Telltales and Overhearers: Participant Roles in Electronic Mail Communication

  • Lyn Pemberton
Part of the Computer Supported Cooperative Work book series (CSCW)


Over the last decade a wide range of technologies such as electronic mail, news groups, bulletin boards, ‘talk’ facilities, shared drawing spaces and video conferencing systems have been developed to support communication amongst colleagues. All these new communication technologies ‘differ from earlier ones in the greater degree to which, through computer processing power, they span space, time and pre-existing social arrangements’ (Sproull and Kiesler 1991). Of all the computer based technologies used to support cooperative work, electronic mail (e-mail) is by far the most widespread and the best established. However, it is still a relatively new technology and, in addition to the obvious benefits of allowing colleagues to span space and time with their messages, the fact that e-mail use involves the negotiation of a new type of social arrangement brings with it a number of unresolved challenges.1 (See also Rosenberg, this volume, for a discussion of the sociolinguistic dimension of CSCW.)


Production Role Electronic Mail Participant Role Actual Transmitter Reception Role 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    See N. Pliskin, 1989, Interacting with electronic mail can be a dream or a nightmare: a user’s point of view, in Interacting with Computers, 1/3, pp. 259–272, for a review of these problems.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Thomas D. Erickson, 1990, Working with Interface Metaphors, in Brenda Laurel (ed.) 1990, The Art of Human Computer Interface Design, New York: Addison Wesley, for an example of the influence of interface metaphor on user behavior in a similar type of system.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    See Levinson, pp. 193–210 for an analysis of the uses of overhearing and dropped remarks in conversation.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lyn Pemberton

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations