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Carolyn Strauss and Julian Bleecker's slowMail is an email service that deliberately slows down the pace of electronic correspondence, enabling experiences of reflection and mindful interaction that are rarely characteristic of today’s electronically-mediated cultural forms. As traditional email overwhelms and platforms like IM and SMS increase in popularity, slowMail explores the possibilities of less instantaneity and more calm in communication, creating a new rhythm of social interaction.

Contrary to traditional email, which is expected to be delivered at lightning speed and responded too almost as quickly, slowMails take their time. The rate of delivery of a dispatch is determined by a combination of its semantic content (word choice), emotional tags provided by the sender (solemn, passionate, angry, etc.), the respective geographic locations of sender and recipient (next door, next town, Timbuktu), how they describe one another (mom, lover, horrible person), and the two parties’ history of correspondence. Because the time trajectory of a slow email is so intimately tied to the content of the message, this platform challenges people to be more mindful and creative in message composition as they look for the richer meanings behind words and phrases they employ in communicating with one another. Speed is surrendered to the promise of aesthetic character, pleasurability and new social connections.

slowMail was funded in part by the new media organization Rhizome as part of its prestigious Commissions program, and the project was presented at the New Museum for Contemporary Art in August 2008. A working version of the software has not yet been realized.

 

related: Julian Bleecker's Slow Messenger >