Postcards as a Critical Component of Intermedia Studies and Scholarly Research

Destin Black. 08 July 2016

                Postcards are an important part of Intermedia studies. They are a highly evolved form of art as well as an important academic resource. They should not be overlooked as a scholarly source. Their potential for research should be fully utilized. Not only do they require a variety of media technologies but the act of choosing or creating the best combination of image and text is intrinsically an intermediary process.  Postcards have expanded from basic images and text to become mass produced media currency. They can be categorized by sender and style as business, social and individual postcards. The share common traits. They are small, requiring brevity of information and they are only semiprivate, thus creating a sense of exhibitionism and voyeurism between senders and receivers. Postcards are first-rate methods of advertisement and communication with consumers. They assist the development of social works and act for the public good. They are also propaganda machines that have influenced and continue to influence the human masses. Individual postcards exist as quick correspondence from one person to another. They include tourist cards, artistic images, reproductions of internet memes and even handmade works of art. The internet has further extended the possible styles by using easy-access technology to put the production and use of postcards as close as a few clicks of a mouse. With all their great multiplicity of style, they retain deeper purposes. They authenticate experiences and preserve time in a bottle. The power of writing, perhaps especially with concision and clarity has not been lost in the digital age. Writing includes within it, voice and presence. The act of sending the postcard itself is at once an out-of-body experience and a deeply physical connection that creates tangible benefits to reader and writer. The qualities of a postcard makes it a vital resource for study. Indeed, postcards have been considerably evaluated as a source in historical, scientific and socio-cultural research as well as education. A more purposeful application of the qualities of a postcard would create a valuable academic tool. It would provide a database of preserved moments in time that could then be accessed as a resource in any field of study.

Postcards require a convergence of technology. It requires a mighty combination of technologies to construct and then launch the traditional paper postcard through time and space.  In Chapter 13 of the book Letter Writing as a Social Practice, Simon Yeats states that “the range of technologies required to support all the different parts of the process of physically transporting a text from one location to the other is probably far greater than that needed to send an Electronic Mail message.[1]” There is nothing primitive about the use of “snail mail.” It is a complex operation requiring countless man-hours combined with essential technologies. The intricacy of the postal system is, itself, responsible for many of the beneficial attributes of postcards. Each step in the process of selecting, sending and receiving cumulates meaning and desirability. The internet age has introduced technological innovations that add even more to this process and diversify the available postcard options.

Beyond technology is the addition of art through form, image and text. The first US postcards in 1870 were government issued images of significant or historical locations in the US.[2] They were simple and relatively uninspired. Once private industry got involved, postcards were no longer bond by so many bureaucratic structures. Inspiration skyrocketed and diversity increased exponentially. Today, postcards come in an almost limitless scope and variety. There is something to suit most any personality or purpose. The act of selecting an image and style and subsequently deciding where and to whom to send it, requires application of artistic criticism and assessment of the social roles, values and status of both giver and receiver. Self-made or self-designed postcards add additional value judgments. The incorporation of personal art requires access to an inner-muse as well as supreme courage to send one’s personal creation out into the world for the judgment of the masses. Writing the text is often the most difficult task. The writer must select the message carefully to impart the greatest meaning within the required compactness of space. There is no room on a postcard for superfluous information. Only that which is the most significant can be included in the space provided. Selecting what to write is  the final challenge that closes the circle of media.

Postcards can best be divided into three general (somewhat overlapping) categories: business (including non-profit groups), social and personal. Within these categories, all postcards contain certain unified characteristics. They are small and require compactness and efficiency of content. They are also semi-private so that both sender and receiver experience a combination of exhibitionism and voyeurism that only serves to enhance the appeal and effectiveness of the cards. Knowing that someone else is watching and yet knowing that you are not truly exposed, is tantalizing. I commented in a postcard to my mother in 2012, “Postcards are like Public bathrooms b/c all kinds of random people see them. They are special b/c lots of people know that someone gave a crap.[3]” Sending a postcard is much like drawing graffiti on a wall. It is public. You might get caught. Even if you don’t get caught, you are putting your content out there for pretty much anyone to see. And yet, it is also private. You can say whatever you feel, even those things to which you would not ordinarily give voice. Assuming you don’t get caught, no one will ever truly know why you did it or what you meant. The sanctity of your mind is intact.

