Reading List

Friday 24 September 2010

A fine set of girls

There's an anxiety associated with communicating

Once a message is sent you don't know how it will be received. You hope you've hit the right tone but you know there's a chance it might be misinterpreted. What's more, as Muriel hints, you're aware your thoughts may be read by others besides the addressee.

And all that was when we were using the one-to-one format of the postcard

Today, our new one-to-many means of communication (Facebook, Twitter, etc) can intensify those feelings of self-doubt. Take leaving a message on a friend's profile for the world to see. If it's left hanging without a thread it's easy to imagine it's been ignored by not just your friend but also by an unknown number of people who've seen it. 

I suspect this has the effect of splitting messages into two broad categories. On the one hand, people aware of the risks in communicating play safe and reveal little. Neutral, innocuous remarks give the impression of not expecting replies. On the other, people in need of a bit of attention feel pushed into saying something quite extreme to guarantee a reaction. 

One thing's for sure, I doubt Muriel would be able to comprehend that her "fine set of girls" is now on show to the world. Sorry M. 

By the way, which one do you think is Muriel?

Saturday 4 September 2010

Grassroots history

A lot of grassroots history is like the trace of the ancient plough. It might seem gone for good with the men who ploughed the field many centuries ago. But every aerial photographer knows that, in a certain light, and seen at a certain angle, the shadows of long-forgotten ridge and furrow can still be seen.
Eric Hobsbawm, "History from below"
Hobsbawm's notion of grassroots history fits well with old postcard messages.

I hope by picking out cards for their messages, we're doing our bit to discover long-forgotten ridges and furrows of ordinary life.

I bought this card last week at the Bloomsbury postcard fair in London. It shows how even the simplest message can transport you into a strangely unfamiliar world.

While the basics of humour don't change, targets do. Would it be acceptable now to poke fun at teetotallers, however gently? And I'd never heard of teetotallers referred to as totes before? Had you?