Profile: An Ethnologist in Cyberspace; April 1998; Scientific American Magazine; by Holloway; 2 Page(s)
Beep. "At a certain point you want to kill it," says Sherry Turkle, pressing the tiny buttons of her daughter¿s virtual pet. Beep. Like many mothers the world over, Turkle is sometimes enslaved to a demanding electronic toy while her six-year-old is away at school. Beep, bleats the little plastic object. More buttons pushed. Turkle feeds it. Cleans up after it. Tends to it. Beep. But the dinosaurlike critter inhabiting the gray screen wants more of everything. "Because it is young, it needs attention every minute," Turkle sighs. "That is part of the deal."
Sitting at the kitchen counter, surrounded by her daughter¿s handmade books--which have bright-colored paper covers, a page or two of text or illustration and titles such as "Soccer Is for Boys: Fiction"--Turkle sketches the brief history of electronic toys. The professor of sociology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology describes how digital devices used to be targeted solely at boys and how, in many ways, these video games taught them to be comfortable with computers. Now, as Tamagotchis, the most famous brand of virtual pet, become the rage for girls, the lessons are shifting. "The transition is from objects-to-think-with to objects-to-nurture," Turkle explains. "The new hook for these kids, and not just for kids, is nurturance instead of control and mastery."