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The nifty invention called electronic mail is what Marshall McLuhan must have had in mind when he wrote this. Those of us who have email wonder what we would do without it. We can compose or copy text and graphics and send them across the world to many people in seconds. McLuhan also said that "perfection of the means of communication has meant instantaneity" (Culture without Literacy, Explorations., 1953). We do not have to worry about long distance charges, fax reception, time zones, or telephone tag. Email permits flexible work arrangements. One's place of work can be anywhere. Little wonder the use of email is in phenomenal growth in business.
Physical face-to-face oral expression inherently makes one immediately accountable for what is said, and body language is a major component of the communication. However, all of us have sent email that we wish we could have later retracted and expunged. Without the immediacy and body language, our guard is down and we say things by email, that we would never do face-to-face, or even on paper. Once dispatched, email is out of our control. It can be forwarded to the hundreds of millions of people on the Internet. It can be printed out and archived indefinitely. Most utility software can recover email messages, and originators can be traced. Crackers and email-list managers can intercept messages and read stored ones. Email is a very public medium indeed. Sending an electronic message to someone may risk sending it to everyone. …