CPSC 689/602--Spring 1997
Computer-Supported Cooperative Work

Paper Report

Title: A Lesson in Electronic Mail
Authors: R. Sproull
Citation: In L. Sproull, L and S. Kiesler, Connections: New Ways of Working in the Networked Organization, pp.177-184, 1991, The MIT Press.
Reprinted in: Groupware and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, pp.403-406, Edited by R.M. Baecker


The author discusses e-mail basics of system access, naming conventions for mailboxes, and the transporting of messages across systems. While e-mail usage has increased over the last six years, many of these issues are not resolved.

The access to e-mail is much less an issue as PC have been propagated throughout all levels of organizations. The naming of mailboxes is still an issue as is the implementation of the X.400 standard.

The author discusses the various "Listserver" programs which allow groups communication by automatically adding and removing individuals to distributions lists. Many of these features are fairly standard on most of the e-mail packages and some such as the use of attachments have extended the functionality.

The social features are interesting as they are basically unchanged since this article was originally published. The asynchronous nature is presented as a positive feature of e-mail. As we have seen in other articles this can allow individuals to communicate at their convenience without the unnecessary delay of snail-mail.

Finally two of the most important aspects of e-mail are the computer processable memory and the externally recorded memory. The author highlights the fact that the computer-processable memory clearly distinguishes e-mail from the other communication technologies.

Report prepared by: Gary Baker Email: sadiki@tamu.edu
Discussion date: 2/21/97            Report date: 2/22/97