The means by which we correspond or communicate, in written form, has changed immeasurably in the last 20 years. Personally I barely put pen to paper, and when I do now, it is a card rather than a letter that I am usually writing. When I started University in 1991 I paid $50 a week for my room in a four person flat, and spent a further $5 a week on stamps. I wrote long letters to friends and family, and received many letters in return, often addressed to me at my flat, Mouse House, at 888 Cumberland Street.
In the 1940’s the residents of The Bach, at 208 Leith Street, designed a crest and motto and had letter head printed. Examples of the letters written by Bachite David Gardiner, to the Board of Divinities, can be seen in the Presbyterian Archive at Knox College.
In the 1960s a flat called Che Choux at 64 Heriot Row (“Cabbage House”, named for the Cabbage Tree in the front garden) also had letterhead which was printed at the Christ’s College Press. Unfortunately there are no copies of the letterhead available in their archives.
In the early 1970s a flat called The Spanish Slum, 16-18 London Street, also had letterhead, though it is unknown where this was printed.
It is interesting to see the shift in personalisation of communication forms from a hard copy print environment, to the digital; from email, to social media where platforms like Facebook suddenly make it very easy to communicate with many people simultaneously. Where once flats went to the extent to have letterhead designed and printed, today’s students can easily set up a Facebook page for their flat. There are several examples, of this practice, such as The Chateau at 47 London Street, The V Flat at 97 Dundas Street and the 8 Man at 627 Castle Street.
Did you have letterhead or a Facebook page for your student flat, or do you know of a flat that had letterhead or has a Facebook page? If so, I’d love to hear about it.
Let me preface this posting by saying that as yet I’ve not conducted a rigorous literature review on the topic of using Facebook as a social research tool. I’m interested in this aspect of Facebook because I am using it as a tool for my social research on the named flats of Dunedin, and I think I’m going to have to devote a chapter to talking about it. Without Facebook the book wouldn’t be happening, so it’s only fair 😀
Also, I think it’ll be interesting to explore this some more.
It just so happened that Facebook fulfilled a need I had at the time (Nov 2007) – to share a bunch of photos and see if I could make some connections with the Scarfies who’d lived in those flats. It’s working. To date there are 1233 members who are tagging photos and making comments. So, Facebook is largely fulfilling that initial need of mine beautifully.
I’m finding however that there are things I’d like to do, or would be interested to discover, that Facebook currently doesn’t seem to allow, and that is due more to my needs as a researcher rather than a failing on Facebook’s part. It is, after all, inherently, a social networking forum, a place to meet and chat and share, not so much a place to easily gather, organise and distribute data.
It would be handy though.
For instance, I’d like to be able to download all wall posts to excel, I’d like to be able to download all the comments and tags against each photo in my collection. I’d like to be able to track the rate of membership against date in order to ascertain what, if any, external or internal factors may have influenced sudden leaps in numbers, for example, the freedom of the post exam period at the end of term or articles published in the media or a group of friends all joining at the same time.
Groups, it seems are being replaced by fan pages – here’s an issue. It may have a few extra features but I have a heap of data in my group and I’m not going to try and manage two sites. That’ll be a headache.
Here are some other sources I’ve found which touch on using FB for social research. Like I said, I’ve not yet thoroughly scoured for sources, I will. I’m interested to hear from anyone in the know on the subject.
Facebook research / orgtheroy.net
Poke 1.0 – a Facebook social research symposium
Supporting collaboration in the Era of Internet-scale Data / Cameron Marlow
The Presbyterian Archive has a photo album from The Bach. There are photos of the flatties outside the Bach in their pyjamas and there’s also a visitors book!! Could it be more perfect? I can’t wait to see them.
Looks like there was a flat on Leith Street in the 1930s and 1940s called the Bach … getting in touch with the Hewitson Library for a pic!
I’m trawling though heaps of articles from the ODT, thanks to their digital archive – what a resource. I’m mostly reading about rent increases and OUSA educating the student body to hang back and not leap into signing leases too early. Apparently this year, their voice was making a difference in the housing market.
When my two colleagues and I were working on our assignment for the print culture exhibition pitch back in 2000/2001, there was a lot of discussion about how to present this as an exhibiton to the public. I was keen to have a web based database for both promotional and information gathering purposes as a component of the exhibition.
I recently came across an email I’d written to my colleagues about this. We’d decided against the web based element because the general public had limited access at the time.
“The web thing immediately sprang to mind, I guess because it’s a fun media to work with, but for the public it’s not that accessible and they’re really our audience.” Email 15 February 2001, 8.46am.