At the beginning of the twentieth century, the picture postcard was the key social networking tool of the day. Through the innovative opportunity to combine with an image, written messages could be exchanged within a few hours, giving rise to a sense of near-synchronous multimodal communication. Untrammelled by the etiquette of letter writing, people traded privacy for a new informality and spontaneity. This paper argues that the key endeavour of the Literacy Studies perspective, to deepen our understanding of writing and reading practices through fuller understandings of sociocultural context, can be achieved through the application of historical methods. With a dataset of 56 cards I investigate material and discursive dimensions of the texts against a background of historical evidence. A fuller version of this paper will appear as Gillen (in press)
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