Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wait, I Thought It Was the Telegram that Was Out-of-Style

This Wall Street Journal story that heralds "The End of the Email Era" admits that e-mail "continues to grow" and yet its "reign" in communication has come to an end only a decade or two after achieving dominance in business, academic, and leisure contexts. One theory about why e-mail seems less relevant that the WSJ presents has to do with ubiquitous computing technologies and social computing that are growing "faster" than their more traditional communication counterpart.

Now, we are always connected, whether we are sitting at a desk or on a mobile phone. The always-on connection, in turn, has created a host of new ways to communicate that are much faster than email, and more fun.

Why wait for a response to an email when you get a quicker answer over instant messaging? Thanks to Facebook, some questions can be answered without asking them. You don't need to ask a friend whether she has left work, if she has updated her public "status" on the site telling the world so. Email, stuck in the era of attachments, seems boring compared to services like Google Wave, currently in test phase, which allows users to share photos by dragging and dropping them from a desktop into a Wave, and to enter comments in near real time.

The article also asserts that there is a shift in epistolary style that goes on, as communication is perceived as more ephemeral and more like speech.

These new services also make communicating more frequent and informal—more like a blog comment or a throwaway aside, rather than a crafted email sent to one person. No need to spend time writing a long email to your half-dozen closest friends about how your vacation went. Now those friends, if they're interested, can watch it unfold in real time online. Instead of sending a few emails a week to a handful of friends, you can send dozens of messages a day to hundreds of people who know you, or just barely do.

The article closes with an argument about workplace efficiency, which is not surprising, given the source of the publication.

Update: See how Tech Insider disputes this claim.

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