Blog > Postcrossing in academia
Recently, Postcrossing has been featured in some very interesting scientific essays, focused on the study of people interaction through communications. Today we’d like to share with you one of these papers.
Ryan and Daniel are PhD students in Computer Science at the University of Bath, United Kingdom. Both are interested in how people interact with, and through, information technologies. Daniel’s PhD research looks at support for intimate communication between people in long-distance relationships. Ryan’s research is about understanding fairness in collaborative work tasks, and he has been a postcrosser since March 2011.
"The inspiration for our research came back in June 2011. We were interested in learning why people enjoy using Postcrossing, and what they value about correspondence through postcards. We hoped that such knowledge might allow us to derive some design criteria to help improve digital communication systems.
Many of the things we found in our study relate to the treasured elements of paper-based correspondence that are lost during digitisation. For example, we found that people value things like stamps, postmarks, wear and tear from travelling, as well as personalised postcards. We also found that people love the random aspects of Postcrossing: not knowing what you’ll receive, who it will be from, or from where it will come. These are the things we believe could be useful in certain digital technologies, and we are currently developing ways to use our design criteria to build new systems that help to connect people together.
One of the other things we found, but didn’t have space to write about in the paper, is linked to reciprocity – the expectation that others will treat us as we treat them, and will respond to our actions in kind. From reading our survey responses, people said they loved knowing that recipients enjoyed their postcards, but what we also observed was a clear dislike for empty 'thank you’ messages in the hurray email. This tells us that, even though Postcrossing encounters are essentially one-off experiences, we still expect others to treat us in kind and to thank us for our efforts. People don’t like it when the norm of reciprocity is broken, even in a setting where it seems like it might not matter all that much.
In the future, we hope to do more studies involving Postcrossing, and we hope to look at other practices like online pen-palling and use of christmas cards. These will give us new ideas about how to link digital and physical technologies."
Very interesting results – thank you Ryan and Daniel! If you want to read more, you can download a free copy of the paper from Ryan’s publications page at: http://people.bath.ac.uk/rmk22/RyanKellyWebsite/Publications.html