Businesses have taken advantage of the public nature of postcards and used them for advertisements of goods and services as well as general communication with consumers. The US government began allowing postcards to be used for advertisement in 1873. The  advertisements were printed on only one side of the postal mailing card and sent at a one cent rate (which was half the private rate). This was an efficient means of advertising across vast rural distances. [4] Europe followed suit in the early 1900s. Postcards were produced and sent very rapidly (particularly in urban centers) for all kinds of promotional purposes.[5] The postcard-advertisement trend has grown explosively since then. Even in the digital age, paper postcards remain a common method of advertising. Businesses capitalize on the materiality of postcards. They know that people like to hold physical evidence in their hand. It is like a written contract. A business can yell to the heavens that they will give you a great deal but it is the binding property of the written promise that reassures people. There is also a personal connection provided by the paper card to convince consumers that they do indeed, “give a crap.” Even when people know the card is mass-produced, there is still the back-of-the-mind feeling of specialness that comes from seeing their own names in print, validated by the official stamp of the United States Postal System.

Business do care. Obviously, it is financially advantageous to them to care, but it is also advantageous to the consumer. Many postcards are not simple advertisements that shout “Buy! Buy! Buy!,” they are also important pieces of customer communication. It is quite common to receive postcard reminders that it is time for an oil change, a pet vaccination, a checkup with the doctor or many other daily activities that most people are inclined to forget. One study showed that sending postcard reminders about important medical testing was twice as effective as sending letters directly from the primary care physician.[6] The physical and  personal nature of the postcard reminder is a good motivator. It reminds of to get things done. That  makes the postcard good for consumers and good for business.

Social groups also use postcards, both for good and ill. It is hard to deny the effectiveness of the little paper cards that land in your mailbox. They grab attention without monopolizing it. This is great since the average adult attention span is probably not very long. The addition of images adds greater depth and speed of comprehension. This makes postcards a superior method of transmitting information. Many government agencies and non-profit entities use postcards to communicate important information to the public sector. The red cross sends out notices during blood shortages. Schools send reminders that it is time to get back to work. The Salvation Army reminds everyone to give their donations for Christmas.[7] Public health also benefits from postcard mail outs. One study showed that, “Twenty-eight percent of patients who received a postcard [reminder] obtained office influenza immunizations within 1 month.”[8]  All of these are important to the social welfare of communities. Postcards are excellent disseminators of information for public works and the public good.

Social postcards are also propaganda machines. Government agencies, religious organizations, political campaigns, and social activists have all utilized the postcard.  The same traits that make them great advertisers and excellent tools of public works also allow them to influence the human herd.

Postcards have a long history of propaganda. They were used during colonial periods to spread pro-imperialistic messages. The collocation of the uncivilized savage and the bountiful “newly discovered” land encouraged settlers and adventurers.[9] The German Nazi regime is renowned for the skillful use of propaganda to control its’ citizens. This included many series of postcards that presented all things German in a series of shining, spectacular images circulated far and wide as postcards.[10] These images were meant not only to control the German people but everyone who encountered them on their journey through the ether of the mail system.  Things have not changed much today. Nearly every major political campaign makes use of the common paper postcard as well as the ubiquitous e-postcard. In fact, it has been shown that postcard notices can increase voter turnout by as much as 10%. While the results may not always be considered desirable by all parties, there can be little doubt that postcards are an effective propaganda tool.

Table 1

Diversity and Overlap of Sources and Styles of Postcards

Email Only Email and Print Print Only Print and Send Traditional Post
1001 Postcards[11]

123 Greetings[12]

Smile Box[13]

 

American Greeting[14]

Paperless Post[15]

 

Zazzle[16]

Favorite Postcard[17]

US Postal Service[18]

Wal-Mart[19]

Postcard Stop[20]

Postcards.com[21]

Postcardly[22]

 

Tourist Attractions

Card Shops

Hallmark

Jenna’s Cards

US Post Offices

Office Supply Stories

Staples

Office Depot

Mobile Ap,Print and Send
Postagram[23]Postdroid[24]

Zoner[25]

Touchnote[26]

Personal cards sent from one individual to another remain a significant portion of postcards sent today. The range of postcards available has increased. Traditional tourists postcards are joined by decorative artistic cards (both mass-produced and custom-made) and casual humorous cards that can best be compared to internet memes. Additionally, virtual cards and combinations of virtual and print are emerging as a whole new form of postcard (see Table 1).  No longer are we bound only to quick stops at tourist locations or a perusal of the local Hallmark store. They can be as close as a touch of the nearest smart device. Postcards are not only am artifact of the old-fashioned postal service. Postcards are a steadily evolving form of new media.

