post #1:Technophilia and the Modern Hedonist

In the introduction to her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, Sherry Turkle argues the point that in our attachment and love of modern technology, we are sacrificing our relationships with other human beings. Turkle takes the perspective that in the interaction with and desire for technology, humans will spend less and less time with fellow human beings, replacing human connections with those of a robotic nature. However, where Turkle illustrates technophilia as having become a self-destructive practice that she believes can only come to a crippled or perverted end, perhaps she would be more accurate not descrying the practice as an evil, but as the newest manifestation of personal hedonism. Video games in particular provide a seductive and popular outlet for the self-fulfillment of pleasure, in that by nature their first and sometimes only purpose is to entertain and to please. 

It should immediately be made clear that where Sherry Turkle found the modern advances of technology to be a harmful force that allegedly puts “the real on the run,” no such claim of malignancy lies in the assertion that video games advocate a certain amount of hedonistic tendencies. A common misconception is that hedonism is a practice that should invite some shame and guilt in those that are accused of it, should they deign to pause their rockstar lifestyle long enough to hear criticism. While this may be the inferred connotation, hedonism is simply the belief that pleasure is intrinsically good, and that the practitioner should pursue actions that will reward them with the greatest amount of gratification at the least expense of pain. The greatest complaint that may be directed towards such practice is that it seems to leave little room for altruism, which is a superficial perspective that fails to take into account the pleasures to be gained from performing or giving selflessly. Regardless, such is not relevant to the video game, which perpetuates hedonistic desires by providing a sympathetic environment that allows for supremely exciting and pleasurable experiences at no real risk to the participant. 

Though allowing for a fun, convenient and safe outlet for the modern hedonist or anyone else that needs an easy escape from reality into a purely self-satisfying space, the video game is, at its very core, simply a tool. Yes, perhaps it does advocate one kind of lifestyle in particular, but it does so only because the function for which it was made is well suited for such a thing. This is a point that Turkle does not address nor seems aware of in the introduction to her book. A tool, in its very nature, can not bring about benefit nor calamity, it may only be used to do so, and technology by its own definition is nothing more than a complex, glorified tool. Despite whether being used for pleasure or diminishing our interpersonal relationships, one cannot blame the shovel for our falling in the hole we dug ourselves.

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One Response to Blog Post #1:Technophilia and the Modern Hedonist

  1. cstabile says:

    Hedonism. Pleasure is the highest aspiration of the species. If I understand you correctly, you’re suggesting that our relationships to new media technologies are not necessarily evil, but a manifestation of humankind’s pursuit of pleasure and that Turkle denies the pleasurable dimensions of our devices. I think that’s right — it isn’t just the desire for connection (however misguided in her estimation) that motivates us, but the fact that communication (mediated as it may be) interests us, as does playing games.

    Question, though. Technology may be a tool, but don’t our tools also shape us as we use them?

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