The Semiotics of Academic E-mail Signatures

I feel slightly ridiculous about this fact but I’ve spent the last twenty minutes agonising over how to change my e-mail signature. For a long time I’ve had a pretty simple and self-explanatory e-mail signature:

twitter: @mark_carrigan

But I’m also in the middle of doing lots of e-mailing as a research associate (in the general doer of things sense of the role) in the data sciences team at Warwick Business School. I’m e-mailing lots of people who don’t know me and because I can’t stand outlook I’m e-mailing them from my private (gmail) address which has my personalised domain name. My warwick e-mail automatically forwards to my personal address and, though I’ve been trying to remember to ‘send as’ from my warwick address I keep forgetting to do this because I’ve spent years not doing it. It seems obvious that it would be useful to me, as well as to the people I’m e-mailing, to sign post who I am and what I’m currently doing. How? If I add WBS to my e-mail signature I immediately feel I should also add my post-doc in the sociology department, which is less pressing e-mail wise in the short term but has a much longer duration. Almost immediately, my e-mail signature comes to look very messy.

This is a pointless deliberation which I’ve given up on. I’m leaving the e-mail signature as it stands. But there’s a serious point here: how do you define your institutional identity if you have multiple part-time positions? My solution to this in the past has been to avoid an institutional identity but when I’m doing a lot of logistical work within institutions this becomes trickier. I also feel that if I start adding occupational roles to my e-mail signature I should start including the things that really matter to me (e.g. sociological imagination, discover society) but before I know it my e-mail signature just becomes a mess. Furthermore, there’s the obvious question of how other people interpret this given that the entire chain of thought was provoked by a concern to make myself more easily placeable for people I’m contacting. I’m sure I could rewrite this blog post as a high-brow analysis of Institutional Identity, Precarious Labour and the Semiotics of Academic E-mail Signatures but it seems more honest (and interesting) to record the trivial questions and anxieties which would be subsumed under those concepts. Or I could just delete the text and leave this PhD comic in its place:

3 responses to “The Semiotics of Academic E-mail Signatures”

  1. Honest Identity stands to Purpose somehow, so in distinguishing recipients it might be efficient to barter one assumed persona for another, otherwise leaving in-tact the Essential.

    One distinction begins the divide…Personal/Professional. One face to Agency, but many aspects that perspectives lend to practice, so many gateways to communication relevant, swift to dictated results or requiring attention exactly specific to interest and need. Dual directional momentum of experience allows the synthetic Agency to convert disparate orientations to notions of the whole, while common distinctions of persona lend credence to a divided self (WHO am I communicating with?). Tricky questions, all. homepage was a mere Icon page with Portals to Literary Criticism, Analytic Philosophy, Religious Traditions and an equally if not moreso dynamic Participation realm organized in/with different manners, tone, perspective of interest, sensitivity (affect/causal impetus), and ultimately Purpose; so, the inflection, attribution, inference and logical clarity of expression varied with the Field of communication,. Be nice to have a Page with a crowd of selves, each with their own Hat (being all more-or-less legitimately ME) one could introduce themselves through, inviting further investigation as a biography of Studies representing various applications and practices (voice?) throughout one’s CV etc. Of course, it would be theatrical…but lots of fun to perform with all seriousness. I’d call that a Conversational style of communicability…being coy to admit of Professional training, just a jester’s wisdom (Wittgenstein might counsel to Get Out while the getting is good…though he was a restless type, and very private by disposition).

    Ruminations. Interesting complications..

  2. “Be nice to have a Page with a crowd of selves, each with their own Hat (being all more-or-less legitimately ME) one could introduce themselves through,”

    that’s my natural inclination for an e-mail signature. unfortunately it looks so messy that my secondary inclination is to go to the opposite extreme and list as little as possible…

  3. Convention may well be the most convenient of norms for Communicability; though, once one gets past the games of verbal checkers and onto the ontological chess, formalities blur and what’s useful and cogent stands forth more certain…it seems.

    I’m taking my self to be something of an essentialist with a bent toward objective idealism. More difficult to discuss, actually, than it is to live. Odd, that.

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