Figure 1 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 01, 2015 The front of a postcard created and sent by the Postagram App by Sincerely. com. The is perforated so that the image can be popped out and used separately.
Figure 1 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 01, 2015
The front of a postcard created and sent by the Postagram App by Sincerely. com. The is perforated so that the image can be popped out and used separately.
Figure 2 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 02, 2015 The back of a postcard created and sent by the Postagram App by Sincerely. com. The space for text is quite limited
Figure 2 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 02, 2015
The back of a postcard created and sent by the Postagram App by Sincerely. com. The space for text is quite limited

Postcards today have become part of the digital landscape. The traditional paper postcard has evolved into a variety of forms. There are E-cards. E-cards are sent directly to the E-mail inbox without any physical print version. This is very fast and easy and can incorporate a wide range of photographs, graphics, video, fonts, emoticons and other sensational internet trends. Some cards work as both E-cards and Print. The E-card is sent directly to the E-mail inbox but a similar or duplicate version is printed out for direct mail by the US Postal Service. It is also very easy to order postcards online. These can even be customized to suit individual needs and expression. It is much faster than waiting in line at a tourist or card shop. Some online postcard manufacturers will even print the card and send it for you, eliminating the need for extra shopping. Card shops are still an excellent source for the purchase of postcards. These shops frequently contain the most rarified and artistic samples of the medium. Perhaps the most comprehensive new style of postcard is the App Driven postcard. A user can logion through any smart device to create a custom postcard. The card can include images and text. One company even includes a scratch-and-sniff option if you want to further enhance your multimedia experience (I suggest the skunk smell. It is potent). The cards are printed and mailed out for you more quickly and with greater cost effectiveness than almost another form. This new media is stretching and growing and clearly means to accommodate the modern lifestyle.

Figure 3 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 03, 2012 The front of a traditional tourist's postcard purchased at a Florida Welcome Center and sent from Destin Black to Catherine Black-Winters in 2012.
Figure 3 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 03, 2012
The front of a traditional tourist’s postcard purchased at a Florida Welcome Center and sent from Destin Black to Catherine Black-Winters in 2012.
Figure 4 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 04, 2012 The front of an Art card purchased online through Zazzle and sent from Destin Black to Catherine Black-Winters in 2012.
Figure 4 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 04, 2012
The front of an Art card purchased online through Zazzle and sent from Destin Black to Catherine Black-Winters in 2012.

When most people think of a postcard, the first thing that comes to mind is tourism. Almost everyone has stood around, staring at carousels of image after image, trying to decide which cards to buy. They are everywhere, from small local attractions to the most exotic reaches of the globe. People buy them right alongside their bobble-head dolls, shot glasses and fridge magnets. But, a postcard is more than a souvenir. It is a message that states, “I am here.” It is a frozen moment in time.

You sling it out into the void of the world’s mail systems and it is like a time machine, transmitting the frozen moment into the hands of someone you care about. Even when the cards are never mailed, they still contain within them, that preserved moment. Atila Yüksel  and Olkay Akgül state that postcards “maintain powerful agency of control over the viewers by inciting a need to travel that may not otherwise have been present.[27] This ability to preserve time is what creates the drive to travel and explore. It incites  sender and receiver alike to  experience and reach out. And, it does not fade. This power remains always within that small piece of cardstock.

Tourist cards are not the only postcards to send. Many people buy them simply for the enjoyment of it. Cards can be purchased in many places (see Table 1). These cards give people the chance to share their personal style and artistic choices. There are beautiful postcards with public domain images from NASA, postcards of famous art or custom illustrations. Many are so lovely that they are quite worthy of gallery presentation. And yet, even the most exquisite are usually inexpensive and accessible to the common man.  Not everyone can afford to furnish their space with expensive work of art, but most can afford a dollar or two for a small sample. This enables people buy and send vast collections of beautiful things to enjoy. They are little pieces of art that are available to everyone.

Figure 5 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 05, 2012 The front of a "Housewife" Meme postcard purchased online through Zazzle and sent from Destin Black to Catherine Black-Winters in 2012.
Figure 5 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 05, 2012
The front of a “Housewife” Meme postcard purchased online through Zazzle and sent from Destin Black to Catherine Black-Winters in 2012.

Some postcards do not strive to be beautiful. Instead, they are witty little pieces of our common culture. It is quite common to see postcards that are humorous images of local jest, silly comics or  reproduction of popular internet memes. One of the most common postcard images in Birmingham, Alabama is the absurd “Vulcan Mooning[28]” picture. It is an image of a local statue that stands above the whole city, with his pants dropped, exposing his cast-iron buttocks to all and sundry. It is funny and it is a symbol of the city and a little piece of local lore, immortalized first in cast-iron and then in postcards. The famous “ICanHasCheezBurger[29]” is another example. There are dozens of postcards depicting the images of the famous cats eating cheeseburgers or doing other suitably uncat-like things. Another common internet meme, the “1950’s Housewife” has also made its’ way onto postcards. Like their internet counterpart, these postcards often contain racy humor. Since postcards are not a private exchange, it is an excellent way to share with, or inflict, your nearest and dearest with some risqué content. Taking these pieces of the virtual world and transforming them into postcards makes them solid and real. It safeguards them from time and allows them to join the physical world indefinitely. It is also pretty great for people who do not follow social media and miss out on the joy of  “lolcats.”

