Communications not received

Animal Science 2

More than I ever even considered wanting to know about reproductive tracts, and this is only the first week! Thus far Chemistry seems to be all right so long as I keep up with all the online things. It seems that the current CA budget crunch has led to everything being posted online instead of printed on paper — convenient for those of us who (like me) tend to lose things easily. I really am organized for things that are important to me or that interest me, although I might not show it. What happens when my computer crashes though? I was lucky the last time.

Email can be very convenient, or very frustrating. When you contact someone only through email or instant message, there is little ability to make sure that you are not misunderstood. Not really any means of double-checking that an email was received (except between AOL members who can only check within AOL), or that the right message was received. Once an email is sent, it’s too late to take anything back. Too late to edit a sentence or include a vital piece of information. To rectify a mistake, another email must be sent, to the point where the recipient’s inbox is flooded and the person reading those emails gets rabidly incensed over the amount of useless correspondence. To take it to extremes, if we responded to every email in order to show that we got it, how would the world wide web of information transfer handle the load? We’d all have to pay premiums for DSL and high-speed cable access. I am usually pretty good about responding to emails that need responding (queries as opposed to statements)… but how many people are still wondering if I received the ones I don’t answer?

I hate not knowing how my messages are received. Should I tone it down? Include more info? Give up on this impersonal medium and hike up my phone bill? Letters are not very different from emails, except that I can draw cute cartoons in the margins to show whatever mood I am writing to convey. Email is certainly faster and more efficient, when it is used to transfer files from one to another, or to pass on information that is too bulky to type and re-type. I’m one of the (un?)lucky generations that has grown up with a new invention, to the exclusion of the habits that went before. No, I don’t remember what it was like to spend hours writing letters to friends, only what it is to chat with many people from everywhere online, or to use email to maintain the connections. I remember reading somewhere (Discover Magazine perhaps? A sci fi novel?) that our current civilization will not leave artifacts that are as representative of our culture as those of previous inhabitants. So much is extant on the internet, which will not be accessible to explorers who come after us (unless they have the means to connect all computers together again). Suppose the UC servers were destroyed in some California Earthquake Country catastrophe — how would we remember which classes we took? The university left would have a nearly insurmountable task in rebuilding — fifty years ago everything would still have been on paper. Granted, a fire could still destroy it, but enough copies might survive. What happens when the earth’s magnetic field goes haywire and affects everyone’s credit cards? How will we pay for things?

I don’t expect these problems ever to be solved, but the current culture is definitely one of my more intriguing puzzles.

~ by jackelopette on March 31, 2003.

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