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Thread: Barriers to participation

  1. #1
    Senior Member Empty_of_Clouds's Avatar
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    Default Barriers to participation

    In my working world - human health research - we often come up against what are known as 'Barriers to participation'. Most often this relates to the ease with which people may be able to (or not) access resources that would likely provide a better quality of life or improve their spiritual, physical or mental health in some way.

    Anyway, I was thinking about this 'hobby' with the pens and all, and started thinking about barriers to participation that we might come up against. So I wonder if anyone here would like to talk about their barriers, if or how they managed to remove those barriers, and what strategies they may have employed to compensate for restrictions those barriers impose.

    For myself the principal barriers are (in no particular order):

    1. Lack of access to broader market spaces, especially for vintage pens
    2. Cost - because it must include shipping to a remote place.
    3. Lack of connection within the pen community
    4. Lack of ability to handle a pen before purchase
    5. Lack of knowledge, particularly with regard to vintage pens
    6. Absence of any clear understanding of what works for me



    Some issues simply end up as unmodifiable factors - cost is of course one of those things. I won't borrow money to buy pens, so have to accept staying within my own set budget.

    The last two on that list trouble me quite a bit, and are connected somewhat to #4, especially with vintage pens but this also applies with new pens I find it very difficult to come to any kind of sensible appraisal of a vintage pen, despite reading a lot about it, without examining it in person. So far only two solutions have presented themselves, one, to take a risk and buy the pen and then sell if not suitable - this entails additional loss of funds and is thus a limited option, or two, don't bother with vintage pens.

    Numbers 1 and 3 are also connected for me. Apart from discovering a very few independent vintage sellers online myself, I am otherwise reliant on word of mouth from within the pen hobby community (at least the online parts of same). My reputation in the community is such that I can count the number of people who have offered help in this regard on less than the fingers of one hand quite frankly. This has proved to be an insurmountable problem so far, and I still seek a solution (though don't hold much hope of finding one).

    Number 6 is a weird one. I have the ability (learned or otherwise) to pretty much be able to write with any size or shape of pen, and any kind of nib. This may sound like an ideal position to be in, but it has left me with a great deal of uncertainty regarding what is my optimal choice in pen/nibs. Often I look at a pen and struggle because (relating back to #2) I can only buy one pen but there may be a variety of nibs available for it. I guess this may be an eternal pen struggle for me, but there it is.

    What this all means is that over the years these restrictions have shaped my purchasing strategies. Thus when I look at my modest pen collection - and giving a nod to the other thread about themes - I see my acquisitions as falling in two broad categories, one, pens that I was prepared to go to additional lengths to get, and two, pens that were completely bounded by my perceived barriers.

    It can be frustrating at times, and has required quite a bit of adjustment on my part with regard to realistic expectations of what my resources may cover, as well as accepting how difficult it can be to gain traction in a hobby community.

    Overall the pattern of buying that I once had has slowed considerably, not because I've tried everything I want to try, but because it is almost impossible to try anything like the number of things I would like to. My barriers are now having a much greater impact.

    Anyone else running into the same problems?

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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    I have some of the same ones, but $ is my biggest limiter. I also have a kind of personal limiter that says, no more than one item per month, no matter how small.

    I've only been to a pen store twice, so I have learned how to shop without trying pens. And, basically, I rarely spend over $50 (although I have twice in the last three months!), so the risk is limited.

    I hate spending money, but I like pens.

    Sent from my moto g power using Tapatalk

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    Senior Member jbb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    Pens on a Budget: Over the years I have amassed a large, lovely, vintage pen collection through ebay, yard sales and flea markets. I've only purchased one pen over $100.00 and many of my pens were under $20.00. I have lots of Watermans, Parkers, Wahls and Sheaffers. I can re-sac lever pens so I've stuck to pens I can fix myself most of the time as a way to keep my spending low.
    JBBPensPaper an Etsy store

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    Senior Member Chip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    Thoughtful analysis. Being a headlong sort, the barriers haven't limited my pursuit of pens. But for now I seem to have more than enough.

    Not sure where you are in EnZed, but there's a great stationer in Devonport (might be on lockdown right now):

    https://shop2.fitzgeraldtaylor.co.nz/

    I recall seeing modern pens—Parker, Lamy, etc.— at Whitcoull's in Newmarket, I think.

    Years ago, I found some nice vintage pens in Christchurch, among the used bookshops (which likely tumbled down in the quake, alas).

    I also bought dip nibs, ink, and such at The Old Stone Store in Kerikeri.