Table 2

Postcard Size Requirements[30]

Min. Max.
Height 3.5” 4.25”
Length 5.5” 6”
Thickness 0.007” 0.016”
*cards must be rectangular and flat or they may incur an extra charge..
Figure 6 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 06, 2012 The front of a "LOL Cat" Meme postcard purchased online through Zazzle and sent from Destin Black to Catherine Black-Winters in 2012.
Figure 6 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 06, 2012
The front of a “LOL Cat” Meme postcard purchased online through Zazzle and sent from Destin Black to Catherine Black-Winters in 2012.

Many postcards are also handmade. The US Postal Service allows any handmade cards that are rectangular in shape and meet the given size and weight requirements to be sent with the use of a First Class Postcard stamp (See Table 2). If the postcard is oversized (but not exceeding 3.5 oz) a standard First Class Mail stamp may be used. This liberates the sender from the need to go out and buy a card. Most cards can be made quite quickly with on-hand household items. Cut cardboard from a cereal box and stamp with with children’s hands. You have an instant memento for Grandma. Glue

fabric to an index card and cover it with signatures and  sayings for friends. A box of watercolors and a glue stick can create marvels. The advantage of handmade cards is more than the ease of access, it is the increased sentimentality. Despite the popularity of easy-to-buy, mass produced products, research has shown “that handmade products symbolically ‘contain love.’ … effort, product quality, uniqueness, authenticity and pride” are the driving factors in this assessment. It has been shown that people value homemade gifts more the closer they are to the intended recipient.[31] Making a postcard by hand shows the receiver and all those who access it on its’ journey that someone values them. It cements a bond.

Postcards authenticate experiences. They stand to verify the writer’s experience by stating unequivocally, “I am here.” Memory alone can be a tricky thing, its’ veracity questionable at best. A postcard shares the burden of memory as it passes from hand to hand, from writer, through the intricate processes of postal services and into the recipients hands[32]. Postcards provide the sender and in turn the recipient with evidence of a moment, of travel, of vision and of thought. It is visual authentication that the sender was actually there, in the location.[33] That location of mind or body will never pass again; and in the selecting, writing and sending of the card, it is made sacred. The sanctity of it comes, perhaps, from the knowledge that in our day-to-day lives, time must progress forever forward. And yet, a postcard is not something that happens “after.” It lives eternally in the now. “I am here.” The postcard is a piece of magic that stops time.  Kurt Vonnegut said in Slaughterhouse-5 that, “All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.[34]” The preservation of the moment by a postcard becomes the bug in amber.  More, even, than that; it becomes a holy relic. Each time that we lay hands upon it, we experience again and again, that preserved moment.

Figure 7 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 07, 2012 The front of a handmade postcard drawn by Destin Black in black ink on white index cards and sent to Catherine Black-Winters in 2013.
Figure 7 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 07, 2012
The front of a handmade postcard drawn by Destin Black in black ink on white index cards and sent to Catherine Black-Winters in 2013.

Authenticity is a form of psychic exposure. It puts our inner selves into the world. It leaves us raw, flayed and vulnerable. When we offer that to people, it creates a prevailing connection. Postcards do that. You send this little scrap of paper out and with it you send the knowledge that, we two are one. We are together. People yearn for personal connection. This makes a postcard momentous in quality. A study conducted  with psychiatric patients found that sending postcards to people who have engaged in self-harm was shown to both decrease the risk of future incidents and increase their overall feelings of positivity and self-worth.[35] This makes good sense. The postcard sends them the message that they are not alone and that someone out there cares about them. It shows empathy and it creates meaning. Society is formed by the interconnection of social bonds. Anything that reinforces those bonds, can be good.

The writer fills their words with their voice. The reader interprets a presence from the reading. The voice and the presence may be familiar or, perhaps, not. It is a symbiotic construction between reader and writer that can be quite different from ordinary reality. In this strange no-man’s-land between words and meaning, a person becomes more “real” than at any other time. The Australian scholar and author Esther Milne seems to agree with this. She writes, in her book Letters, Postcards and Emails: Technologies of Presence, that “‘presence’  is a term that need not always refer to material, corporeal presence. Rather, presence is an affect achieved in communication (whether by letters, postcards or E-mail, for example) when interlocutors imagine the psychological, or sometimes physical presence of the other.[36]” This form of presence exists like the ephemeral quality of a dream and thus is subject to all the psychological mechanisms of interpretation, revision, transference and analysis that are inevitable in such a state. When a postcard is sent, a presence is sent with it.

