DM Senior Thesis Carly Dintaman Letter Writing Fall 2009


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DM Senior Thesis Carly Dintaman Letter Writing Fall 2009

  1. 1. c a r ly d i n ta m a n • s e n i o r s e m i n a r & t h e s i s • f a l l 2 0 0 9 p r o f e s s o r s n o r m a n f r y m a n & r o b e r t r a b i n o v i t z • pa r s o n s t h e n e w s c h o o l f o r d e s i g n LetterWriting rediscovering the lost art
  2. 2. “ memory will slip; a letter will keep. -welsh p rov e r b ”
  3. 3. table of contents Introduction abstract 1 the story 3-4 Problem Statement 5-6 Preliminary Research mindmapping 7-10 timelines 11-16 Understanding the Situation media 17-18 statistics 19-20 Significance of Medium 21-30 emotion 31-32 technology 33-38 expert interviews 39-44 Survey 45-48 Existing Solutions Case Studies 49-58 Wrap Up closing 59-60 project plan 61 Sources endnotes 63-64 images 65-66
  4. 4. introduction abstract this project addresses letter writing and its decline in contemporary society. Looking at the history of communication reveals the gradual advancements in technology that have brought us to where we are today. History itself is also held in actual letters that have survived as archives over the years, including those of Henry Adams, Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Abraham Lincoln, and many unknown, yet valuable, sources. Many of these resources reveal the greatest distinction between an actual letter and digital technologies: the medium and materiality, which, in a letter, hold significance such as identity and emotional connections. There is no doubt that digital technologies can be tremendously valuable. However, it seems that current use has rendered them somewhat destructive. statistics show that digital technology is overwhelming people’s lives in a negative way. Formal studies debating the value of these technologies conflict with one another and are often inconclusive. The constant advocacy for letters comes from people and their significant emotional connections with the object and words. Research shows that love and affection are part of our fundamental needs. It seems, however, that the “efficiency” of today’s society pushes these essentials to the side. it appears that letter writing has also been driven away in the name of efficiency. Perhaps, then, reviving the art will also restore these deeper human needs. LetterWriting 2 REDISCOVERING THE LOST ART d i n ta m a n
  5. 5. introduction the story 1 2 3 Once upon a time, people received correspondence Children were taught penmanship in school. Handwritten letters were the main means of by post. communication. Correspondence imparted the sender’s character and emotion. 4 5 Now, we receive mail on our cell phones, via text Children are taught typing in school. Email is the main means of communication. Corre- or email. spondence usually appears the same from person to person, often with black type on a white screen LetterWriting 4 REDISCOVERING THE LOST ART d i n ta m a n
  6. 6. problem statement The handwritten letter, once a prominent form Our most fundamental needs are love, of communication, is now considered a lost connection, acceptance, attention, and art as digital technology, such as e-mail and appreciation—the very things that technology cell phones, becomes the prominent means seems to be pushing out of our lives, the things of communication in many areas of the world, that handwritten letters once supported. There especially developed nations. no matter how needs to be a shift back to some of those instantaneous and convenient, though, these things that were once the foundation of our electronic media fail to convey emotion and societies and relationships; as Hadley Read, intention as the pen and choice of writing author and economist, states, surface once did in a letter. The decline of letter writing reveals how this technological, “We have developed communications systems to fast-paced, efficient era has led to a lack of permit man on earth to talk with man on the moon. sincerity, community, civility, and appreciation Yet mother often cannot talk with daughter, father for simple, special things. to son, black to white, labor with management, or democracy with communism.” Traditional stationary stores still operate today, offering products for writing and Technology must be able to sending hand-written letters via post but coexist with our fundamental not necessarily the encouragement; whether needs, and we must be willing it is intimidation, expensive prices, or an to admit that we require overwhelming amount of product, there is them, slow down, and find something holding the everyday person away. ways to create and receive Pen pal internet sites offer the opportunity them. rediscovering the art to connect with people who want to write of letter writing could lead to and receive letters but fall short with an more meaningful connections unprofessional appearance and a lack of between both strangers and screening systems to create a trustworthy loved ones and a rediscovery of network. E-cards attempt to merge civility and humanity in itself. card-sending with technology but fail as an insincere gesture. LetterWriting 6 REDISCOVERING THE LOST ART d i n ta m a n
