`` Digital Demands `` : How Technology Improves The Traditional Cognitive Process

`` Digital Demands `` : How Technology Improves The Traditional Cognitive Process

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Two people walk down the street side by side, each looking down into his hands attentively. Both occasionally sneak glances upwards so as not to run into someone. They walk in silence until it is time for them to go their separate ways; then they mutter hasty goodbyes and turn to face their pixelated screens once more. The depiction seems morbid, but in essence this reflects a significant trend on the rise. These people are representative of a generation of young adults, so subsumed by technology that they cannot hold face to face conversations with others. Sherry Turkle, MIT professor and researcher, in the PBS Frontline interview entitled “Digital Demands”, exhorts the current generation to tread carefully on the Data Highway for its overages have far-reaching consequences. The scholar presents cold hard facts on how a technology overload can delay development in adolescents, explores how technology hinders the traditional cognitive process through her research, and laments the forfeiture of values like deliberation and stillness.
Turkle contends that adolescence is a challenging time during a person’s life. “All the things that are difficult about adolescence” allow teenagers to develop. Renowned psychologist, Erik Erikson, published his theory on stages of development in which he detailed the process of adolescence, as marked by the discovery of self-identity. The critical period of psychosocial development in a person’s life is contained within adolescence; however, as evidenced by Erikson himself, self-discovery is a largely fluid, dynamic process and cannot be strictly assigned to a specific timeframe (i.e. 12-18 years). Born to a German father and a Jewish mother, the famous psychologist was at conflict with his own cultu...


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...e and assumes that they can carve a niche for technology into their lives. Distressed by this trajectory, Sherry Turkle, an experienced researcher at MIT, cautions today’s youth to refrain from subsisting on technological advances, as she fears it may debilitate their abilities to function independently. In the hopes of convincing them to be less (digitally) connected, she gleans from Erik Erikson to stress the negative impact that overdependence on technology can have on development in adolescents. Additionally, she draws from her own research – an abstract of over 20 years of work, to emphasize the downsides to consigning one’s thoughts to a digital notepad, and the upside to handwriting one’s own progression of thoughts. Finally, she includes a genuine plea to retain the values of deliberation and stillness, which are indispensable to discovering one’s identity.

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