Sherry Turkle is the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé professor of the social studies of science and technology at MIT and the author most recently of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. She is also the winner of the sixth annual Zócalo Book Prize, which is awarded to the author of the nonfiction book that best enhances our understanding of human connectedness and social cohesion. Before discussing technology and empathy at the Zócalo Book Prize event “Why We Must Relearn the Art of Conversation,” Turkle talked in the green room about how she gets people unglued from their phones, the app she uses most often, and her deep knowledge of musical comedies from the mid-20th century.
Q: What’s your favorite word?
Q: What app—besides the ones that came installed on your phone—do you use most often?
Q: What’s the last thing you looked up on Yelp?
A: Restaurants in New York City near 32nd and 5th.
Q: What’s your hidden talent?
A: I know the words and lyrics to most musical comedies that were written between 1948 and 1975.
Q: Who was your childhood hero?
A: Eleanor Roosevelt.
Q: How do you get people off their phones at a meeting or social event?
A: I say I’m Sherry Turkle. [Laughs.]
Q: What surprises you most about your life right now?
A: My relationship with my daughter. Fantastic. Gratifying. Always new.
Q: What’s your perfect vacation?
A: Weekend in Paris.
Q: What salad dressing best describes you?
A: Balsamic classic. Trying to be classic. [Laughs.]
Q: What was the last great conversation you had?
A: Monday night, with old friends, about the election.
Q: Ask yourself a question you wish I’d asked, then answer it.
A: What’s your next book project? I have a private project, which is a memoir about my mother. And I have a political project, which is about virtual reality and the assault on empathy.
*Photo by Aaron Salcido.