Figure 8 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 08.a, 2015 The front of a postcard purchased in Trinidad, Cuba by Destin Black and sent from the USA to Catherine Black-Winters in 2015
Figure 8 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 08.a, 2015
The front of a postcard purchased in Trinidad, Cuba by Destin Black and sent from the USA to Catherine Black-Winters in 2015
Figure 8 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 08.b, 2015 The back of a postcard purchased in Trinidad, Cuba by Destin Black and sent from the USA to Catherine Black-Winters in 2015. Within the written text it says "I am thinking about the physics of postcards, the way that they contain the present, the past and the future all at once. I think that at the end of black holes lie all the postcards that have ever been or ever will be written."
Figure 8 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 08.b, 2015
The back of a postcard purchased in Trinidad, Cuba by Destin Black and sent from the USA to Catherine Black-Winters in 2015. Within the written text it says “I am thinking about the physics of postcards, the way that they contain the present, the past and the future all at once. I think that at the end of black holes lie all the postcards that have ever been or ever will be written.”

The presence of the writer exists in a void. The postcard is sent into the postal network. The writer is disembodied. Their essence is sent into the ether. The recipient must transcend themselves in order to receive the message. It is as near to astral-projection as is possible. According to Esther Milne, “Disembodiment refers to the perceived absence of the corporeal body in the communicative act….the term also speaks to the desire for the circulation of “pure” information unfettered by the materiality of the system on which it depends.”[37] This pseudo-magical conception of communication explains why we love postcards so much. They allow us to be free as well as timeless. They give us the experience of existing beyond materiality.

Writing, even the simplest form of it, has power. Writing asks us to validate our own thoughts as we sculpt them carefully into words, sentences and paragraphs of meaning. We think more. As we form our primitive thoughts into words we deconstruct our emotions. We make contain the chaotic, mess of them within the safe confines of language and syntax. In response, we understand our own emotions more completely. We feel better. Journal writing has long been a tool of psychotherapy. We narrate events and analyze them. It helps us to place them into the context of our lives so that we can absorb them into the totality of our being. Writing also helps our physical health. A study in the “British Journal of Health Psychology” found that writing for only two minutes per day about any emotional experience reduced the number of health complaints in participants.[38] Two minutes is plenty of time to write a postcard. Aside from the emotional benefits, writing is simply a reliable method of recording and remembering information. The brevity of a postcard enhances the effect since the reader must take concern to evaluate and summarize the most significant aspects of the information recorded.

Figure 9 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 09, 2015 The front of a Postagram card created and by Destin Black and Sent to Catherine Black-Winters in 2015. The card contains the actual photograph of a moment described in text in the card in Figure 8.
Figure 9 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 09, 2015
The front of a Postagram card created and by Destin Black and Sent to Catherine Black-Winters in 2015. The card contains the actual photograph of a moment described in text in the card in Figure 8.
Figure 10 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 10.a, 2012 The front of a postcard purchased and mailed from Trinidad, Cuba by Destin Black and Sent to Catherine Black-Winters in 2015.
Figure 10 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 10.a, 2012
The front of a postcard purchased and mailed from Trinidad, Cuba by Destin Black and Sent to Catherine Black-Winters in 2015.
Figure 10 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 10.b, 2012 The back of a postcard purchased and mailed from in Trinidad, Cuba by Destin Black and Sent to Catherine Black-Winters in 2015. Within the written text it says "I hope this makes its' way to you. I like imagining it flying through space and time carrying my thoughts forward and backwards in the here and now"
Figure 10 Black, Destin. Postcard Paper 10.b, 2012
The back of a postcard purchased and mailed from in Trinidad, Cuba by Destin Black and Sent to Catherine Black-Winters in 2015. Within the written text it says “I hope this makes its’ way to you. I like imagining it flying through space and time carrying my thoughts forward and backwards in the here and now”

Postcards are useful items of scholarship. The production, collection and analysis of postcards provides useful data across many fields of study. Postcards are historical artifacts. Since their inception they have recorded images and stories that add depth to human knowledge of history. Postcards have been transmitters of social and cultural norms and values. Tracing the words and images provides both a map and a timeline of changing ideas. This holds true in modern day history as postcards shape our world-experiences and both reflect and determine our belief and regards. Postcards also contain scientific data. Postcards often provide images of times and places before film and video were available options. That data is a useful analytic. Postcards also contain significant usefulness in education as both a means of learning and of expression.

