Discussion Papers

Christa Spengler-Rast, Maria Kampen

Perspektiven und Probleme computergestützter Kommunikation - am Beispiel "Elektronische Post"
Nr. 70 / August 1991
(no longer available)

Summary

The study reveals the basic problem of defining the "substance" of electronic mail. E mail may be viewed as a quick medium for message and data transfer as well as a medium, which allows complex and ambious computer supported cooperative work. Within this broad functionality e-mail has a dynamic substitutional and complementary relationship with other forms of asynchronous communication.

While in the US ten per cent of the workforce uses mailboxes, the degree of usage in Germany is far below one per cent. The application of e-mail in Germany is - besides some usage in the R&D-scene and the environmental movement - focused on business communication.

With standardization problems nearly solved the lack of netted PCs is the main reason for the slow diffusion of e-mail. The organizational implementation of e-mail often fails because of general difficulties of understanding the essence of organizational communication. Areas for an effective computer-support are rarely identified. Ideas for an integral telematic infrastructure, in which e-mail has to be incorporated, are scarcely developed. Furthermore the need for organizational adjustments and privacy and data protection measures, which are essential for a successful e-mail implementation, is often underestimated

E-mail can only be evaluated in the context of the whole telecommunication (and computer) infrastructure of an organization. Therefore further research should focus on the analysis of telecommunication behaviour and telecommunication strategies of organizations.

Although the emphasis of this study lies on organizational outcomes the potential impacts of e-mail on the communication pattern of the individual and communication on the society level should not be neglected. The potentials of e-mail as a technology, which promotes the organization of social interests and the participation in political processes, are hardly determined.

Discussion Paper is no longer available.

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