AS I WATCH people playing with Inbox for Google, I wonder if this clever mail management system might actually make e-mail enjoyable.
I stopped working my email as a centrepiece of my day sometime during 2009 when I realised I didn't have to delete anything. So I merely scan subject headings for intriguing topics, permit certain people to automatically percolate up to a priority level and just let the rest (more than 100,000 others at this point) simply fester in a digital archive. I don't want to make deleting email into a separate duty process so I just ignore more than 90% of the stuff that blows into my tray.
I have five active email accounts on five differen platforms. Spam gets handled ruthlessly by every provider and my work email has an effective quarantine system--so effective that mail from myself has been banned to the quarantine bin several times this year.
On my mobile phone screens, I get pleasure out of swiping to delete or tagging to remove content. But those brainless tasks take time away from the creative work I'm paid to do.
Google Inbox comes along and does something I have tried to perfect. It oprganises messages in bundles, using a highly visual design metaphor. The Inbox design grabs photos of other gmail users or abbreviates names that make sense when viewing the content in threads. If also shows media content (i.e., pictures attached to emails and video previews) so you can often guess what's inside before opening the email itself.
To get the full Inbox experience, I need to view Inbox in-app and work it there. Otherwise, I have to toggle between the app and my native Gmail program on Windows Phone. But I do that anyway so it's no big deal.
I like the overall feeling I get with Inbox. My email seems more sociable when viewing it through Inbox.
If my students use Inbox, I believe they will actually engage more readily with incoming correspondence fromme. It's all down to whether Inbox appeals more than the current flavour of email--and my students need to revert to using personal email accounts, not the student accounts issued when they started their undergraduate work on campus.
Next month, the result of a survey of Irish third level students will enter the public domain. The question of student engagement with academic courses may lay unanswered. If so, I'm going to see if Google Inbox might quietly produce greater engagement with course summaries, announcements and progress reports that normally flow from our virtual learning environment.
Returnint to the time when email was a novelty--a time of fewer on-screen distractions--might produce higher levels of creativity through greater engagement with the curriculum. That result alone would justify the implementation of Google Apps to power the campus email system.
I think I'll establish a baseline engagement level using Exchange in the status quo and then measure a semester of student engagement inside Gmail. I'll have my conclusion available to read in May 2015.
[Bernie Goldbach is senior pilot creative multimedia lecturer in the Limerick Institute of Technology.]