Postcard collections are popular among individuals and professional archivists. Each one opens a small window into a specific place and time. Analysis of these moments has given us useful information. For instance, we know that in the early 1900’s deriders of the Women’s Suffrage movement believed that giving women the vote would feminize men. We know this because archivists studied a set of cartoon postcards from a New York Lithograph company. The highly derogatory arguments that were not recorded as often in the verbal arguments of the time.[39] The anonymity of the postcards probably made the author’s feel safer stating these kinds of opinions than they did in a physical confrontation. The postcards give us insight into what may have been happening beneath the surface. It allows us to more fully comprehend the driving forces of the movement. These kinds of analyses of postcards are common and have added greatly to the historical cannon.

Postcards help define the culture of a place, both its past and its’ present. The postcard gives privilege to some areas , some ideas, some images over others. This is driven by market forces. What things sell well enough to make a postcard? What things do people want to see? Then we must consider the kinds of people who send, receive and collect postcards. It is an obvious value construction.  Sometimes this is positive. Sometimes the postcard encourages the population to “Save the Manatees.” It contributes to positive social response to eco-friendly habits and behaviors. Sometimes it is less positive. Sometimes the privileging of one over another creates an artificial culture that does not reflect anything true. Worse, it may overwhelm and damage that which is  less privileged but more valid. Wales and the Australian Frontier are both examples of the way postcards have acted on the culture to devalue and corrupt. A study of contemporary Welch postcards shows the privileging of certain locations and aspects of Welsh culture over others.[40] A false mythology has been created to impress the tourist. The influence extends to the locals to the extent that it is damaging to the national identity of the Welch people. Australian researchers found similar corruption by postcards depicting the Australian frontier. The postcards show an idealized version of the frontier that is indirect opposition to the reality of the land and people. This creates political turmoil and often serves to disrupt the efforts of proponents of much needed ecological conservation[41]. The socio-cultural power of postcards should not be underrated. They can act as a force of good. They can also be destructive,.

It may, at first, seem unlikely, but postcards have made useful contributions to the hard sciences. Drawing and painting are time consuming and therefore limits the ability of scientists to record data. Camera and video are certainly excellent forms of recording, but until quite recently, widespread usage was simply too cumbersome and too costly. Sometimes scientists must follow the path of history to find the information they need. Postcards are an excellent guide. Researchers in France used old postcards in a scientific study to show the way that landscape changes occurred in Mediterranean Europe as a result of rural depopulation. They compared postcards from the beginning of the twentieth century to present day photographs. The result showed a dramatic change in the use of land. In essence, they observed a rewilding of the area as rural farmers moved into the cities and agriculture lessened.[42] Without the postcards, their analysis may have been less complete and less valid. This kind of study is not unique. Good researchers use whatever data they can find and assess as valid and reliable. A postcard can be  a piece of that work.

Postcards are an excellent resource for educators. The possibilities for students are much the same as those for professional scholars. They offer a world of data across many different fields of study. Since they contain so many multimedia elements they are high-interest tools for learners.  “The Journal of Geography” suggests that postcards should be presented as a much needed high-interest vehicle for geographic education. They are readily available to teachers and serve as a rich data source for historical, physical, and cultural geographic inquiry.[43] This is quite true and yet limited because it can easily be applied to any subject. Social Sciences can engage in studies of historic cards to determine what the people of a given time felt or thought and so improve the students connection to the movements of history. Science can look back at the drawings of naturalists or the notes made by settlers seeing pristine lands for the first time. In an English class, activities like a postcard exchange or journaling through postcards would also provide enrichment activities that hold students attention and enhance their abilities. Students could write in short bursts of motivation and send the postcards out to connect with others. This would allow them to improve writing as well as increase their sense of empathy and connection to the world beyond their immediate environment. The possibilities are virtually endless.

The current and past use of postcards is valuable scholarship but this could be improved on. Postcards should be used as a framework to create an academic database of images and text that capture moments in time for current and future study. Modern technology is poised for this kind of change. An App could be produced to catalog digital postcards and produce print versions on-demand. This is not very far from the Apps currently in use to send pictures and images from a smart device. A scholarly version should be attainable. The App users would create a profile verifying their scholarly credentials. Every time they capture an image, GPS location services could date and time stamp. The scholars would then add any textual observations and context through a series of questionnaires and note taking forms. The whole process could be completed in a matter of minutes. It could be sped up even more with the integration of audio recording or speech-to-text features. This would allow researchers to take hundreds of notes and observations in only a few days. The profile system would allow for some version of peer review. The database would allow easy search and cross reference with a free sharing of information. This sort of application would be a great benefit to the academic community.

