Thursday, May 27, 2010

Email Vacation

Amy E. Martin, a recent graduate from the MFA Design program at the CCA in San Francisco, wants you to take a week-long vacation from email. I happen to be doing just that, starting tomorrow: I'm off to Paris for 7 days! Martin, a graphic designer and web developer, describes her thesis work as "generating explorative studies of potential futures for email". One manifestation of the project, a result of her one-week email sabbatical, is inbox Magazine:

Martin writes,
"Coming back from my week-long email vacation last year, I realized I had not missed anything important and that checking my email once a week would probably suffice. To that end, I started thinking about email as a weekly publication instead of an always on application. I took all of my emails from that week of December 1, 2009 through December 7, 2009, organized them and laid them out as a set of magazines."
I think Martin's onto something. Her eschewal of the modern concept of constant technological engagement is refreshing in its mental emancipation, but also in its potential for revival of traditional print. She has reincarnated new media's version of written communication (emails, text messages, Tweets) into a print format. Martin's magazines fuse old and new publishing trends in a creative, intellectually sophisticated way. Reading them requires us to reexamine how we view writing, and reading. She clarifies,
"This prototype demonstrates email in a completely different, more readable, less urgent context and although it’s not practical for mass consumption, it does highlight the one-directional, informational nature of many email messages."

I like the idea of acknowledging the ubiquity of modern modes of composition, but transforming them into print-friendly configurations; the caveat is avoiding the sacrifice of quality writing, which Twitter novels and cellphone books and the like fail to heed.

Martin's email vacation idea, the motivator behind her creation of the magazines, could stand everyone in good stead. She asks, in her website challenge to sign up so she can track your progress and you can trigger an autoresponder to people who email you in your absence,
"Email bankruptcy, overload, overflowing inboxes, obsessive checking, rechecking and endless spam... By 2011, there will be 3.2 billion email users. Email's in charge of our days and our nights. It has taken over. Why? What is so compelling about email?"
Martin's reimagining of electronic text into print text is her response to this conundrum. Mine? I'll put down the mouse and pick up a book. Signing off for a full week.


  1. I've done this twice since traveling! And she's right, nothing momentous ever happens. It's just like when you leave your phone at home or it dies, and you expect to turn it on to a million texts over the past 6 hours but you have nothing.

  2. Have you heard of Flipboard for the iPad? I haven't had the chance to play with it yet, but Farhad Manjoo of Slate says, "it turns the iPad into ... a dynamic magazine that combines the diversity and real-time updates of the Web with the beauty of print."

    It's embracing the obsessive checking, so it's not what you or Amy are looking for, but it is an interesting way of reformatting incoming data streams like she's talking about with her book of emails