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    Senior Member Empty_of_Clouds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    I'm in Ōtepoti -Dunedin on Te Waipounamu (South Island). While there are some smallish stationary outlets in NZ, their range tends to be quite limited and more expensive than online shops (I know, I'm not supporting local businesses, but I would if they stocked what I was looking for). I keep an eye on the local auction house and so on, but rarely see anything worth pursuing.

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    Senior Member christof's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    Perhaps I do not recognize the core of the question due to lack of language skills, but is it not with every field of interest, be it professional or hobby, that certain difficulties and hurdles must be dealt with? Whether it is the procurement of information or objects. Specialized knowledge is required and must be acquired, etc. ...

    So what can I say, I have been dealing with fountain pens for 20 years. I have learned a lot and made many contacts. All this was only possible because I am very interested in the subject and I was willing to invest my time.

    Please allow me the remark that I find the application of the term "barriers to participation" from the sector of health care to our hobby inappropriate, if not a bit cynical...But maybe, that's just me.

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    Senior Member Empty_of_Clouds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    I allow the remark, of course, but believe the concept of 'barriers to participation', perceived and actual, is wholly appropriate to this or any other hobby. Let me give you an example - suppose you wanted to attend a gym but the only one in reasonable travelling distance was largely used by white guys. As a black woman you may find this fact acts as a barrier to your participation in physical activity at that gym. The point is that you have just the same access as anyone else but there are other factors in play that aren't always readily apparent but affect your participation. I contend that the same happens in any subject area of interest. Obviously there are some factors that are tangible - such as a lack of money - as well as those that are perceived.

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    Senior Member christof's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    Thank you for the explanation. It may be that I have misunderstood. I apologize. I thought you were applying a healthcare term to our hobby.
    That would have seemed strange to me.
    Last edited by christof; October 28th, 2021 at 04:33 AM.

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    Senior Member eachan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    I confess that my first reaction to your post is that barriers are there to be overcome and in our hobby it isn't hard to do so. However, I'll work through the points you make. Most of my own pens are vintage. I'm remotely situated, though in a different way from you. There are no shops that sell pens within hundreds of miles. Travel is complicated and difficult because of my health and we don't try any more. The nearest "pen person" that I'm aware of is in Edinburgh, 300 miles away.

    1) Access to markets isn't difficult because of internet sales, eBay and auction houses. I've never felt deprived in that area. In fact we are presented with an abundance of riches.

    2) Cost can be an issue. I've had to stop buying old pens from the US because of import charges. However, those same pens will turn up in the UK if I have patience. Which I do. Also, auction house prices vary and some are prohibitive. That can be disappointing but again, patience will reward with the desired pen at the right price in time.

    3) I have good contacts within the pen community with correspondents all over the world. The blog that Deb and I share concentrates much more on the hobby side of pens. There are many contacts there, in Facebook and FPG, of course.

    4) It would be nice to handle pens before purchase but it isn't essential. I've hardly ever had that opportunity. Most sellers accept returns without difficulty and if there are any minor issues with pens, old or new, I can usually fix them.

    5) Of course lack of knowledge of pens old and new affects us all at first. It's a hobby; you're supposed to throw yourself into it and gain the information you need! I've pursued knowledge about pens obsessively since I first took a serious interest in the subject fifty years ago. I've gradually built up a decent library. Like most branches of knowledge you don't have to know everything but you do have to know where to find it.

    6) It took quite a long time for me to discover what works for me. I've tried flex, stubs, obliques and finally firm fine or EF. That's where I am now and I keep a couple of stubs for addressing envelopes. I love the pens I use now and I've greatly enjoyed the process of getting here.

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    Senior Member Empty_of_Clouds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    Firstly, @christof, no need for apologies. The term I am using does get used in specific areas of healthcare, but it is not specific to healthcare, if you see what I mean.

    @eachan, this is not a criticism but in my area of work it is not accepted that the individual is solely responsible for overcoming barriers to participation. Often those barriers are systemic and require changes in social structure, and this is particularly noted with minorities, specific segments of society, or ethnic/cultural groups.

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    Senior Member eachan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    @eachan, this is not a criticism but in my area of work it is not accepted that the individual is solely responsible for overcoming barriers to participation. Often those barriers are systemic and require changes in social structure, and this is particularly noted with minorities, specific segments of society, or ethnic/cultural groups.
    I understand how that would apply in health but how does it apply to the pen hobby?

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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    I don't know if it does apply, that's why I was asking the question.

