I can’t get away from this image. I keep stumbling on it in my image collections and I love what it stands for. It is a community visualized. It is an asynchronous interaction. It is the gamification of the coffee ritual. I was a tourist within this structure and so my contribution and what I have taken away from it may not be accurate at all.
It is a visual representation of a community that never existed in real space. It’s an asynchronous collective. Each card is a person that was, at one time, there. Some of the cards have names on them and some don’t. A couple had marks like stars and smily faces. It represents locals that frequent the establishment and tourists that are just passing through. The first visit I made I got one stamp and pinned my card up. From then on, each morning I went into the café nearest our resident inn, I took one from the board and helped someone else towards a free drink. But my original one was still there.
After I got back and became more and more intrigued by this I started thinking about my initial card. To another patron, that card represented someone too. But there is no someone in this case. I won’t be going back to claim that card any time soon. I didn’t put my name on it or anything but what if the cards I was adding too weren’t for anyone either. I think that makes it even more interesting. It’s not about helping a person towards their free coffee drink. Instead it’s about logging activity so that anyone could maybe get a free drink. If the system were fully reduced there would be one card and every tenth person through the door would get a free drink. That isn’t too exciting. I’m more intrigued by the act or decision to either add a new card to the system or add a new stamp to a card already in the system. There will always be more cards than stamps. Based on the number of cards with names, in Korean, and the location of the coffee shop where I first discovered this collective residue, I think folks really do leave their cards there so that they can use them next time. I just hope I helped someone along in their journey to a free drink. If not, maybe customer #10 on one of my cards was a traveler that just really needed to catch a break.