FM reviews
First Monday

FM reviews


Sherry Turkle, editor. The inner history of devices Sherry Turkle (editor).
The inner history of devices.
Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2008.
cloth, 208 p., ISBN 978 0 26220 176 6, $US24.95.
Yale University Press:



We are surrounded by technology. I have a closet full of ancient Apples and Macintoshes — even a Lisa — and I dare not throw one away. Why? Each of those machines is terribly tied to my own personal history, there are stories intertwinned between me and each of those devices. And the stories we could tell! I dragged my poor Macintosh Portable — the most oxymoronically named computers of all time since it was barely portable at almost 16 pounds (or over seven kilograms) — to Transylvania and Moscow in 1991. We survived Romanian power surges, an ill–fated coup, and much more together. I can’t imagine my life without that computer, even though its batteries are long dead and its case has seen its share of real hard knocks. The inner history of devices takes into these special places where technology in all of its varied forms becomes intertwined with lives, memories, and reality.

Sherry Turkle’s introductory essay certainly sets the stage for this stunning, and at times all too personal, collection of essays. She warns the reader that you will experience special insights into a diverse group of individuals. Hence, “[t]echnology serves as a Rorschach over a lifetime, a projective screen for our changing and emotionally charged commitments” (p. 11).

In spite of Professor Turkle’s perhaps unintended warning, I often found myself stopping mid–sentence reading these essays, stunned, needing time to ponder over what I had just read. For example, Alicia Kestrell Vetlager writes in “The prosthetic eye”:

“If, as we often say, eyes are the ‘windows of the soul,’ I was afraid that anyone staring into mine would only see broken ones with a dark ruin beyond them.” (p. 33)

In Anita Say Chan’s essay on, Slashdot users described themeselves as addicted to the site. “Everything that I was interested in and everything that was important to me was on that Web site” (p. 125). As a result, I certainly re–examined all of the sites I frequently visit each day and night, thinking about the reasons why I repeatedly pull specific sites out of my bookmarks over and over.

This book will force you to think about your relationships with technology, and to more carefully watch those around you and their uses of different devices. Indeed, The inner history of devices will make you think about the machines around you in a profound way; how do these things really make you feel? — Edward J. Valauskas. End of article

Copyright © 2009, First Monday.

Book review of Sherry Turkle’s The inner history of devices
by Edward J. Valauskas.
First Monday, Volume 14, Number 1 - 5 January 2009

A Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library.

© First Monday, 1995-2018. ISSN 1396-0466.