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Digital evolution: why is it important to keep emails?

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Halima Zayan
Halima Zayan
I'm Halima Zayan. I specialize in topics like culture, travel, politics, and food.
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In this essay, Dr. Francesco Provinciali, former Miur inspection manager and juvenile judge, addresses a particularly interesting and current issue that focuses on the change in communication that has moved from printed paper to the most modern technologies, Whatsapp, smartphones, PCs, and tablets. 

All tools in their evolution have also led to a cultural change, but Dr. Proviciali points out there is still something that keeps us anchored to the past: the need to keep track, over time, of our conversations. Once it is done with letters, we tend to keep messages and emails today.

Therefore, although the world is changing, technological evolution has often led to following the crowd, and we tend to lose a bit of that self, individualist, which represented us and identified us also through writing, something holds even the most known influencers linked to Memory, perhaps images rather than words are preserved.

Having said that, we understand how: Memory and remembrance are two props for the survival of identity: not everything can be metabolized, so technologies should help but not replace. ” 

What seems certain, however, is that man should be able, advanced technologies or not, to use his head more and what is stored in it. The brain he carries in his head is far more important than what he is on the bedside table or in your pocket

This paraphrased concept corresponds to what Vittorino Andreoli says in his text ‘The Brain in your pocket.’ We report the editorial by Provinciali, which makes this reflection explicit.

Technological evolution: strengths and limits

The ongoing technological evolution, useful and in some respects pervasive, helps us and helps us in facilitating communication, information, and knowledge of news circulating in the globalized universe of the web, imposing on us an endless selection to distinguish what can be true, reliable, to be verified or hiding under the guise of fake news.

Even for the texts, we compose ourselves, from the laconic “thank you” from the greeting to a more detailed and complex conversation, PCs, tablets, and smartphones are now vital support. 

The hardware and software of our vehicles are essential organizational bases: at work, in free time, and even in the most emotional and personal relationships. Once a letter was written for a declaration of love, now you send an email or an even faster WhatsApp.

Our account also becomes – and this is an interesting and not yet adequately studied aspect – the access key to the archive that we have gradually built up, be they the documents or the emails themselves: 

While for the former, it seems logical to have an implementable catalog to draw on, the latter should, in theory, have a time range of use more restricted to contingent space-time needs.

Why do we keep outdated emails? We are anchored in Memory.

Yet we reluctantly or habitually deprive ourselves of the “email” and often postpone deletion, even when, in theory, it is no longer needed because it is obsolete or distant in time.

Perhaps the explanation lies in the technical fact: of keeping electronic mail (as we used to do with paper)

Allows us to have an archive that can always be consulted, perhaps – and this is the most intriguing aspect – allows us to maintain a link with the writings and the actions of the past, which has an even emotional foundation;

 Rereading a computerized correspondence, details come to mind that not always with our mental resources or due to the weakness of communications, or even due to a natural selection that prompts us to remember what we attribute immediate importance and usefulness to, we can metabolize and recall to the present without the help of a text.

We have lost the habit of manual and autobiographical writing, which is not good: it is inevitably linked to our personal identity, the inviolable intimacy of confidential writing.

Yet – we will see better – there are school systems abandoning cursive or paper books in favor of computerized reading and writing. 

Every writing – even with the means of technology – imposes a reminder of the usefulness of Memory and refers to it, only that with emails, we have recourse – and we entrust part of our “I” to it – to a sort of archive on the web: 

For several years we have been witnessing a continuous passage of data and information from the inside (of the mind and its physiological resources) to the outside, which we favor, exporting what concerns us in boxes or technological tools, almost to the point of stripping ourselves of Memory as a necessity and make it become a container to draw from time to time.

It is important to reflect that external containers often become communicating vessels. Our personal data are socialized, losing that aura of secrecy or confidentiality that allows their exclusive possession and domination. 

Just think back to even recent hacker attacks, some striking to sites, accounts, and personal data, to understand how privacy often succumbs in the face of transparency not always legitimized by adequate protections where it is not an intrusive tool and a destructive weapon of the most sacred aspects. And inviolable in our personal, emotional, or professional life.

Every PC, tablet, or smartphone becomes a container vulnerable to external attacks by malicious people.

We are probably approaching total non-encryptable transparency, a sort of universal catalog that facilitates access from outside and, unfortunately, sometimes, in a fraudulent way, the intertwining and vulnerability of data. 

However, not deleting emails often means clinging to an external memory that can be consulted in the face of the transience of the memories metabolized within us. 

This forces us to travel back in time to recover what could be lost. We can call it – to paraphrase Marcel Proust – the syndrome of the traveler in search of lost time.”

How important is the cult of objects from the past?

“As Henry-Pierre Jeudy keenly observes in his book “Making memory” (published by Giunti)… “The cult of objects from the past responds to the need to avert the threat that hangs over modern man: the loss of the sense of his continuity. 

In times of mass cultural consumption, this axiom is also valid for the thoughts and writings of the past. Once upon a time, a book was read to deduce life lessons from it. Today it is easier to keep the Memory of oneself from the oblivion of the continuous succession of events that are sometimes important and others insignificant. 

I find fundamental, for each of us and for those who have to professionally take care of our existential balance, the reflection argued by Eugenio Borgna in his “Great thoughts come from the heart – Educating to listening” (ed. Raffaello Cortina) because it brings the search for our non-duplicable authenticity back to the sphere of feelings, emotions, disturbances, thoughts of our daily life.

We have been living for a long time in the era of a slow crumbling of individual identity to experience standardized behaviors or to undergo the influence (hence the much praised but often conditioning role of influencers) of external agents of conviction and occult persuasion. Among others, this nihilistic drift and self-abandonment are evidence of the pandemic.

Memory and remembrance are two props for the survival of identity: not everything can be metabolized, which is why technologies should help but not replace them.

Vittorino Andreoli himself invites us to use the brain we have in our heads more than what we keep in our pockets or desks (The man with the brain in his pocket – ed. Solferino).

And even if oblivion is the first enemy of history and erases lives and events of the past, Rainer Maria Rilke reminds us of the right to exercise it, to protect our emotional integrity and the primacy of critical thinking: 

“It is important to remember, but even more it is important to know how to forget” (Opera Omnia – Morcelliana ed.).

The ability to select is the true distinction of discernment: it is valid for critical thinking, for the praxis sphere, and for the emotional one, above all on the ethical level.

A task that becomes a duty, as Ruben Razzante reminds us, in order not to remain humanity from succumbing to the domination of nihilism and indifference. Respectfully use technology for what you need, without being used by it “.

We thank Francesco Provinciali for his detailed paper, which provides interesting food for thought, and are you used to keeping emails?

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