“Technology proposes itself an architect of our intimacies,” explained Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Sherry Turkle to an engrossed audience at the Harvard University Extension School. The event, “The Tethered Life: Technology Reshapes Intimacy and Solitude,” was the concluding public event of the School’s yearlong centennial celebration.

“As we instant message, e-mail, text, and Twitter, technology redraws the boundaries between intimacy and solitude,” she said. “Teenagers avoid the telephone, fearful that it reveals too much. Besides, it takes too long; they would rather text than talk. Adults, too, choose keyboards over the human voice.”

Tethered to technology, we are shaken when the unplugged world does not signify or satisfy. “After an evening of avatar-to-avatar talk in a networked game, we feel — at one moment — in possession of a full social life, and in the next, curiously isolated in tenuous complicity with strangers.”

In this thought-provoking lecture, Turkle, who is founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, shared her observations on the significant impact technology has had on our personal lives — on our children, our families, and our notions of privacy, and how it has offered us less than positive substitutes for direct face-to-face connection with people in a world of machine-mediated relationships on networked devices.

The May 14 lecture was based on Turkle’s new book, “Alone Together: Technology and the Reinvention of Intimacy and Solitude,” due for release by Basic Books in January 2011.