In May 1844, Samuel F. B. Morse sent America’s first electronic message. This “telegram,” which Morse sent from Baltimore, arrived at the speed of electricity in Washington D.C. with the biblical message: “WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT?”
Morse’s 19th-century telegraph became the 20th-century telephone which then became the 21st century e-mail, the dominant communications medium of our electronically networked world. And it’s against e-mail that John Freeman’s spirited and smart polemic, The Tyranny of E-Mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox, is addressed.
“What have we wrought?” Freeman asks, when our “dream of obliterating distance” begins to “become a reality?” What we have wrought, he answers in this counter to the orthodoxy of techno-optimism, is a world in which the distinction between leisure and work has been obliterated and e-mail has become an always-on electronic tyranny......
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