Re: undergrads and email

Subject: Re: undergrads and email
From: "Matt Hicks" <matt -at- UNIDATA -dot- UCAR -dot- EDU>
Date: Fri, 26 Mar 1993 07:53:12 -0700

>> Specifically, they are interested in finding out more about the claim
>> that e-mail is advantageous because it helps discussions to focus more
>> on ideas rather than personal characteristics (e.g., race and gender).

>Email provides MANY advantages, the LEAST of which is the potential to
>minimize the effect of personal characteristics on discussion. Specifically,
>it ENABLES discussions that would not otherwise happen. How ELSE could

I would add to Karen's comments that with email one can include documents
in the conversation and that these documents can also be the focus of the
conversation. I suppose a fax could fill this role, but it would be much
more cumbersome, especially if there was heavy editing or revision occuring.

Our office supports a community of teachers and researchers
at universities around the country and maintains many different email
lists to keep us in touch with all of them. Policy decisions are discussed
in these lists, users solve each others problems through the lists, we set
up workshops with emailed applications, etc. If all of this had to be done
by phone or snailmail (the U.S. Postal Service, for those students who
haven't given up and gone home) we would need a staff of a hundred and it would
take years to get anything done. With email we can broadcast a single
message to hundreds of users at once, by phone one at a time, by snailmail...
who'd pay for all those stamps?:-)

I would much rather type out a clear, concise message than babble some rough
approximation of the same message into someone's voicemail. The recipient
has my questions and concerns in print in front of them and can respond to
them directly on their own timetable. There is (or at least can be) a complete
record of the discussion; no more "I thought you said" or "That's not how
I remember it."

>A disadvantage of email is that it handicaps poor spellers and poor writers,
>AND runs a greater risk of miscommunication than face to face conversation.

It seems to me that once you learn the limitations of this form of
communication (e.g. irony and sarcasm, per Karen's example) that the risk
of miscommunication is less than or equal to that for oral communication.
How many I-wish-I-hadn't-said-thats could you have avoided in your life
if you were typing the words and had them to edit before the other person
saw them? Email gives you the opportunity to make sure you have said what
you mean to say to the best of your ability before your words reach anyone

>Irony and sarcasm don't work on email, for example.
>But it is still better than NO communication.

MUCH better in my opinion. I feel like I've only begun to touch on the
benefits of email in this post, but I'm not sure this is really on topic
so I'll quit while there's still some bandwidth left. :-)
_________________________________________________ /\_/\ _________________
Matthew B. Hicks | Unidata Program Center | ((ovo)) The spotted owl:
matt -at- unidata -dot- ucar -dot- edu | UCAR, PO Box 3000 | ():::() the other "other
303/497-8676 | Boulder, CO 80307-3000 | VVV white meat."

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