Email and Epistolary technologies: Presence, Intimacy, Disembodiment
A key problem for critical media practice is how to assess accurately the technological impact, historical significance and cultural consequences of a particular change in a communications system. Contemporary theorising about the impact of electronic, digitally networked culture is often articulated within an eschatological narrative of apocalypse and last things. The old is cast as naive and redundant while the new appears triumphant, conquering and redemptive. Washing away the sins of the old, the new technology arrives, it seems, out of nowhere. In response to such socio-technological representations, this paper argues that the dialectic between old and new communication systems is more complex than has been assumed by contemporary media theory. Rather than a narrative of radical changes, decisive shifts and abrupt breaks, the relation between epistolary and email technology reveals certain continuities.