Monday, September 24, 2012

Gonna sit right down and write myself a letter

We probably write more today than ever before but one of the problems of today's non-stop flow of communication is that it tends to be immediate, spontaneous and transitory. There may be many great thoughts in there but they are drowned in a sea of trivia. One art that seems to have all but died is that of letter-writing. The letters of great writers, politicians and thinkers are still published and studied as literary works but this element will be missing when future generations study our times. Who will publish an author's collected tweets or selected Facebook updates? The question of how to store such communication for the future has not been resolved.

I was intrigued therefore to read an article in Edudemic: Lettrs Encourages Thoughtful Digital Writing And A Slower Communications Movement. A new service called lettrs enables you to start storing and writing real letters again. As you can see in the film below, the aim of lettrs is to encourage more lengthy and meaningful writing and combining the analogue world of the letter with the benefits of digital storage and flexibility. One function is the ability to scan and upload your favourite letters from the past that may be stored in a shoebox or drawer at home. These can be uploaded to your virtual shoebox on lettrs where they can be stored in privacy or you can share them with friends or even make them publically available on your virtual fridge.

There is already a large number of public letters out there and you can reply to them and start a discussion or simply use them as models for your own letters. Some people have shared letters from family members that go back over 100 years and can be fascinating reading. Another function is the ability to write letters to loved ones that are stored and delivered at a future date, even in years from now. This all assumes of course that lettrs is a service that will survive in the long term and that is probably the weakness in the concept since we have seen many social media services disappear overnight in the last few years.

The Edudemic article focuses on how schools can use lettrs to revive the art of letter-writing in a meaningful way. Schools all over the world are invited to participate in the revival of this important but threatened art.

"The pilot was very well received by the school but unusually popular with the students who were exposed to the timeless need and craft of letter writing, even in their digitally enabled world. A larger program is being launched at the school with a “letters to veterans” campaign this Fall.

lettrs also plans a larger campaign to “save letters” at schools across the country as part of its slower communications movement, encouraging kids to think about what they write, and take the time to impact the life of another person through the power, craft, and timeless tradition of a letter.

People from 60 different countries have signed up on lettrs to bring letters back, just a little differently. Interested schools can contact to discuss a correspondence campaign for students grades 6-12."

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