The study of postcards as Intermedia should evolve to incorporate not only postcards in their historic and presently existent forms, but also their potential form as scholarly data. The convergence of art, writing and technology is undeniably meaningful within the modern media framework.  The styles, categories and purposes of postcards can be examined and manipulated to take advantage of their native characteristics. The authenticity, presence, voice and preservation of time insisted on by the use of postcards is sanctified by each production of the medium. Purposeful study and application can only serve to benefit the academic community by serving as an invaluable resource in the transference of knowledge.

 

 

 

 

[1] Yates, Simeon J. Letter Writing as a Social Practice, Chapter 13. Edited by David Barton and Nigel Hall. John Benjamin’s Publishing, Philadelphia. 2000. Accessed June 27, 2016.

[2] “Postcard History.” Smithsonian Institution Archives. Accessed June 25, 2016. http://siarchives.si.edu/history/exhibits/postcard/postcard-history.

[3] “Jons To Go Postcard.” Destin Black to Catherine Black-Winters. Home, Inverness, Florida.

This postcard also contained a message that read, “Hello RANDOM PEOPLE. Draw an X if you can see this (It won’t be mail tampering)” The postcard was received with three x-marks under the message, conforming its’ journey through the postal system.

[4] “Vintage Postcard History | Vintage American.” Vintage American. Accessed July 01, 2016. http://www.vintage-american.com/vintage-postcard-history/.

[5] Williams, David M. “A New Medium for Advertising: The Postcard, 1900–1920.” European Journal of Marketing 22, no. 8 (1988): 17-34. Accessed June 30, 2016.  doi:10.1108/eum0000000005293.

[6] Taplin, S. H., C. Anderman, L. Grothaus, S. Curry, and D. Montano. “Using Physician Correspondence and Postcard Reminders to Promote Mammography Use.” Am J Public Health American Journal of Public Health 84, no. 4 (1994): 571-74. Accessed July 06, 2016. doi:10.2105/ajph.84.4.571.

[7] These are the examples I, or my friends and relatives, have experienced within the past year.

[8] Kellerman, R. D. “Enhancing Influenza Immunization: Postcard and Telephone Reminders and the Challenge of Immunization Site Shift.” Archives of Family Medicine 9, no. 4 (2000): 368-72. Accessed July 03, 2016. doi:10.1001/archfami.9.4.368.

[9] Evans, S. T. “Delivering Views: Distant Cultures in Early Postcards.” Ethnohistory 49, no. 2 (2002): 471-73. Accessed July 2, 2016. doi:10.1215/00141801-49-2-471.

[10] Wilson, James. Propaganda Postcards of the Luftwaffe. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military, 2007.

[11] “1001 Postcards: Free Greetings.” 1001 Postcards: Free Greetings. Accessed July 07, 2016. http://www.postcards.org/.

[12] “123Greetings.com, Free Greetings For The Planet.” 123Greetingscom Daily Celebrations RSS. Accessed July 07, 2016. http://www.123greetings.com/.

[13] “Create Smiles and Connections in Minutes.” Smilebox.com. Accessed July 09, 2016. http://www.smilebox.com/.

[14] “Greeting Cards for Holidays, Birthdays, and Every day.” American Greetings: Greeting Cards. Accessed July 07, 2016. http://www.americangreetings.com/.

[15] “Custom Cards and Invitations – Paperless Post.” Custom Cards and Invitations – Paperless Post. Accessed July 07, 2016. https://www.paperlesspost.com/.

[16] “Zazzle | Personalized Gifts, Custom Products & Décor.” Zazzle | Personalized Gifts, Custom Products & Décor. Accessed July 07, 2016. http://www.zazzle.com/.

[17] “The Postcard Store. Choose Your Favorite Postcard! Shipping Worldwide.” The Postcard Store. Choose Your Favorite Postcard! Shipping Worldwide. Accessed July 07, 2016. http://www.favoritepostcard.com/.

[18] “USPS.” Welcome | USPS. Accessed July 09, 2016. https://www.usps.com/.

[19] “Wal-Mart.” Wal-Mart Photo Center. Accessed July 09, 2016. http://www.walmart.com/.

[20] “Postcardstop.com – We Sell Modern Postcards.” Postcardstop.com – We Sell Modern Postcards. Accessed July 09, 2016. http://www.postcardstop.com/.

[21] “Postcards.com – Design, Print and Mail Postcards.” Postcards.com – Design, Print and Mail Postcards. Accessed July 07, 2016. http://www.postcards.com/.

[22] “Postcardly.” Postcardly. Accessed July 07, 2016. https://postcardly.com/auth/index.

[23] “Send Thoughtful Gifts from Your Mobile Device.” Sincerely. Accessed July 07, 2016. https://sincerely.com/.

