Monday, June 28, 2010

Book review

There's an interesting book out by John Freeman called The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand Year Journey To Your Inbox.

The book says that the average office worker in the United States receives and sends 200 e-mails per day, and so "who has the time to think clearly when under assault by this tsunami of other people's needs?", but because e-mail has "re-oriented time", "the permitted reply time has shrunk as well".

Note the word "permitted".

The assault on my work time by e-mail is not as bad as it once was, but the problem I see with e-mail as a form of business to business communication is that because it arrives almost immediately, it assumes the reply will come almost immediately also. That is a wrong assumption, but not a surprising one.

Freeman continues, "perceived time saved by using e-mail, rather than using the post, is being spent on compiling e-mails..." (presumably by people who cannot type) and, critically I think, "use of technology has begun to alter our attention span; we've started reverse engineering our brains for speed, as opposed to mindfulness".

Absolutely. Productivity is not assured through technological advances - it has to be used properly.

His conclusion is that it is time to "push back against the machines", in some Terminator-metaphorical way I guess.

The bizarre thing about all of this is Freeman uses this quote to start the book off: "Our desire to outstrip Time has been fatal to more things than love...We have minimized and condensed our emotions...We have destroyed the memory of yesterday with the worries of tomorrow...We do not feel and enjoy...We assimilate and appropriate".

That quote is from 1901.

I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How long is TOO long to wait to receive a reply? Even when people wrote letters to each other it was polite to reply within a certain time frame.

I'm still waiting for email replies from about 2 months ago.