Objects To Think With – Sherry Turkle

Assignment Instructions

Each of us has an object-to-think-with: what’s yours? According to Sherry Turkle, the simple act of asking yourself that question can unlock a rich stock of memories, associations and insights into your thought processes that you may not be able to reach any other way. Maybe it’s something you work with or look at every day: the pen your father gave you when you were 18, the palmtop you treated yourself to or the present of a fragile clay horse a dear friend struggled hard not to break on his way back from Zambia.

In your first paper, respond to this challenge. Keep in mind that you will have to first define what Turkle means by an object-to-think-with. In addition to having sentimental value, such objects are companions, sources of inspiration, enablers, and conduits to success. In what ways do they demonstrate the role of emotion in the creative process?

In order to prepare the paper, read the text carefully and locate the passages that are relevant to the assignment. By focusing on these passages and working to analyze and interpret them, you will be able to generate ideas for your paper. Feel free to use relevant personal experiences as well, but do not forget to compare them to the ones described by the author and analyze them in the same way you do the text.

Text: Turkle, S. (2007). The secret power of things we hold dear. New Scientist, 194 (2607), 50-52

Sample Answer – Objects To Think With

Sherry Turkle debates on the conceptof “object to think with” thereby creating the notion that, ‘’Humans tend to think with those objects they love; and they love the objects they think with.” That is, objects-to-think with are the cognitive artifacts which provide a link between the abstract and sensoryknowledge, and between social and individual worlds. In her work she finds the objects are revealed as intellectual and emotional companions that sustain relationships, anchor memory, and provoke new ideas. The special contribution of the Turkle’s great work is the focus she invokes on everyday riches: the simplest of objects –a datebook, a laptop computer, an apple –are perceived to bring philosophy down to the earth. She strongly ascertains that, “No ideas but in things.” That is, objects hold passions and ideas. In the way we relate to things, feeling and thought are inseparable(Turkle, 2007).

Turkle begin and ends her collection by posing a challenge on us as human beings that we need to deeply have look at the everyday objects of our lives, those objects which we are familiar with and facilitate the driving of our routines, hold our affections, and try to open out our world in unimaginable ways. She puts edits a very delightful anthropology which puts the human relations with the objects in the center and front. In entirety her work describes the relations to evocative objects – those objects that are both provocative to our thoughts and companion to our emotional lives. She puts it that objects have life roles which are fluid and multiple(Turkle, 2007).Furthermore, the objects also exert their holding power, for a number of reasons. Some of these objects are evocative because they are uncanny, familiar even though somehow off and therefore creepy. On the other hand, other objects evoke strong memories and tend to represent a good part of our identities. Irrespective of the meaning the objects come to take in our lives, they are our life companions and deserve more theoretical and philosophical attention.

The great historian Michel Foucault put forth a framework for thinking about how such objects as Hlubinka’s watch and datebook serve the purpose of being the foundations of “disciplinary society.” In the modern days, the social controls do not require an expressing overt repression. Rather, the state power can be considered “object-ified.” Any single moment we take a pill or fill out a medical questionnaire, we are subjects of social discipline(Turkle, 2007). Likewise, any moment we enter appointments in our datebooks, we become the kind of subjects which the disciplinary society wants us to be.

Moreover, when the literary theorist Roland Barthes puts it that objects of disciplinary society come to be seen natural, the most important thing is that what could seem natural comes to seem right. People tend to forget that objects have a history and they shape us in special ways.

In the famous view on commodities, it is described by Karl Marx that when wood is transformed into a table, it remains an ordinary, sensuous thing. And when the table becomes a commodity in a market system, the objects come very alive: it“stands on its head and then evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas highly wonderful than when it were to start dancing of its own free will.” Just like the Marx’s commodities, Beinart’s wooden radio comesalive as it symbolizes relationships to power. Even though the wooden radio subverts itself in for of a commodity and then reveals the social relations which the commodities are designed to hide.

The transitional objects of the nursery –the favorite pillow, the stuffed animal, the bit of silk from the baby blanket –all of these are destined to be abandoned, though, they live traces which will mark the rest of life. This specifically comes with the influence they easily have on an individual to develop a capacity of aesthetic experience, creative playfulness, and joy(Turkle, 2007, p. 51). The transitional objects, with their joint allegiance to self and other, tend to demonstrate to the child that objects in the external world can be loved. This results into a beliefthat in all the stages of life humans continue to search for objects that we can experience as both within and outside of the self.

Furthermore, Mitchell’s work is rich in its discussion of language, which is paired from the literary theorist Roland Barthes, whose perception on identity, language and objects resonate with those of David Mann who wrote of the transitions as facilitated by the World Book Encyclopedia which he received from childhood (Turkle, 2007). Far more than an automobile for the transfer of information, Mann gives the description of the encyclopedia as a means of access to language. This in particular depicts Mann and Mitchell to be in the front line making language itself a liminal object, which stands outside and also within the self, that is, a vehicle for bringing what is outside within.



Turkle, S. (2007). The secret power of things we hold dear. New Scientist, 194 (2607), 50-52.

Turkle, S. (2007). Evocative objects: Things we think with. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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