Rebecca Coleman, Sociology Department, Goldsmiths, University of London



This is a visual sociology project that aims to explore issues of exchange and gift-giving, communication and our relationship to the future, as well as the possibilities and limitations of sociological methodologies.

This project draws on mail art – a movement whereby artists send each other art through the post – and involves sending postcards to randomly selected members of the public.

The project takes up developments in visual, inventive and speculative methods in sociology to experiment with different ways of sending and receiving gifts in the post.

It responds to a recent patent granted to Amazon (December 2013) for ‘a method and system for anticipatory package shipping’.  This will mean that goods will be ‘speculatively shipped’ before they are ordered, and may mean that some customers will receive free gifts from the company.

More background on the project is available here.


If you have received a postcard from me in the post (Download Mail Art Project Instructions as a pdf):

- You should find that there are two postcards attached by a perforated line.

- The postcard that is addressed to you is a gift. On the back of this postcard is some information on the project and a link to this webpage.  You may keep the gift, or throw it in the recycling bin.

- The other postcard: one side includes my name and address (in the Sociology Department at Goldsmiths) and is stamped for you to return to me if you would like to participate in mail art yourself.  I’ve also included your name and address so I can keep track of who sends me what.  The other side of this postcard is for you to decorate and to tell me something about yourself and your future.

If you feel inspired to be a mail artist and send the postcard back to me:

- Please write or draw or collage on the back of the postcard.  I am really interested in ideas about the future, and so the postcard asks you to speculate on what you might be doing in a year or in ten years.  There are no right answers here and I don’t have set expectations about what I want to find.  I am interested in what you want to tell me, so feel free to write or draw something sensible and plausible, or imaginative and dreamy – it’s up to you.

- You can find some ideas for how you might decorate the postcard here, herehere, and here and at the links on the ‘Background page’– but there are no rules for how to do this, and you shouldn’t feel put off if you’re not an artist (I’m not!) or constrained by these examples (although I would rather not receive anything offensive or indecent).

If you do send the postcard back to me, it’s important to note that I will use the returned postcards as part of a research project and they may therefore be included in publications and exhibitions. 

All postcards will be anonymised, so your name and address will not be made public, and your authorship of the contents will not be attributable to you.

The project will adhere to Ethical Guidelines set by the British Sociological Association and the International Visual Sociology Association

The postcards will not be passed on or sold.

I will create a booklet of all of the postcards that are returned to me by the end of 2014, which I will send to all of those who posted them to me.  I will also notify you of publications and exhibitions that feature postcards from this project.

I have located your address via an online phone book, having first decided on one surname from each letter of the alphabet to send a postcard to.  I selected surnames based on a mapping of the most popular in Great Britain.

If you have any questions about the project or would like to find out more, please feel free to email me at: rebecca.coleman [@]