My name is Char Stiles, my recent work has been research into email and SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol).
Email, on the timescale of the internet, is ancient. It has a dark past. It is interwound in our lives. Email is here now and it will be here after we have left. Email is at its point where it’s an extremely benign and non-intimidating technology, email is the digital passport to the internet! My research is driven by a desire to plant the seeds that email is totally radical and can be used for much more beyond interoffice communication. This is a call to value maintenance over invention, because maintenance can be innovative.
I created www.computerfaith.com which is a mischievous email server (as well as an online space) that will send not your exact words to the receiving email address, but rather an interpretation. This is also an exploration in using email more meaningfully, what it means to use and maintain a long distance form of communication that doesn't rely on a big tech company or the government. Computerfaith not only sends email but it fully functions as a server that can receive email as well and maintain lists.
Over the summer I used Computerfaith to co-lead a workshop called [*]epiphenoMAILnal : RITUALS OF EMAIL with my dear friend Sol Sarratea, we created a ritual using simple text rules through email. Utilizing an email list, which broadcasts email to everyone on the list, each participant either sent a simple text rule or contributed a line to the dogma. Through this ritual we constructed the basis for a text based pictogram which is embodied in the email chain. This workshop was centered around decoding the protocol through mystification and word play. You can see the workshop website here: https://solsarratea.github.io/epiphenoMAILnal/
Why did I do this? To embrace email! Email is the only form of long-distance communication that I use daily that only necessarily relies on a protocol, and not a company nor institution (like the government). Email was born in the 70s and it’s not going anywhere! This calls for a better digital future because the more we understand the coded systems around us, the more we can re-code the systems that surveil, collect our data. Instead, with an educated mind, tactfully demand big-tech companies stop selling, censoring, experimenting on, training AIs on, and exploiting us online.
Also the SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) is a very cute protocol! You write it as if you were writing a sentence, starting with a HELO command!
Let me know if you're interested in learning about email's past or what you think Email's future is.
All the best,