Well, when I first started messing with e-mail, I was thinking
that the e-world was the great equalizer. But maybe it will adapt to fit
the prevailing class and caste system we have in this country and in other
The idea of information "haves" and "have nots" is a hot topic with VP Gore and many others.
Email flattens out distinctions based on age, looks, and sometimes sex. It rattles social convention and hierarchies for both good and ill....mostly good I suppose. Such social qualities seem to be what gives email its particular niche.
There's a premise that everyone's words are equally valuable, that our ideas should be evaluated on their own strength and not by the educational background, degrees, or social status of the speaker. Emailers can escape unwanted roles typically ascribed to them by virtue of race, manner of speech, appearance, and sometimes sex (if left unclear).
I've also felt that expertise is sometimes discounted in the 'net's rush toward democracy. . . [I]n net domains that _do_ have bonafide experts, participants wander aimlessly around the flat playing field; old ground is retread when neither experience nor formal training are valued as signposts. The medium promotes iconoclasm and heresy for its own sake, which in my "old age" no longer seems as inherently wonderful as it once did...
Generally, I think that the incredible specialization made possible by the listserv technology serves social stratification better than it does democratic interaction, however, that is not a necessary result. If even some people are willing to put in the effort, the net can be a force for the kind of intergroup communication that permits ideas to be truly tested in the laboratory of human experience.
(You see, I don't just drop names, I grind them into the carpet!)
Return to Index