Kairos 17.3

Archiving Everyday Writers

As Kathleen Yancey explained in her interview, one of the motivating factors for having the postcard archive was to create a site for inquiry into the nature of what she sees as an important genre in the history of everyday writing—that is, writing done by people in the community. The first sense in which the product of the archive sits at the border between the university and the community is that it allows researchers in the university (not just at FSU) to learn about one of the major modes of communication in the early twentieth century. It allows academics to investigate the community and their engagement in this "thoroughly democratic genre."

Yancey further suggested that this kind of inquiry can provide scholars in the field of rhetoric and composition with a deeper and more nuanced understanding of important issues, such as how circulation, multimodality, and sponsored/self-sponsored writing have been manifest in more recent historical eras.

The second way that the archive traverses the university/community border is the role it is expected to play in Florida State's Center for Everyday Writing. The Center, with preliminary and kickoff events held in the spring and fall of 2012, respectively, is expected to be a collaborative effort that explicitly solicits participation from members of the community—not only from the local Tallahassee community and surrounding areas, but from the broader community as well. In conjunction with the Center for Everyday Writing, the archive will serve as a locus for dialogue among scholars and community members.

People will have opportunities to tell their stories about their own experiences with postcards, reflect on any of the artifacts that they find unique or interesting, add their knowledge to the metadata for an artifact or series of artifacts, or even contribute their own cards to the collection. As Yancey explains in the video clip seen here, the ambitions for the archive and for the Center are high.

At the center of ambitions for the FSU Card Archive is the spirit of collaboration. As Yancey explains in this clip, postcards, which by design are meant to facilitate an everyday communicative act, lend themselves to collaborative engagement across the university/community border. When it comes to postcards, many people are capable of positioning themselves as a kind of expert, having purchased, written on, mailed, received, and/or even collected their own.

Community expertise could look like many things that would contribute to potential research interests, even moving beyond our academic disciplinary expertise. Researchers in and out of the academy with more knowledge on topics like printing and photographic techniques, paper production, postal laws, stamps and postmarks, printing trademarks, handwriting, and so on, could make vast contributions to the archive that would be of benefit. Any number of community constituents might have further information about the people, places, and things that might be printed or written on the cards. This type of crowdsourcing is becoming a vital part of new media production (Shirky, 2010).

Neal ・ Bridgman ・ McElroy