BlitzMail habits don't always fit in

by Ethan Ostrow | 6/30/94 5:00am

As Dartmouth students, we are bombarded by technology. Amidst the granite of New Hampshire with its splendorous natural endowment and idyllic terrain we send blazing, state-of-the-art electronic mail messages to each other and other addressees around the world. Even to students who only minimally use computers, it seems as if computing services at Dartmouth attempts to integrate new technology almost as fast as it is developed.

We come to passively enjoy the benefits of an extensive and user-friendly electronic mail network. Dartmouth students are well acquainted with the personal and scholastic advantages such a system offers -- from scheduling daily activities to avoiding onerous telephone conversations with churlish and unpleasant people. We regard blitzmail as a welcome convenience that not only reduces long-distance phone charges, but greatly simplifies communication in general.

Outside this community, however, it is apparent that most find a dependence on e-mail more difficult to manage on a daily basis. Students and businesspeople alike are finding that the incorporation of new and enthralling modes of communication conjures up problems just as momentous.

The Boston Globe last Tuesday reported on companies that were becoming increasingly wary and unsupportive of private electronic mail usage by employees. One firm issued an admonition prohibiting use not related to business. "The company's e-mail administrator said the system was being used to coordinate basketball pools, announce weddings and baby showers and communicate with sons and daughters at college," the reporter wrote. This would prompt members of the Dartmouth community to ask, so what?

We have been offered the fruits of technology and have had the luxury to freely weave them into our lives. We can use electronic mail for a variety of purposes without diminishing our productivity. Many of us will become part of this dilemma now facing the business world and we will not appreciate having our computer communications monitored or regulated. While we efficiently exploit a system here intended for our complete benefit, we should be aware that the world is still working the rough pavement out of the information highway, though finding electronic bits more unwieldy than asphalt.

The article in the Globe also mentions several legal points about which we are not yet concerned as students -- managing our diverse affairs freely via BlitzMail. In the corporate realm, precedents must be established regarding issues such as employee privacy, company security and external access. Especially in a business context, laws will perpetually follow in the wake of technology.

At present, Dartmouth students would rather not care about legal contingencies stemming from the messages they send planning illicit activities or explaining away indolence and lethargy to faculty members. We are fortunate that, in a practical sense, we have a liberal license to the BlitzMail system. As far as the future goes, be prepared to modify the way in which you communicate. Nobody disputes the advantages of electronic mail, yet the world greets innovation with more conditions than Dartmouth does.