  8. 8. p r e l i m i n a ry r e s e a r c h mindmapping l at e r s tag e s brain is electrical, 80-90% corruption stationary LETTER WRITING GENERAL stores http://media.www STATIONARY chemical, and communication .thespartandaily.c psychological apparent in all areas who? schools? om/media/storag is non-verbal e-cards e/paper852/news/ emotions and lack of family of life now 2009/05/04/News senses, tangibility, dinners /OldFashioned.Let http://www.essort intentions come LANDSCAPE facebook smell, touch through pen and e/lostartletter_sdf Handbook of (connection) p.htm http://www.ameri choice of writing more everyday? interpersonal communication, surface document own is anyone trying to articles/view/3346 Knapp, 591 letter writing and bring it back? Interplay: the lack of roots in people’s responses process of communication/ why such a special, technology? old-fashioned letter and effects on interpersonal interpersonal skills + unusual thing? communication, writing make good design relationships Adler effect on society knitting accessible to difficulty of young Arts & Crafts appealing to everyone designers finding less sincerity/ civility, Movement investors http://www.thefr http://www.gath throwback to time of success/ respect/ and chemistry money chnology+resha how we communi- more civility pes+the+ways+ le.action?articleI Are we talking between people create stationary cate differently d=28147497671 we+communicat 7006 more but saying today line e-a013248832 using technology stationary less? http://www.exten The Importance of Civility, t/civility/2009/09/ Bogorad look at families what is the void? parallel letterwriting/ inspire/ make holding up “masks” where is people want to write stationary w/society’s “Design civility/charm? CHARM interaction, conduct, Thinking” Tim personalized? inexpensive yet stationary kit notes Brown civility luxurious, special? w/stamps? selecting a topic for research look back in time at as more of our needs CIVILITY all arts and when what are people are met, we desire began by brainstorming areas do both increase/ decrease together? printing gaps started looking for? more meaning and beauty of interest and narrowing them press simple, personal, is convenience, look at effects of special fast-pace, efficiency neglecting charm, CHARM really better/ more failing to slow down, look at current events, VALUES look at a day in the look at human down. As seen on the previous life of dif people of dif age groups and important times in history, crises, & see behavior & what we care about, what’s what do we value? important? etc. pages, I continually re-mapped how they how we communi- lost http://www.boxes SOCIETY communicate cated ew/personalizatio n_is_not_technol my ideas, expanding upon them ogy_using_web_ WHAT CREATES tradition/ heirloom trend now towards using technology personalization_t look at where we are uniqueness VALUE FOR HUMAN customization, and mass production now and where we INTERACTION/ and finding both a central idea individualization to personalize Zazzle used to be GROWTH? (sneakers) of beauty and charm and a deep nothing graceful or http://answers.ya /index?qid=20060 730/finding-and-- does it have the can we use look at both ludite charming about 618210748AAV3k losing-love-- technology to and interest in letter writing. i realized same effect/value? DL&cp=3n facebook email re-introduce mass-production question old-fashioned things, how emotions impersonal/ losing friendships ideas, values? that many of my ideas following technology come across via technology insincerity through facebook Kindle can technology & old this involved technology and http://www.wired. fashioned thrive together? is technology as is technology as appropriate is some com/techbiz/peo preserving stale, old halting difficult, yet effective as we think? areas as in others? how it is affecting society and ple/magazine/16-- evolution of 11/pl_brown relationships via necessary, change can technology facebook TECHNOLOGY v. technology clash of technology evolve values today. I made a digital separating emotions w/emotions? and emotions could tech improve/bolster the version (seen to the right) in OLD-FASHIONED old-fashioned? (handwrite letters but not ‘evolving’ via rely solely on it for order to better organize and technology - is it for communication) the best? is it an actual further develop my thoughts. improvement? LetterWriting 10 REDISCOVERING THE LOST ART d i n ta m a n
  9. 9. u n d e r s ta n d i n g t h e s i t u at i o n timeline p r e h i s to r i c to 9th c e n t u ry a d before 800 AD printing invented, China 7 3100 BC Sumerian cuneiform (inscriptions with stylus on clay tablets) 11 Ice Ages (after 2500 BC) 1000 BC Pictographic Phoenician alphabet c. 2nd cent. BC communication in use 8 paper invented, 3100-3000 BC China Hieroglyphic inscriptions (chiseled into stone or painted 12 on papyrus with reed brush) 6 late 7th, early 8th 9 10 century AD the quill LetterWriting 12 REDISCOVERING THE LOST ART d i n ta m a n
  10. 10. u n d e r s ta n d i n g t h e s i t u at i o n timeline 15 t h c e n t u r y a d to p r e s e n t 2004 Facebook 17 1940s Electric computer 1870s 25 Postcards 13 1867 1997 1440 Typewriter 22 AOL Instant Messenger Gutenberg printing press 1938 24 18 Ballpoint pen 16 1876 Electric 21 23 15 telephone, 1840s Bell 1980s 1930s Wordprocessors Telegraph & Telex Morse Code 1846 1803 1897 Beginning 1970s Metal nib pen Fountain of fax Modern fax pen development 20 machines & early e-mail 19 14 LetterWriting 14 REDISCOVERING THE LOST ART d i n ta m a n
