I like experiments, it’s why I did physics A-Level until I realised I was no good at maths. I also like comunication and social media, it’s why I’m in the job I’m in. So, combining the two is a sure fire way to get my juices going, and that’s just what happened when my colleague Jason Mical told me of a little experiment he’s conducting featuring social media and communication!
Sendmeapostcard “is a social experiment in the power of social media to connect people around the world around a common interest, and the ways in which information can travel online.”
Jason wants you to send him a postcard if you stumble across his Tumblog because, he says, “Postcards are nearly a lost art form. They were an old version of Flickr or Facebook images, a way to share your holiday experiences with friends and family. As social media is on the rise, the postcard itself is on the decline, regulated to personal souvenirs or reserved for a grandmother who probably won’t be hopping on the Internet anytime soon. So I thought the best way to revive a little interest is by using the same medium that’s slowly killing them off.”
What inspired you to take on the project and how long will it run for?
I was inspired by some posts on the Something Awful forum about postcard exchanges. I wondered if I could take the concept and adapt it for a little social media experiment: to see how far I could reach with a message, and into how many geographic niches. I’ll run it until I get tired of it, which is to say until I actually get some decent postcards!
Are you actively promoting the tumblog, or letting people find it of their own accord?
I’m promoting it on Twitter, but not really linking the tumblog apart from that. I’m kind of hoping it’ll spread organically without a lot of promotion on my end apart from specific tweets to people in specific places. Maybe that’s naive though.
Do you think that social attitudes to staying in contact whilst on holiday have contributed to the decline of the postcard?
I think that the ease of sending text messages, or even MMS, or instantly uploading and emailing pictures have all contributed to the decline of the postcard. I think the postcard will rapidly become a dying art form, at least as it’s currently known – the next obvious evolution is to have some kind of service where you can instantly write a message, attach it to a digital picture, and mail it to someone. In fact I’d be surprised if that didn’t already exist in some way.
How do you think the art of communication has changed over the last five years; is it becoming more of a science?
I’m not sure about science… but barriers to communications continue to be knocked down at an ever-increasing rate. Five years ago (2004), posting a digital picture online required either my own hosting and some knowledge of HTML; Flickr was still in its fledgling stages and not nearly as widely known as it is now, and Twitter and Tweetpic were still years away. Nowadays anyone with a phone and an internet connection can take a picture and upload it and share it to thousands of people instantly. Communications, especially digital comms, is basically a long story of barriers coming down as technology becomes cheaper and more and more people are connected to high-speed Internet connections. I can’t even imagine how we’ll be communicating five years from now.
What will be your ideal postcard to receive?
I am in love with remote places. I love going to out-of-the-way hidey-holes when I’m on vacation, and when I think of my ideal holiday it would be getting lost on some tiny island somewhere for a month. I’d love a postcard from such a place: Antarctica, Pitcairn Island, the Falklands, some remote village in Greenland. So far I’ve only received two, one from Boston, one from the UK. Although someone from the Isle of Man promised to send me a postcard, but so far it hasn’t arrived.
I have to wonder if the barrier to entry for the project may be too high in an age when it’s all digital?