¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 It is not just physical limitations which disappear, but temporal ones too; “the one screen, which previously bound the viewer to a single common time, now becomes a gateway to different time-frames simultaneously, and thus opens the way to a more… expansive experience of time itself.” [Tresilian 1995: 265] Email enables messages to be sent at the speed of light across the world, and gets to its destination almost as soon as it has left. As an electronic imprint on a phosphorescent screen, it has an ephemeral quality that some find an advantage;
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 I'm really into this e-mail business right now since it's so easy. Here I am at work with another opportunity to procrastinate. Plus this is so much more informal than letter writing - I always feel the need to expound in some sort of witty and eloquent way on paper. These electronic messages are so much more transient and somehow disposable. Basically the pressure's off.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Many subjects reported similar attitudes, reflecting the observation that “in simultaneously bringing back lost arts of chatting and letter writing, the Internet is fusing the oral and the written.” [Nguyen & Alexander 1996: 104]
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Email correspondences, newsgroups and mailing lists, like speech, are based on the principle of “turn-taking” [Sharrock & Anderson 1986: 71] over time, and one finds constant references to Internet etiquette – ‘netiquette’ as it is known – which ensures the smooth running of the newsgroup, both in terms of the coherence of the arguments and the avoidance of provocative “other-than-neutral” [op. cit: 72] responses. CIX, for example, has an archive devoted to helping members avoid unnecessary conflict:
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Net etiquette is a set of guidelines that have evolved to make it easy for us all to get along and be part of that big old family that is CiX! Or, to put it another way, if you break the rules, people will SHOUT at you! :-)
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Yet overcautious use of etiquette can be to the detriment of a group. Communication can suffer from a kind of ‘half-life’, as the correspondents send thank you notes back and forth, ending up thanking one another for their thanks… and so on. The acronym TIA (Thanks In Advance) is used to prevent the repetition of unnecessary mail of this sort.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Unlike the WWW, which has developed along the lines of publishing (so that a page must be requested by a user), mailing lists retain similarities with broadcast media. Mailing lists provide a way of accessing many-to-many and one-to-many channels of communication; there is only an initial request for subscription to the group, much like selecting a radio frequency or TV station. Posts are then delivered directly to the member’s mailbox, “and increasingly, what is ‘said’ is a variety of mixed discourses and migrating intellectual technologies that mark the world we live in now.” [Anderson 1995: 14] DIRECT-L is a forum for the discussion of the intellectual technologies of Lingo programming and multimedia production, and illustrates what Tresilian meant by different ‘time-frames’. Members can select how they wish to receive the on-going activity of the group; either ‘as it happens’ so that contributions appear in the member’s mailbox at the time that they were sent, or in ‘time-compact’ digest form, so that the entire day’s correspondence arrives in one large file. In this way each member is exposed to the construction of time which is peculiar to the group. There are significant differences in the perception of group activity through the two means of receiving it.
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 In ‘as it happens’ mode, hundreds of messages pour into the member’s mailbox every day, giving a strong impression of the hectic activity of the worldwide membership. Each day becomes a struggle to eliminate the messages which are of no interest, and even as one does so, new messages keep arriving from people who work in time zones entirely different from one’s own. This can often be a matter of some confusion, but also some humour, as with this interchange over software release dates;
¶ 12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 At 1:43 PM -0500 4/28/97, Jay & Vera Keown wrote:
>If anyone can provide me with release time (I know no dates are possible right >now) for Director 6, I'd really appreciate it.
¶ 19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 Electronic communication is synchronous across the world and the activity of the group continues regardless of the time in the place of each member’s residence. There appear to be two consequences of this; firstly, one recognises how dependent upon place the perception of time is; people regard ‘the time’ as being the time where they themselves are, and secondly it situates the group in a ‘space’ where time is not bound by place, as if it were in outer space where there is no day and no night. Mark Dery calls this phenomenon ‘escape velocity’, and wrote, “Marshall McLuhan’s pronouncement in 1967 that electronic media have spun us into a blurred, breathless “world of allatonceness” where information “pours upon us, instantaneously and continuously,” sometimes overwhelming us, is truer than ever.” [Dery, M. 1996: 1]
¶ 20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 Receiving DIRECT-L as a digest is an even more pronounced form of ‘allatonceness’ than the continuous chatter of ‘as it happens’ reception. The entire contents of the previous 24 hours discussion arrives in one huge file, which, as one reads it, give the impression that these discussions happened without the characteristic lag time of email correspondence. The group seems somehow ‘elsewhere’; one is only periodically connected to its activity by the daily report. This level of remove from the group seems to require a lesser level of immediate commitment to the group, and yet, paradoxically, it requires a greater level of effort to find that which is of interest. Instead of struggling to edit out the unwanted messages, members find themselves searching the text for the threads in which they are interested. Because there is no difference in the content, members are able to ‘unpack’ the time-compactness of the means of communication to discern the timelines of the threads which concern them.