  11. 11. u n d e r s ta n d i n g t h e s i t u at i o n timeline r e s i s ta n c e s to ‘ n e w ’ t e c h n o l o g i e s With the arrival of new technology, there is often resistance. Kitty Burns Florey , author of Script and “there is no standard nowadays 2004 Scrbble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting, describes how of elegant letter writing, as there Facebook even the fountain pen was slow to be received, as writers, including Dickens, clung to their quills. Florey used to be in our1940s It is a sort time. Electric computer writes, “One can imagine people complaining that the 1870s of go as you please development, Postcards new invention was cold, unnatural, newfangled, and gimmicky, with a tendency to tear the paper if you and the result is atrocious.” 3 weren’t careful—just as, a bit later, some writers resisted 1867 -a woman at the turn of 20th century, referring to the postcard 1997 1440 first the typewriter and then the computer.”1 Typewriter AOL Instant Messenger Gutenberg printing press 1938 “there was a nunly Ballpoint pen prejudice against them 1876 [ballpoint pens] as Electric telephone, newfangled nonsense,” 4 -Kitty Burns Florey 1840s Bell 1980s 1930s Wordprocessors Telegraph Telex Morse Code 1846 1803 1897 Beginning 1970s “Our desirepen outstrip Metal nib to of fax Fountain Modern fax pen time has been fatal to development machines more things than love. we early e-mail have minimized and con- densed our emotions… we have destroyed the memory of yesterday with the worries of tomorrow.” 2 -1901 English newspaper referrring to telegraph LetterWriting 16 REDISCOVERING THE LOST ART d i n ta m a n
  12. 12. u n d e r s ta n d i n g t h e s i t u at i o n media P.S. I Love You (2007) l e t t e r w r i t i n g i n m ov i e s a series of letters from the main character’s deceased husband (written before his death from a terminal illness) guide her through her grief and rediscovering herself. Letter writing has been a popular topic in the media in the past and continues as such to this day, especially in recent and upcoming feature films, even as the act of writing letters is disappearing now. Interestingly, many of these movies are romantic dramas, perhaps illustrating the sentimental nature that letters can have. 28 The Shop Around The Corner (1940) Dear John (2010) Two workers in a gift shop can hardly stand each other, A soldier falls in love with a college student while he is but are actually falling in love together through the mail on leave. When he is deployed again, they keep their as anonymous pen-pals (later re-made into “You’ve Got relationship going with the help of handwritten letters. Mail” in 1998). 26 29 Letter From An Unknown Woman (1948) Letters to Juliet (2010) A concert pianist receives a letter from a mysterious an american girl on vacation in italy visits the verona woman, who he has actually known throughout the courtyard of Shakespeare’s fictional Juliet where years but forgotten, that reveals her undying love she thousands of letters are left and usually answered has had for him despite his arrogance. by the “secretaries of Juliet.” When she finds an unanswered letter to Juliet, the main character goes on a quest to find the lovers referenced in the letter. 5 30 27 LetterWriting 18 REDISCOVERING THE LOST ART d i n ta m a n
  13. 13. u n d e r s ta n d i n g t h e s i t u at i o n statistics d i g i ta l t e c h n o l o g y 3.2 6 Billion of e-mail users expected by 2011. 61.7 Percent of 117,840,000 households with Internet use at home in October 2007, according to the U.S. Census Buereau.11 40 Percent of a worker’s day estimated sending and receiving an average of two hundred e-mail messages in 2009.27 1:45 Average amount of time (in minutes and seconds) it took people to respond to an Households With a Computer and Internet Use: e-mail pop-alert on their computer in a recent survey. 1984 to 2007 Households With a Computer and Internet Use: 1984 to 2007 70 Percent alerts that provoked a reaction in just 7seconds in the same study. 8 70% 60% Household with computer at home 77 Percent of office workers and company owners who, in a survey done in England, “‘agree 50% that e-mail downtime causes major stress at work.’ ” 9 Household with Internet use at home 40% 30% 50 Percent of time we misunderstand e-mails, according to a survey in the Journal of 20% Personality and Social Psychology.10 10% 0% 84 89 93 97 00 03 07 19 19 19 19 20 20 20 based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau LetterWriting 20 REDISCOVERING THE LOST ART d i n ta m a n
  14. 14. u n d e r s ta n d i n g t h e s i t u at i o n The Significance of Medium d i g i ta l v . h a n d w r i t t e n “subtleties— Consider the difference that the mediums of email and a handwritten letter have on the same sentence below. EMOTION, MEMORY, TEXTURE, PERFUME, “E-mail is cool, a nice, safe HISTORY, CHANCE— message that could be are all ironed out in a digital about a business deal or a romantic evening.”13 interface, digital files do not age as paper does, it has none of the sincerity of the physical object. And although those stacks of paper on your desk seem to have no defined purpose other than to record data, they in fact record so the same message much more, the movements of handwritten, though, is sunlight and shadow, the damp mysterious, compelling, and likely to be ring of coffee, the time you passionate.14 have left it inactive, how much you value it.” 12 –leah harrison bailey LetterWriting 22 REDISCOVERING THE LOST ART d i n ta m a n