Sherry Turkle – Simulation and Its Discontents


The MIT Press, ISBN 978-0262012706, USA, 2009, English
Starting with two ethnographic studies she undertook twenty years apart, Sherry Turkle is able to make a timely investigation in this book, addressing the role played by simulation in higher education, physics, chemistry and architecture research. The pivotal perception shift that is pervading the younger “world creators” seems highly risky, especially when seen from the previous generation’s perspective, using simulation to improve reality-grounded studies. The book tackles the dangers to being “drawn from the grittiness of the real to the smoothness of the virtual” defining the younger generation as at risk of being “drunk with code.” So this book is about the lies and the inner risks of simulation, more and more related to its “opaqueness.” This is a popular strategy seen in the design of IT products (the Apple strategy, for example), preventing the user from having access to the inner guts of the functional engine. The resulting trust in the technology and its spectacular outcomes are hiding the “dark side” of digital complexity that can misinform the enthusiastic researcher. The book includes four case studies by other authors, but it never takes off to counter-imagine the actual scenario. So should it be enough to consider simulation, as the author defines it, as “a proxy for the real”, or should we should seriously consider Baudrillard’s theorized replacement of all reality and meaning with symbols and signs? This book could be a useful starting point for a critique of simulation that might lead to a re-appropriation of the foundations of disciplines research, avoiding.infatuation with interfaces.