Keeping in touch with home

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about correspondence and how mechanisms of communicating have changed over the last couple of decades. Since student flats have been named, students have communicated their contact details in a number of ways. In my first year in 1991 I went through a $5 packet of stamps a week and included my flat name as part of my return address, and I would received mail with my flat name on it too.

Between the 1930s and the 1970s some named flats (Ches Choux and The Spanish Slum) commissioned printers to create letterhead that stated their flat name and address. Occasionally like in the case of The Bach (1930s), the letterhead also included a crest and motto!


Another aspect of communication has changed, the telephone. In the 1960s and 1970s it wasn’t possible to list a name in the public telephone book for free unless it was a person, anything else incurred a fee. Smerch HQ, a flat on Cumberland Street in the 1960s that was named for the Soviet spies headquarters in Ian Flemings Bond novels, managed to fudge the system by pretending their flat name was that of one Howard Quentin Smersh (that’s medical students for you!). The residents of The Lunatic Fringe around the road on Leith Street weren’t so fortunate and missed out on listing their flat in the phone book.

In the 1990s, Telecom’s name numbers became popular. Moe’s on Clyde Street took advantage of this and registered their phone number as 477 MOES – you can see it in an OUSA student telephone book that was published at the time. Of course the advent of the mobile phone has meant many flats probably no longer have a landline. More recently, residents of named flats are more likely to create a Facebook page.

Social Media

Screenshot of the Facebook page for The Shit SHow Chateau

The Shit Show Chateau on London Street, voted OUSAs worst flat in 2012, created a Facebook page as a tool to communicate the progress they were making with renovating this slum property.

We have signed the official ‘Worst Flat in Dunedin’ as voted by the Mayor David Cull and former OUSA president Logan Edgar. With over 30 holes, unidentifiable stains on the walls and a damp stench it certainly lives up to the title.
Check out our journey as we turn this p-lab looking flat into a something less of a health hazard. It could even be warm, efficient and carbon friendly with the help of Generation Zero

A couple of other examples of named flats with Facebook pages have a slightly different purpose. The V Flat, Westie Pad, and Coronation Street Flats have not been named by students, but by companies (in one case, Pic’s Flat, it was the student’s idea). How students feel about living in sponsored or flats pre-named by commercial interests requires a more investigation.

As new forms of communication are developed, we begin to see their influence depicted on flat signs, and example is references to social media use. The only current example of this was  the flat name, The Libra Flat, on Harbour Terrace.  The sign employs a hashtag #ourpad (commonly used to create a thematic link between tweets, instagrams and Facebook posts) to mark this house as their home (our pad) as well as being a stunning pun on “feminine hygiene products”.


Social media has played an enormously important role in the development of this project – the extent to which will be the subject of a future blog post.


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