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Sherry Turkle probably understands better than anyone how people transfer their emotions onto the Net: sometimes they go through the Net to other people, but sometimes they just stop at the Net and start having an emotional involvement with the Net itself.


Sherry Turkle

The Cyberanalyst

"But many of these same ideas no longer seem abstract or esoteric when you immerse yourself in life on the Internet. For example, the idea that you are constituted by and through language is not an abstract idea if you're confronted with the necessity of creating a character in a MUD. You just have to do it. Your words are your deeds, your words are your body. And you feel these word-deeds and this word-body quite viscerally. Similarly, the idea of multiplicity as a way of thinking about identity is concretized when someone gets an Internet account, is asked to name five "handles" or nicknames for his activities on the system, and finds himself "being" Armani-boy in some online discussions, but Motorcycle-man, Too-serious, Aquinas, and Lipstick in others."

When MIT psychologist and sociologist Sherry Turkle was first experimenting with the Internet virtual communities known as MUDs (multiuser domains) she came across a character named Dr. Sherry. This Dr. Sherry had a room set up as an office in the MUD where it was said she interviewed people and handed out questionnaires about the psychology of online life. Turkle was taken aback by this, because Dr. Sherry wasn't her or hers. "It was like someone else had used my name as a trademark to mean 'cybershrink,'" she recalls.

SHERRY TURKLE is a professor of the sociology of science at MIT. She is the author of Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (1995); The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (1984); and Psychoanalytic Politics: Jacques Lacan and Freud's French Revolution (1978).