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:
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org: @mark_carriganweb: www.markcarrigan.net
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: