1. Read the article “Is Email Evil?” Discuss 3-4 of the author’s ideas on email and share your own professional/ personal experience, including how many emails you send or receive each week. Is email use still important or can another form of communication replace it?
2. Think of a time when the way a workplace message was delivered to you made a difference. Give 3-4 details about this message, explaining why it was important.
- What were your message expectations and how were you influenced by the way the information was delivered?
3. From the article we can see that reflection and reflexivity are closely related, but are different from each other.
- Reflection is what you think.
- Reflexivity is what you do with those thoughts to learn something new about yourself, the people around you, or even the world you live in.
As a reflexive exercise, share a time when you were in a public place and someone did or said something that you found upsetting. Without discussing the other person’s behavior, answer the following questions:
- What was your initial reaction?
- Were you aware of your thoughts at the time?
- When did you become aware of your thoughts?
- Reflect on this situation now. Could there have been other influences on your perception of the situation in the moment?
- Given this reflection, what could you do differently next time?
- Be sure to respond to at least one of your classmates’ posts. Where appropriate, suggest strategies to help your classmates gain a deeper understanding of their story.
4. The purpose of this exercise is to develop a more nuanced understanding of gentrification.
Watch this video A Short Documentary on Gentrification, and write your answers to the following questions.
- What are the costs of gentrification? Are the costs more than financial? Who pays those costs?
- Who benefits from gentrification?
- What is the relationship between race and gentrification?
- How is gentrification a reflection of systemic inequality as well as individual inequality?T E C H N O L O G Y
Is Email Evil? Overflowing inboxes are wrecking productivity and making people feel
guilty. Is the technology to blame, or are we?
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Sometime in the past 20 years, people soured on email. Culturally, it went from delightful to burdensome, a shift that’s reflected in the very language of the inbox. In the 1990s, AOL would gleefully announce, “You’ve got mail!” Today, Gmail celebrates the opposite: “No new mail!”
So what happened to email? What happened to us?
These are some of the questions that come up in the new technology podcast Codebreaker, the first season of which is fixated on the question, “Is it evil?”
A D R I E N N E L A F R A N C E 9 : 0 0 A M E T
John Lund / Corbis
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“In some ways, [email] is like technology that was built when the world was new, yet we still use it all the time,” Codebreaker’s host, Ben Brock Johnson, told me. “There are some real tensions that come from that, that come from the fact that it’s this free thing that anybody can send to anybody… and we can all send as many as we want.”
All of that is, theoretically, what makes email great, too. “You can’t kill email! It’s the cockroach of the Internet,” Alexis Madrigal wrote for The Atlantic last year, “and I mean that as a compliment. This resilience is a good thing.”
“Email is the last great unowned technology,” said the Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain in the first episode of Codebreaker, “and by unowned I mean there is no CEO of email… it’s just a shared hallucination that works.”
“Email is not evil. We are evil.”
And while email may work, technically, there’s a profound sentiment—in tech circles, especially—that there’s something deeply wrong with the way people email today. Maybe not surprisingly, most email is “total garbage,” Johnson says, and that’s the stuff that doesn’t even make it to your inbox. Spam filters are actually pretty good, so this virtual garbage-pile isn’t the real problem. The thing about email that bogs people down is the sorting, and responding, the unsubscribing, the reaching out, the circling back.
People are, clearly, consumed by their inboxes. On average, people check
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their email about 77 times per day, according to Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine. (On the high end, people checked their inboxes 373 times a day.) “The more email people do, the lower is their assessed productivity,” Mark said in the podcast. “[and] the lower is their positive mood at the end of the day.”
An email inbox is a reservoir of your own time managed by other people. 12:43 AM – 5 Nov 2015 · Hayes Valley, San Francisco, United States
sean rose @sean_a_rose
Mark also notes a psychological disconnect between the writing of an email and the receiving of one, a paradox that Johnson told me he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about since: Reading email is correlated with stress, actually typing and sending email is not.
“That, to me, was a totally eureka moment,” Johnson said. “Where Gloria Mark says it feels good to send email, but it feels bad to receive. That has changed my behavior. I have been more thoughtful about how I send email: Why am I sending this email? Is this the most direct way to deal with whatever I am trying to deal with?”
R E L A T E D S T O R I E SR E L A T E D S T O R I E S
When You Give a Tree an Email Address
Spam, the Neverending Story
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Email Is Still the Best Thing on the Internet
Inbox Zero vs. Inbox 5,000: A Unified Theory
“I am also really bad at managing my own email,” Johnson added. “I am abysmal. I have 12,069 unreads in my gmail right now. People look at that and they get panic attacks on my behalf.”
Several studies have found email hurts productivity and makes people feel bad. “I just think we have to rethink email, and even redesign the way email is used,” Mark said in Codebreaker’s first episode.
She’s not alone in that assessment. But what would a reboot of this nature even look like? And what would it mean for email’s cultural standing? (These are some of the questions I’m exploring for an upcoming story, and it’s clear already that they have fascinating, if incomplete, answers.)
Already there are alternatives, or at least complements, to the inbox- outbox cycle: Various private messengers and chat platforms like Slack have been described as email slayers, or at least means of chipping away at its hold on people. Teenagers barely email one another. Just 6 percent of them reported sending daily emails in a 2011 Pew survey. (A time when, it should be noted, Snapchat was in it infancy and platforms like YikYak and Vine didn’t even exist yet.)
“Email is not evil,” said Sabri Ben-Achour, a reporter for Marketplace, in the Codebreaker debut. “We are evil. Email dismantles the barriers and the filters that we have erected to contain our evil selves.”
Even if email’s not outright evil, it does seem to be broken in some way.
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And if we’re the ones who broke it, it will be up to us to fix it, too.
The amount of time we spend on email—and the stress it generates—are unsustainable.
A B O U T T H E A U T H O RA B O U T T H E A U T H O R
ADRIENNE LAFRANCE is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers technology. She was previously an investigative reporter for Honolulu Civil Beat, Nieman Journalism Lab, and WBUR.
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