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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    I think that barriers exist in every aspect of life, and vary from person to person. Many of the barriers have been lowered with the internet opening up so much commerce. My business would not exist without it. Information that was not available at all 30 years ago, is now easily found. Rather than seeing problems, I am amazed at how accessible this hobby is. The only problem now is that so many of the vintage pens have come out of homes as the owners have died off so the supply is dwindling, while demand has climbed, as have the prices. Its much harder to find pens in the wild than it was 25-30 years ago.

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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    What Ron said.
    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

    ~ Benjamin Franklin

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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    I've been thinking about this a lot lately. No pen stores near me, nor pen shows - and w/ the pandemic, I couldn't go to pen shows anyway. I'm not that much interested in vintage pens, so the barriers around that part of the hobby aren't as important to me. I have ordered and returned some pens that didn't work for me, but early on, it wasn't very clear that I could do that - or that the cleaning/restocking fees were too high to justify it. I don't quite remember my rationale for that. I'm selling some pens now on here to recoup costs or fund new purchases, but I'm not making any money.
    Cost/money is definitely my biggest barrier. I wrote a half-baked blog post yesterday on how gold nibs are become so unaffordable https://www.peninvestigations.com/ho...m-on-gold-nibs . There's so many things that I'll never be able to try because prices have gone up - not just on pens but on necessities too, thus shrinking my budge for hobbies. But like you, my biggest barrier is not really knowing what works best for me. It takes a lot of time and money to figure that out, neither of which can be recouped. And yeah, the journey and trying new things is a fun part of the hobby, but it's also just not as tenable for some of us.
    I wish that the US had a pensharing program like the one that exists in the UK. https://www.pensharing.com/ I would willing pay a fee to borrow someone's pen and try it out. I don't know what it would take to get such a program up and running, but, in my opinion, it would help lower a lot of barriers. We would get to try out a wide variety of pens without having to cough up the money to buy it up front. It would help us figure out what works best for us.
    One of the main problems I see is that setting it up - and possibly using it - would require already being part of a trusting pen community. How do you protect against someone stealing a valuable pen?
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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    The internet enabled me to acquire a lot of pens that I would not have even known about. I live in southeast Michigan, USA, in a small city. FPN and this site have opened access to information and techniques of maintaining pens. Money is a factor, but I think I have more pens than I am interested in. Over time I came to see what worked for me, so time and experience can help even if you live in a backwater like I do. Hobbies are things that help to pass time enjoyably, on whatever level you can. At 73 I can say that I have enjoyed pens, and I think I might have liked it better if I had limited the collection to Parker 51s and maybe Sheaffer Touchdown Imperials. I was going through boxes of pens today, and there's so much junk. Of course the junk is someone else's preoccupation.
    Last edited by pajaro; October 28th, 2021 at 02:47 PM.

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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    Access would be pretty big deal for those who live outside of countries with a lot of presence. For me in the USA it's not much of a big deal for me to buy a pen to try it out and resell it for basically the same amount, so I only lose fees and shipping which are both cheap. If every transaction required overseas shipping that would be problematic since the fees are higher and shipping each way is $15+. For those on a budget it would really slow the progress of trying things out. It would limit all aspects of the hobby ... having nib work done, buying inks that aren't available domestically, etc. So, I'm sympathetic to those issues even if they don't affect me personally.

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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    Quote Originally Posted by scud80 View Post
    If every transaction required overseas shipping that would be problematic since the fees are higher and shipping each way is $15+
    It's USD 35 for a pen of any value, tracked and insured, from these parts. I don't consider it a barrier, it's just another variable to factor in when thinking about the value of a pen.
    Vintage. Cursive italic. Iron gall.

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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    If you were on a fixed income, $35 might be an issue, especially the way food and lodging prices are. If you are still employed, it might be no sweat, but for retirees without a decent income it could be an issue. My wife's parents had little more than social security and a pension that covered the medicare supplementary health coverage. It's tight for a lot of people. And with COVID, no telling.

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    Default Re: Barriers to participation

    For older folks, who grew up with parents, family, teachers, and business contacts who used and valued fountain pens, there's an ascribed value: using a fountain pen is a function of social class and profession, with a symbolic link to literature. But writing in ink on paper is increasingly rare. For younger people, who have mostly abandoned handwriting in favor of electronic communication, there's not the same association.

    Another aspect is the disposable nature of writing tools in the present: cheap ballpoint pens are thrown out when the ink dries up. Same goes for outdated mobile phones. Does anyone bother to collect or restore old flip phones? The physical means are not objects of high regard.

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