[24] “Send Custom Postcards, Photo Magnets, Mugs and More Using Postdroid.” Postdroid. Accessed July 07, 2016. http://www.postdroid.com/.

[25] “Perfect Pics In Just a Few Clicks.” The Only Photo Software You Need: Zoner Photo Studio. Accessed July 07, 2016. https://www.zoner.com/.

[26] “Touchnote.” .com. Accessed July 09, 2016. https://www.touchnote.com/.

[27] Yüksel, Atila, and Olkay Akgül. “Postcards as Affective Image Makers: An Idle Agent in Destination Marketing.” Tourism Management 28, no. 03 (June 2007): 714-25. Accessed July 01, 2016. doi:10.1016/j.tourman.2006.04.026.

[28] “Mooning Birmingham.” Grasping for Objectivity. 2013. Accessed July 11, 2016. http://www.graspingforobjectivity.com/2013/08/mooning-birmingham.html.

[29] “Cheezburger.” Original Site. Accessed July 09, 2016. http://www.cheezburger.com/.

[30] USPS, Size & Weight Requirements for First Class Mail

[31] Fuchs, Christoph, Martin Schreier, and Stijn M.j. Van Osselaer. “The Handmade Effect: What’s Love Got to Do with It?” Journal of Marketing 79, no. 2 (2015): 98-110. Accessed July 3, 2016. doi:10.1509/jm.14.0018.

[32] I wrote postcards from a trip to Cuba. I saved 42 cards to be mailed from the USA but I sent only 3 directly from Cuba because I feared they would not arrive in the USA. I sent them anyway because I hoped that the passage would solidify and authenticate the moment.

[33] Hillman, Wendy. “Travel Authenticated?: Postcards, Tourist Brochures, and Travel Photography.” Tourism Analysis 12, no. 3 (May 01, 2007): 135-48. Accessed July 5, 2016. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.3727/108354207781626811.

[34] Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-five: Or, The Children’s Crusade, a Duty-dance with Death. New York: Dell Pub., 1999.

[35] Kapur, N., J. Cooper, O. Bennewith, D. Gunnell, and K. Hawton. “Postcards, Green Cards and Telephone Calls: Therapeutic Contact with Individuals following Self-harm.” The British Journal of Psychiatry 197, no. 1 (2010): 5-7. Accessed July 4, 2016. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.109.072496.

[36] Milne, Esther. Letters, Postcards, Email: Technologies of Presence. Melbourne. Australia: Routledge, 2013.

[37] Milne, Esther. “‘Don’t Send Me Your Saliva’: Fantasies of Disembodiment in Email and Epistolary Technologies.” In Politics of a Digital Present: An Inventory of Australian Net Culture, Criticism and Theory, 1-9. Proceedings of Politics of a Digital Present: An Inventory of Australian Net Culture, Criticism and Theory: Proceedings of the Inaugural Fibreculture Conference, Melbourne. Melbourne, Vic.: Fibreculture Publications, 2001. Accessed July 1, 2016.

[38] Burton, Chad M., and Laura A. King. “Effects of (very) Brief Writing on Health: The Two-minute Miracle.” British Journal of Health Psychology 13, no. 1 (2008): 9-14. doi:10.1348/135910707×250910.

[39] Palczewski, Catherine H. “The Male Madonna and the Feminine Uncle Sam: Visual Argument, Icons, and Ideographs in 1909 Anti-Woman Suffrage Postcards.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 91, no. 4 (2005): 365-94. Accessed June 29, 2016.   doi:10.1080/00335630500488325.

[40] Pritchard, Annette, and Nigel Morgan. “Mythic Geographies of Representation and Identity: Contemporary Postcards of Wales.” Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change 1, no. 2 (2003): 111-30. doi:10.1080/14766820308668163.

[41] Waitt, Gordon, and Lesley Head. “Postcards and Frontier Mythologies: Sustaining Views of the Kimberley as Timeless.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space Environ. Plann. D 20, no. 3 (2002): 319-44. Accessed June 29, 2016. doi:10.1068/d269t.

[42] Debussche, Max, Jacques Lepart, and Alain Dervieux. “Mediterranean Landscape Changes: Evidence from Old Postcards.” Global Ecology and Biogeography Global Ecol Biogeography 8, no. 1 (1999): 3-15. Accessed June 29, 2016.  doi:10.1046/j.1365-2699.1999.00316.x.

[43] Allen, Rodney F., and Laurie E. S. Molina. “People and Places on Picture Postcards: A High-Interest Source for Geographic Education.” Journal of Geography 91, no. 3 (1992): 106-12. Accessed July 06, 2016.  doi:10.1080/00221349208979094.