Another book read to review on Postcrossing’s blog eventually! This book delves into the history of addresses: we take them for granted now (especially on Postcrossing, where I spend some time every day verifying people have put their addresses in as a standardised format recognised by the UPU), but they’re a relatively recent innovation — and surprisingly powerful, shaping a number of areas of your life. Access to healthcare, benefits, job opportunities, credit, personhood… and of course, the state’s ability to find you when you’ve done something illegal or discouraged (it’s not all positive!).
Mask digs through examples of the uses of addresses for things like epidemiology (the famous map revealing the cholera outbreak centred on the Broad Street Pump… and the less famous story of the recent cholera outbreaks in Haiti), examples of vanity addresses, and instances where the names of streets reveal our history, biases and politics.
I felt like I learned a lot, when I put this down, but right now it’s hard to summarise, partly because it’s pretty wide-ranging. The recurring theme is identity, though, and it opened my eyes to a lot of things about addresses that I’d never considered in that light.