Interacting with Electronic Mail can be a Dream or a Nightmare: A User's Point of View

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15 Scopus citations


Diffusion of electronic mail (e-mail) is not yet universal. So far, e-mail has been implemented successfully within organisations, but its implementation for communications between organisations has been rather limited. This situation is surprising, given the great potential of e-mail for interorganisational communication. E-mail encounters from a user's point of view, reviewed in this paper, suggest that users of BITNET, one of the predominant e-mail networks in the academic world, face difficulties while interacting with e-mail. These include addressing difficulties, unreliability issues, medium limitations, and interface problems. BITNET is just one of many interorganisational networks and may not be representative. Still, e-mail technology is unlikely to survive if human engineering and reliability are not uniformly satisfactory across all e-mail systems. Poorly engineered e-mail systems frustrate not only their users, but also users of other networks because of gateways between the networks. Therefore, e-mail users might resort to other communication media like facsimile or the telephone, and abandon e-mail altogether. For e-mail to be competitive in the communication arena, an interdisciplinary effort should be directed toward standardisation of features like better addressing conventions, international user directories, uniform user interfaces, and sophisticated management of e-mail messages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-272
Number of pages14
JournalInteracting with Computers
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1989


  • Communication media
  • E-mail
  • Reliability
  • User interface


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