Being Professional by Email: Who/How are You?

  • Anne Surma


In this chapter I investigate and problematise the notion of email exchange as so-called ‘written conversation’ in organisational contexts.1 Drawing on interviews with users of email from two different workplace contexts, I explore the implications of this hybrid rhetorical form — email — for both professional writing and writing like a professional within and between workplaces. The senses of intimacy with and/or distance from others that email writing can either simultaneously or variously evoke implies a particular significance for the role of language in constructing subjectivity and in enabling (professionally- and personally-oriented) interaction between individuals. By reflecting on the impact of different, particularly attitudinal and situational, contexts on the processes of and approaches to writing and reading email texts, I argue that the email writer’s activity of imagining (the other) in those processes becomes pressing. The chapter bases its discussion on Mark Poster’s (1990, 2001) exuberant evocation of the shifting identities of the postmodern subject as mediated by digital communication technologies.


Electronic Communication Mark Poster Email Communication Saturday Morning Professional Context 
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  1. 2.
    See Rooksby (2000, p. 68) for an exploration of empathy in computermediated communication. Rooksby argues that ‘empathy is … essential for ethically engaged communication, even though it does not guarantee successful information-transmission, however broadly this last term is interpreted’.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Similarly, Spears et al. (2002) critique simplistic judgements about computermediated communication technologies, and argue that interaction through cyberspace does not necessarily result in less ‘social’ processes and that issues of power are not necessarily dissolved. They argue for more context-specific analyses, which are both socially and technologically grounded.Google Scholar

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© Anne Surma 2005

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  • Anne Surma

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