Jan M. Heller: I’m just gone

Jan M. Heller: I’m just gone
Jan M. Heller: I’m just gone

I’ll explain right away. Originally, we really worked with it as the digital equivalent of a letter. The etiquette of correspondence was the first to be cleared up in him, starting with the address: no one really goes by the name “Dobrý den”. However, the length of the text that the e-mail can carry has also changed.

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While at first we wrote letters, the length of which roughly corresponded to the described four pages of letter paper, which now makes us smile, today it is not unusual to exchange several emails about a problem with one sentence, which paradoxically takes more time than if we picked up the phone and these replies exchanged verbally.

But there’s nothing you can do, “talking is out”, as one editor of a publishing house specializing in language textbooks shrugged at a conference a few years ago. Yes, communication is changing so much that it also affects language teaching methods. That’s what I meant by going out of fashion: other communication platforms based on the exchange of short, one-sentence messages will do the same service as such e-mail. When you can write to a messenger, the mailbox is empty.

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But he doesn’t actually eat. At a certain stage of development, someone noticed that an e-mail does not have to be written only by a person to a person, but that it can also be generated by a machine. I’m not talking about the time when all of our inboxes were filled with meaningless messages with offers that we couldn’t refuse and we learned the word spam. We will send the order to the e-shop – we will receive an e-mail. There will be movement on the account – we will receive an email. The tram ticket expires – we will receive an e-mail. We will send a complaint or complaint – we will receive an e-mail. However, it does not say that someone dealt with our submission, let alone that it was dealt with, but that someone, sometime, maybe will deal with it. We have inboxes full of messages that say in the footer: Do not reply to this email, it was generated automatically.

We receive an automatic e-mail even if we write to someone and he is currently away. Automatic response in the absence is a phenomenon that is also everyday and at the same time not yet completely regulated. Here, too, it is fun to watch how it transforms and what forms it can take.

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Some communities, especially corporations, have strict rules for absentee responses. I worked in one such company where it was stated in the internal rules that during the vacation we should set up an automatic response with many details, including the name and contact of the person who will represent us for the time being, and the author of the instructions considered it necessary to add that it is appropriate to ask the colleague in question in advance if he also plans to disappear on the same date and designate me as a representative, because it sometimes happens and it then looks like a joke to our business partners.

In the past, I notice, it was somehow generally more common to provide a richer service to the person writing: the automatic response contained an address and greeting, the exact dates of the absence, the already mentioned contact number, or even a telephone number where the person in question could be reached if it was really urgent .

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And of course an apology! Recently, however, it seems to be going out of fashion as well. Only a stark, bare sentence will come, or a mere announcement: Holiday from – to. It was perfected by one of my colleagues, from whom I recently received an automated reply consisting of a simple laconic statement: I am away at the moment.

This summer, the website automatickaodpoved.cz appeared on the web, collecting variations on the automatic answer from writers, illustrators and similar personalities. It fascinates me for two reasons. On the one hand, as a documentation of a phenomenon that would be worth attention from a literary-historical point of view: isn’t it exactly the intermingling of the artistic and non-artistic worlds, the blurring of the boundaries of genres, which repeats itself over and over again in history and which gave rise to the most prestigious prose genre in the Middle Ages, i.e. the novel?

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And secondly: the diction of these style exercises in the genre of automatic answers is, in most cases, strikingly close to my colleague’s answer. I’m just gone. I will not address you and your problem now. Consult as best you can. It will very likely turn out that it could have waited a few days.

And so, just as the penetration of decadent medieval genres into the great epic marked a creative movement between order and chaos, there is a growing distaste for automatic responses to have the whole of our lives controlled and organized by work rhythms. It’s good to give in to the chaos sometimes and not be in control all the time. It is perhaps already known that toxic productivity ends in complete physical and mental exhaustion.

Jan M. Heller

The article is in Czech

Tags: Jan Heller


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