We compare historical postcards and Instagram as forms of sociality that creatively repurpose photographs to link people over time and space. By juxtaposing these media we explore multiple alliances and affordances of how images and their metadata are mobilised in the service of social networking.
Postcards have begun to attract attention from anthropologists as something more than a fading ephemeral trace of holiday travels. Visual anthropologists have an important role in a larger inter-disciplinary rethink of what has, since the late 19th century, been a massive transcultural phenomenon that linked places and people, images and text on a global scale. Increasingly, postcards are theorized as a kind of social media that mobilize a complex set of relations amongst objects, producers, senders, recipients and viewers within a larger field of visual culture. Our interactive laboratory session compares historical postcards and Instagram as forms of sociality that creatively repurpose photographs to link people over time and space. Though introduced over a century apart these two media applications share striking similarities as globally popular, comparatively inexpensive, informal and spontaneous correspondences. By juxtaposing these media we explore the multiple alliances and affordances of how images and their metadata are mobilised in the service of social networking. What can we learn about the relationship between image, text and sociality when we complicate distinctions between old and new social media? This laboratory builds on an exhibition at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London based around a collection of postcards of colonial south India. We will restage part of the exhibit to provide context and raw materials for two practical activities involving historical postcards and Instagram posts. We invite participants to join in a hands-on experience of inscribing and remediating both old and new media to explore the social experience of photographic images.