How Do We Cope When Someone’s Without Email?

The debate about social exclusion and e-technology continues. But there’s one issue which is rarely addressed: Is there an emerging protocol for when some people in a social or work grouping have email, and some don’t? And is the onus always on the email users to contact the rest? Or does it depend on who the people are and on the specific situation?
Have we become a ‘society’ completely dependent on e-technology? And are those who don’t have it ‘excluded’?
This isn’t a new question – it’s even cropped up on this very website before now – but it’s still a difficult one to crack. How, for instance, can geographically spread groups of people operate effectively, when some of them have email and some don’t?
There is more than one way to see this question; and maybe the hardest part of the problem is unpicking the ‘reasons’ people may or may not use e-technology. Have we reached the point where it’s as reasonable to expect people to have access to email, as it is to expect them to have access to a telephone?
Techno-avoidance, lack of skills, or lack of resources?
Does it ‘matter’ why a person won’t / can’t use email? Does protocol dictate a different response (from an email user) to the person who just doesn’t want email, than from the one who genuinely can’t easily obtain or use it?
Is it equitable to expect email users to telephone people who don’t use it, or should non-email people (generally, and assuming they are comfortably able) be expected to phone those who do use it? And how will they kow when to do so?
Email is so much more precise, and usually less obtrusive. Telephone conversations demand real-time connection and permit greater immediate flexibility, but are much more expensive (per item of contact) and intrusive.
Developing the protocol
I suspect that a protocol is beginning to emerge on these matters. But it is situation-specific.
In essence, the consensus seems to be that younger, and professional, people will use the www and email, or they won’t even be eligible to apply for jobs. Likewise, they use texting.
Others however still expect, and to some extent are expected, to use the telephone or ‘proper letters’.
Democracy and inclusion in action?
The problem arises when people in either ‘grouping’ want to be sure to include those in the other. Does anyone have good examples of how it’s done?
From where I sit, it looks like nearly all the work has to be done by the email users – printing out hard paper copies to post, phoning other people to tell them that emails are being circulated etc.
No doubt like many co-users of the internet, I got email to save time, energy and trouble. When I seek to be socially inclusive as a member of a group where most use email and a few don’t, it actually makes me into an unpaid secretary in the name of democracy. But I’m not sure everyone finds the energy to do the same.
Maybe the next big thing will be a technology which ‘translates’ emails and the like to voicemail – at the receiving end?

Posted on January 31, 2006, in Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, Knowledge Ecology And Economy, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, The Journal. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Terence Burgess

    Hi you have made some interesting & relevant points here.I can see the frustration & benefits from both sides as i am fairly new to the Internet myself & dare i say it “still very nervous about using it”,as i feel overwhelmed by what i can do on it.I suffer with Clinical Depression & don’t have many friends so i can see the potential that having the Internet has,as far as information at your fingertips is concerned.Being aware for instance of all the support groups that are out there leaves me & i’m sure others overwhelmed as to “where do i start”?.
    Sadly out there,there will be those who will have no qualms about leaving other people behind,who for various reasons either cannot or are afraid of using the Internet,be it through financial reasons or otherwise.There is indeed a danger of these people being alienated from society & the consequences of this in time are indeed very sad.
    I myself feel sometimes like i’m standing on the edge of a cliff,since using the Internet,as it can never replace face to face contact.
    Like others there is so much that iam unable to do yet on here,yet i lack the confidence to investigate further what can be achieved etc.
    I understood one of the first aims of this Labour Government in 1997 was to get more people connected to the Internet in poorer communities.I dont know how successful they were on this as !i’ve heard nothing related to this for ages”.My guess is that it was just another of their regular “headline grabbing” initiatives.
    I hope as many people can somehow be brought together &that this issue will be properly aired & addressed,though i dont hold out much hope sadly.

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