Friday, February 05, 2010

Working at the Speed of E-mail

John Freeman on how e-mail has changed our working lives:

Working at the speed of e-mail is like trying to gain a topographic understanding of our daily landscape from a speeding train--and the consequences for us as workers are profound. Interrupted every thirty seconds or so, our attention spans are fractured into a thousand tiny fragments. The mind is denied the experience of deep flow, when creative ideas flourish and complicated thinking occurs. We become task-oriented, tetchy, terrible at listening as we try to keep up with the computer. The e-mail inbox turns our mental to-do list into a palimpsest--there's always something new and even more urgent erasing what we originally thought was the day's priority. Incoming mail arrives on several different channels--via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, instant message--and in this era of backup we're sure that we should keep records of our participation in all these conversations. The result is that at the end of the day we have a few hundred or even a few thousand e-mails still sitting in our inbox.

From John Freeman, The Tyranny of E-Mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox (2009).

6 comments:

Suko said...

Email really can be tyranny, when it's too much, too soon. And it often is.

Stefanie said...

What a coincidence! I just finished reading this book over the weekend. I can't say that I liked it overall, but there were parts of it I thought really interesting.

Term Papers said...

Certainly the mind is denied the experience of deep flow, when creative ideas flourish and complicated thinking occurs.

Alan said...

Pretty much explains one of the reasons I quit my last job in the corporate world. All these different managers constantly emailing new instructions to the employees. Often conflicting with eachother. No time to ponder what they even mean before you get some new instructions. Information is worthless if you don't have time to seriously digest it.

Nathalie Foy said...

One of the things I loved about Susan Hill's Howard's End is on the Landing is her description of her ability to fall deeply into a book once she had curtailed her internet use. "Within a few days, my attention span increased again, my butterfly-brain settled down and I was able to spend longer periods concentrating on single topics, difficult long books, subjects requiring my full focus. It was like diving into a deep, cool ocean after flitting about in the shallows, Slow Reading as against Gobbling-up."

Pearl said...

interesting theory. certainly without interruption thoughts can run longer.

nice assortment of sidebar links.