Almost every day now I get at least one e-mail message from somebody out there in ether-land interested in some aspect of our metalworking business. Many messages are responses to stuff I've written (positive comments always welcome). Some are constructive criticism or differing points of views—also always welcome.
One of the interesting things I find about e-mail is its seemingly democratic nature. I use democratic in its pure sense—meaning participation of all parties in the process. With this communication medium the message is king. So far, the medium is simply that—a carrier, facilitator for ideas, thoughts and messages.
When I get a message from someone there is no way for me to appreciate who the sender is. There is no discernible postmark, logotype, corporate graphics, and rarely even a title to differentiate one sender's station from someone else's. I find this rather refreshing. It's like a blind taste test that measures and rates thoughts, ideas and their clear expression. Based solely on those criteria, one can answer or not. E-mail effectively filters out the extraneous trappings provided by other mediums and leaves us just the "beef."
Without knowing the relative importance of the sender, it's easier to evaluate a message's content. Consequently, one's response tends to be perhaps more objective—read: blunt, truthful, honest. This leads to an efficient dialog because there is more time spent reading the lines as they appear than trying to figure out what's between them.
I recently watched a cable documentary about Air Force One. It explained how Lyndon Johnson installed a desk chair that could be raised as needed in order to maintain a slight seated height advantage or dominant position over those sitting across from him. He also installed microphones and speakers throughout the plane so he could address the passengers onboard when he felt the need to say something. According to some listeners, what was said mattered less than who was saying it. I wonder how he would have dealt with the relative anonymity of e-mail.
For several years, parents and teachers have railed about the potential loss of basic reading and writing skills. It seems to me that e-mail and its increased proliferation is helping many people rediscover reading and writing. I enjoy this new medium for what it brings to the art of communication and because of what it leaves behind.