e-mail (37)

Mon, 10 Apr 89 19:16:05 EDT

Humanist Mailing List, Vol. 2, No. 816. Monday, 10 Apr 1989.

Date: 10 Apr 89 18:15:38 EDT (Mon)
From: Gunhild Viden <viden@hum.gu.se>
Subject: electronic communication among human beings

May I be forgiven for throwing in some general reflections on the
nature of E-mail? I will try to keep it short.

E-mail is a very handy, somewhat anonymous way of getting in contact
with people. Within a discussion like this one we know very little
about each other, in fact only the short report on our professional
activities included in the biography (if we care to look it up, which
we usually don't). Most people are very concise, most people avoid
references to their private life, except the odd joke. Yet I am amazed
at how soon a personality begins to emerge from these few lines on the
screen. I have had a couple of private conversations with people I
have never met and will perhaps never meet; no personal information
has been included; I don't know their age, faith, number of kids (if
any) or preferences as to this or that; yet somehow I know them and
have some general idea of their personality, and a kind of electronic
friendship has been established. It seems that we are revealing more
about ourselves through the language we use than we are perhaps aware
of; I also have the idea that the relative anonymity of electronic
communication makes us care less about how we say things, thereby
perhaps revealing more of our personalities than we would in more
formal contexts. Does anyone know of studies of the language in
electronic communication, e.g. how conventions arise, or of theories of
reception within E-mail?