The PostSecret Project

By Motter, Jennifer L. | Studies in Art Education, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

The PostSecret Project


Motter, Jennifer L., Studies in Art Education


The PostSecret Project PostSecret, http://www.postsecret.com The Secret Lives of Men and Women: A PostSecret Book Frank Warren. New York, NY: William Morrow. ISBN-10: 0061198757.

The PostSecret project is an ongoing community mail art project that includes an online social networking site and several hard-copy publications. From use of the PostSecret website (www.postsecret.com) in a graduate art education class, students raised several questions.

* What potential does PostSecret have as an approach to art education?

* How can art educators integrate PostSecret into the curriculum?

* How might students benefit from PostSecret if used as an instructional tool in the classroom?

This media review focuses on PostSecret's affordances for identity exploration via anonymity, reflexivity, collaborative knowledge construction, and currere, i.e., lived curriculum. These themes are significant to the field of art education because their consideration may lead to meaningful and empowering art education.

In this media review, I introduce the PostSecret project and consider its significance to the field of art education. I critique the PostSecret website and books in order to identify how PostSecret may be integrated in college-level art education curriculum. I discuss my usage ofthe PostSecret website when I facilitated an activity, Challenging Gender Stereotypes, in the graduate-level art education curriculum. I also discuss David Darts's (2005) College Confessions: The Art of Telling Secrets, a website inspired by PostSecret, asa project that demonstrates further currere opportunities for art education.

Frank Warren launched PostSecret in November 2004 after he distributed 3,000 self-addressed postcards inviting the public to mail in a secret. People initially returned only 100 postcards to Warren; the responses contained intimate revelations visually and textually represented. Over time, the return number of mail art postcards grew to more than 1 00,000 by 2007 (Warren, 2007a), and the PostSecret project continues today with the participation of individuals around the world (PostSecret, n.d.). PostSecret is open to anyone who is willing to share a secret. Through the PostSecret project website and books, Warren intends to create a safe place for the public's intimate revelations.

According to Warren (2007a), the attraction of participating in this mail art project suggests that "motives are as raw and complicated as the secrets themselves" (p. 1 ). Warren (2007a) cannot confirm that all secrets are true, but believes that the postcards should be interpreted as works of art where the categories of "fact" and "fiction" are undetermined and not of particular importance. Much like narrative inquiry methodology, the visual/textual postcard creations tell stories. The stories told through visuals and text could run the gamut of interpretations, Including confessions of life, death, crime, justice, or women's issues such as body-image portrayal In media and abortion. Each Sunday, 20-30 new digitized postcards appear on the PostSecret website (see Figure 1). Several PostSecret hardcopy publications containing digitized anonymously submitted postcards are also available, including: PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives (Warren, 2005); My Secret: A PostSecret Book (Warren, 2006); The Secret Lives of Men and Women: A PostSecret Book (Warren, 2007a); A Lifetime of Secrets: A PostSecret Book (Warren, 2007b); and PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God (Warren, 2009). The major themes that I find useful for art educators to consider based on my analysis and interpretation of the PostSecret website and books are anonymity and online identity, reflexivity and collaborative knowledge construction, and currere.

Anonymity and Online Identity

Because postcards are submitted without attribution, the PostSecret site allows for anonymous multiple identity exploration (Turkle, 2005). …

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