[Air-l] e-mail destroying friendships?

Esther Milne EMilne at groupwise.swin.edu.au
Tue Apr 22 17:10:21 PDT 2003

and let;s not forget that unauthorised 'forwarding' has a technological
precedent. In eighteenth and nineteenth century epistolary practice it
was not uncommon for letters to be circulated within a particular
community *without* the consent or knowledge of the original author.

just my two cents (and doctoral thesis on the correspondence between
email and postal technologies) worth!


Esther Milne
Lecturer in Media and Communications
School of Social & Behavioural Sciences
Swinburne University of Technology
John Street 
Hawthorn VIC 3122
Tel: +613 92148195
Fax: +613 98190574

>>> c.chesher at unsw.edu.au 04/22/03 09:41pm >>>

On Tuesday, April 22, 2003, at 02:01  AM, Charles Ess 
<cmess at lib.drury.edu>

> a friend with a specific political viewpoint regularly forwards 
> e-mails to a
> list of friends;
> at some point, someone in the group strongly disagrees with the 
> perspective
> / argument represented in a forward - and, instead of ignoring the 
> matter,
> fires back to the whole group;

What strikes me as distinctive in this scenario is the cultural form of

the act of email forwarding. I do think that it risks destroying 

In a f2f conversation you might cite some other authority in stating a

political position. But when you forward a polemical email, you're 
using a huge slab-quote. It is more analogous to passing out a pamphlet

than to stating an opinion in the context of a discussion. Not only 
does your e-pamphlet text weaken your readers' sense that it has been 
authored by a friend, but the fact that your message is addressed to a

large list of receivers also dilutes their sense that the message is 
personally from you.

On the other hand, you probably feel strongly about the message. That's

why you chose to forward it to people who you believed shared the same

views. But the choice of who you add to the list of receivers is likely

to be less considered than for an email that you have written yourself,

because you've spent less time in composing it. And the opinions in the

email may be expressed more forcefully than you might put them in your

own words.

When you get the rebutting email you probably receive it as a personal

affront to you, rather than a rejection of the original email. And it's

in public -- posted to you and your other friends! The friendship is 
definitely in trouble.

I think these risks are structured into the technocultural 
configuration of the event of forwarding a politically inflected email

-- in its technical, textual, temporal, affective and interpersonal 


-- -
Dr Chris Chesher                         Work phone 61 2 9385 6814
Lecturer                                 Mobile:      04040 95 480
School of Media and Communications       Messages:  61 2 9385 6811
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences      Fax:       61 2 9385 6812
University of New South Wales            Email: c.chesher at unsw.edu.au 
UNSW Sydney 2052                         http://mdcm.arts.unsw.edu.au/

Air-l mailing list
Air-l at aoir.org 

More information about the Air-L mailing list