Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Email list conventions

I know it shouldn't surprise me but it does. The way some people think email can be used really makes me realise how conventions associated with communication technologies are always being negotiated and what I think is bleeding obvious is clearly not for all.

Today I received an email from a guy inviting me to a movie this Saturday night. Now firstly,
I should say I identified the name of the sender immediately and recognised it wasn't spam. I also noted that it didn't appear to be a personal invitation. It had that impersonal, directed at the world in general tone. He asked, "Does anyone want to go to the movies with me?" This made me very curious. Clearly I was on some kind of a list and one of a number of people invited on this...was it a date? It wasn't clear whether it was a date or not. I expanded the header of the email because my mail program is set to suppress this level of detail. And yes, it seemed my initial thought had been correct. I was among 11 others invited to go see a film with this guy. Was it a group date? All the names on the list were familiar and they seemed to be all the female members of a singing group that I usually attend. It all started to click into place. I handed out my email address to be contacted for events associated with this singing group and this group list is now being used by one member for personal reasons in order to invite 'someone'/'anyone' to go see a movie on Saturday night. The group maillist, normally associated with a very particular activity and purpose is being used by this person as his own personal network.

Now, I don't think this act rates as abusive (at least not in my reckoning). It was obviously not designed to be malicious and doesn't come across as intentional mis-use of a list. What does surprise me though, is that he obviously thinks this is perfectly OK use of a group list. But I don't feel comfortable about that and it occurred to me that I assume that most of the women on the list would feel the same way. What do you think?


Glen Fuller said...

So the problem is the exact nature of the 'social' of the sociality assumed in the term 'social events'? Perhaps it is best thought of in two ways as determined by a threshold of intimacy versus a collective event where the numbers don't matter as much?

I agree with you that it is a bit weird and would also feel uncomfortable. Interesting problem in the transition between online social organizations versus real f2f social organizations. Perhaps you need to suggest that there is a social events officer who is in charge of _organizing_ events which is separate from _suggesting_ events (which might be the task of the entire group?). This is one of the organizational structures that various radical groups are apparently assuming so as to divorce those in control of organizing things from the collective creative efforts which come up with the 'thing' being organized. They call it 'post-representational' politics.

Or maybe you need a 'social event suggestions officer' and a 'social event organizing officer'? That way the sugestions officer asks for/gets suggestions for social events, hand these suggestions over to the organizing officer who organizes them. Or perhaps that would be too explicit a correction to the too-intimate/uncomfortable social events this dude wants to organise?

At least suggest that the email list should only be used for organizational purposes or events agreed on at other times (such as at actual f2f singing practice).

Make this dude the honorary inaugural 'Organizations Officer'. :)

PS i just got 'toneedy' in the word verification comments security thing!

Ms M said...

Yes it is interesting because it crosses a line, albeit not a particularly 'defended' one. I mean we do not as 'yet' regulate who we receive emails from and the nature of those emails quite as much as we technically could...

The issue for me is about levels of intimacy perhaps, yes, and a minor betrayal of trust - since he has been entrusted with the names and emails on that list to be used for said purpose and is now using the list in a way that I imagine/guess/assume others did not expect it to be used for - i.e. his own personal advances. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that at the time we gave our emails we did not have an extensive discussion about acceptable use of said list. When I came across this kind of issue in workplaces rolling out IT networks, I was a strong proponent of discussing it and coming to an acceptable use policy over setting up designated 'authorities'. I think it keeps the ownership in the group/users.

Oh - you're 'toneedy' and I'm 'fonzy' backwards.

Mac said...

urm, yeah. I'd have a problem with it, and I'm just bitchy enough that I'd say something about it to the guy, too.

The overfamiliarity of his using information given in good faith for a specific purpose for his personal benefit, with no attempt to actually create the intimacy bonds that would make such use more appropriate (frex, a coworker you often have lunch with calling you up on a weekend to see if you'd like to pop out for coffee, or some such--essentially, I think it was a little off-kilter in terms of boundaries.

Now I must go and think about whether the gender difference enhances the inappropriateness of the behavior.

Oh, and I got gihcy. But I had to puzzle rather hard over the distorted letters to recognize them. Those recognition keys are difficult for me all out of proportion to what it seems like they ought to be.