Monday, November 18, 2002

Email failure
Email has become the main communication device of academia. It's quick, potentially quite close to real-time, yet non-intrusive, it can contain a lot of information and carry attachments which would otherwise be a week in the mail, it can be shared and forwarded or deleted and forgotten. The problem is when email fails us. Adrian writes about his struggle to find the perfect email system, but the problem is more serious than that when emails start disappearing and don't get where they were supposed to go. One colleague has had a problem with this all of autumn, for some reason her email gets eaten, and it's absolutely random when this happens: addresses at the college or outside, students or staff - the email-monster thinks her mails are especially tasty. Today Susana sent an email asking if I had received the email she had sent weeks ago - I hadn't replied to it - and it turns out Susana has a similar problem - or perhaps I have a problem and it sorts away Susana's mail as well? (Susana, I got this mail and the reply is yes, by the way.)

It's in cases like this that the fragility of the digital infrastructure becomes obvious - and also the close relationship to magic. Like magic, it appears on your screen - or disappears, spirited away, once sent.

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