Ben P. Robertson Turkle, Sherry , ed. In a collection of autobiographical essays called Evocative Objects, Sherry Turkle has asked contributors to explore the emotional and intellectual connections that people make with everyday objects. Her goal with the collection is to clarify "the inseparability of thought and feeling in our relationship to things" 5. In other words, her interest lies in the reasons people develop emotional attachments to objects and the extent to which such attachments can inspire thought.
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Ben P. Robertson Turkle, Sherry , ed. In a collection of autobiographical essays called Evocative Objects, Sherry Turkle has asked contributors to explore the emotional and intellectual connections that people make with everyday objects.
Her goal with the collection is to clarify "the inseparability of thought and feeling in our relationship to things" 5. In other words, her interest lies in the reasons people develop emotional attachments to objects and the extent to which such attachments can inspire thought. Turkle is not interested in the "instrumental power" of each object—its usefulness as a tool—but is concerned with "the object as a companion in life experience" and about the extent to which each object acts as catalyst for a fusion of intellect and emotion 5.
The thirty-four short essays in Evocative Objects are divided nearly equally into six sections whose titles roughly categorize the types of emotion and intellectual stimulation that the objects have inspired for the authors: "Objects of Design and Play," "Objects of Discipline and Desire," "Objects of History and Exchange," "Objects of Transition and Passage," "Objects of Mourning and Memory," and "Objects of Meditation and New Vision.
Many of the essays in this collection are poignant reminders of times long gone, and they suggest how the authors have matured as they have aged. Eden Medina, for example, reflects in "Ballet Slippers" on the reason she quit dancing years ago. Later in life, however, she attained greater maturity that allowed her to come to terms with her own shortcomings and to dance again simply for the love of the art.
For Medina, the ballet slippers become the evocative objects that inspire a meditation upon herself and her intellectual and emotional development. Turkle has paired each of the essays with an epigraph consisting of a "short excerpt drawn from philosophy, history, literature, or social theory" 8. Some of the photographs depict the actual objects the authors discuss in their essays, while others, disappointingly, are merely stock photographs or were designed for the book.
Whatever the case, however, the images lend the book an aura of immediacy that encourages readers to reflect upon the pictured objects and upon their own evocative objects.
Turkle explains in the introduction that working on the book made it an evocative object in its own right 10 , but herein lies one of the weaknesses of the book.
In a final twenty-page essay entitled "What Makes an Object Evocative? However, this final essay is unnecessary, for it mostly recapitulates connections that attentive readers already will have seen and does not engage with the theoretical material in any depth. Turkle acknowledges that the book started as part of a seminar series at MIT viii , so the nature of the contributors is no surprise.
However, the book might have been more thought-provoking had Turkle solicited a broader, more diverse base of contributors. Finally, a few small changes to the production of the book itself—over which Turkle likely had no control—might have made reading it more pleasant. Despite any imperfections, Evocative Objects is an interesting, thought-provoking book that entertains as it encourages readers to think. It is well organized, and the contributors were careful to cite any sources they used.
Additionally, Turkle has included a generous bibliography of materials that address object studies in various ways. This book likely will appeal to a wide range of readers, especially since so many people keep evocative objects reverently ensconced in their homes and likely will identify with many sentiments expressed in the essays.
The essays are linked with sometimes ironic and sometimes profound quotations from other authors, amongst whom the French postmodernists are prominent. Reading the essays is a privileging and moving experience as the authors reveal the nakedness of their evocative objects, exposing the inner thoughts and feelings to these touchstones of material objects including ballet slippers, a vacuum cleaner, a Melbourne tram, a rolling pin and slime mould. Turkle acts as curator to these essays brilliantly, allowing brutal honesty and exposure to the pieces, which often read like private journals. The essays exude invention and creativity often tinged with sadness or emptiness but always effervescing with the humanity of the writers. These talented people become very ordinary through their evocative objects and this ordinariness becomes extraordinary as layers of meaning are unpeeled to expose the exceptionality and the singularity of the simple, the loved and the mundane.
Evocative Objects: Things We Think with