So I mentioned that I’d had a couple long IM conversations in the last few days. I’m a regular IMer, but short conversations (< 20 minutes) are my norm. I think the last time I had really long ones was in college when I was home over breaks and missing my friends from school. These longer conversations in the last week were with someone who's a few states away, so maybe the length is a function of distance. I don't think that's the whole story though. I think the model for describing this is actually a function of distance, interest, and intrigue (and some noise/variance I haven't identified yet). Regardless of the coefficients, the result is a sleepy, introspective Libby who's been staying up late IMing. These IMs made me think. I route all the email I regularly read (i.e. not my secret SPAM accounts) through Gmail. Gmail saves everything I send and receive by default. These long IMs took place in GoogleTalk which stores my IMs within Gmail. So, all the emails IM Buddy (IMB) and I have sent live in my Gmail; all the lines of our IMs live in my Gmail. Am I the only person who goes back to re-read such things? In fact, last night, I was re-reading an email when IMB IMed me. Talk about embarrassing! Well, maybe the re-reading wasn't embarrassing, but typing so fast that I admitted to IMB that I was re-reading our emails sure was. I've been working to better understand how I'm personally relating to people, and I think these archived conversations are helpful for that enterprise. I can go back and see what I said, and my fresh eyes help me notice things I said that might've been confusing or misinterpreted. Re-reading also shows me which topics were discussed and which were abandoned. Now I'm curious about why some topics were abandoned, and I'm not sure what the social conventions are for bringing those back up. Once a topic is abandoned in impoverished media, am I supposed to let it go? It's been awhile since I've had so much I want to hear from and want to say to one person! I was tempted to use my IM transcripts as a conversation analysis pilot study, but that would be wrong. Afterall, IMB and I are just talking, and IMB did not sign on to be a research subject. Besides, I wouldn't want our behavior to change because of an analytic intervention. But still, I'm fascinated by our exchanges. I feel a little silly blogging about this, but I really do want to know if other people do this. Are you all out there carefully reading and re-reading email and IM too? I suspect you are. If you're a true archivist - one who carefully selects email/IM to save and to delete - how do you decide? Do you ever have regrets? I wonder how saving all this stuff and re-reading it changes the way I interact with people. I've had a few other IM conversations in the last few months that covered sensitive territory. I wonder how those conversations would have gone face-to-face or on the phone. Is it even fair for me to save this stuff if my conversation partners aren't? My distributed cognition is Google-enabled, but that's not true for everyone.
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