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The Fall and Rise of Asynchronicity

The daughter of a friend was bemoaning poor connectivity of the internet at a university in Europe. She said, “It’s vital since I don’t have any other method of communication.”My friend noted, “I was telling her how we only had letters and occasional long distance phone calls in college….”

One of my most widely read blog posts was entitled, “Blackberry Cold Turkey,” in December of 2006. The impetus was when my telecom provider wrote in November to tell me that my bare bones wireless data service was going to be discontinued, but that I could “upgrade” to one with a higher price with more functionality, if I also bought a new device. I decided it was time for a life-changing experience and tossed my Blackberry in the trash. This reminded me of a major functionality of email.

The most important attribute of email is the asynchronicity of the medium: The sender and the receiver do not have to be in contact at the same moment. This enables efficient communication. You can integrate emails into the fabric of your life. You originate a message when you want, and you reply to another’s when you want.

Until the “revenge effect” occurs! How does this work? Email was invented. Then Blackberries were invented so we could be sure, when we are away from our computer, to receive emails as soon as they are sent and reply to them immediately. In fact, we feel compelled to read and respond in real time. Asynchronicity disappears.Continue reading…

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