Email and the Everyday
Stories of Disclosure, Trust, and Digital Labor
An exploration of how email is experienced, understood, and materially structured as a practice spanning our everyday domestic and work lives.
Despite its many obituaries, email is not dead. As a global mode of business and personal communication, email outstrips newer technologies of online interaction; it is deeply embedded in our everyday lives. And yet—perhaps because the ubiquity of email has obscured its study—this is the first scholarly book devoted to email as a key historical, social, and commercial site of digital communication in our everyday lives. In Email and the Everyday, Esther Milne examines how email is experienced, understood, and materially structured as a practice spanning the domestic and institutional spaces of daily life.
Email experiences range from the routine and banal to the surprising and shocking. Drawing on interviews and online surveys, Milne focuses on both the material and the symbolic properties of email. She maps the development of email as a technology and as an industry; considers institutional uses of email, including “bureaucratic intensity” of workplace email and the continuing vibrancy of email groups; and examines what happens when private emails end up in public archives, discussing the Enron email dataset and Hillary Clinton's infamous private server. Finally, Milne explores the creative possibilities of email, connecting eighteenth-century epistolary novels to contemporary “email novels,” discussing the vernacular expression of ASCII art and mail art, and examining email works by Carl Steadman, Miranda July, and others.
“Esther Milne has written a compelling book about our understanding of and experiences with and through email. She maneuvers effortlessly between the everyday banalities and the extraordinary drama that transpire in emails, and masterfully delivers finely grained analyses of email stories while displaying a deep consideration of wider social and political currents. Both inspiring and fascinating.”
Anette Grønning, Associate Professor, Department for the Study of Culture, University of Southern Denmark
“Esther Milne pays brilliant attention to email, a core building block of the digital world. Milne brings to light a history of email that leads to an insightful and essential analysis of email's meaning for and effects on us all.”
Tim Jordan, Director of Arts and Sciences (BASc) and Professor of Digital Cultures, University College London