Sociology of Everyday Life

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    • 00:06

      [Sociology of Everyday Life]

    • 00:11

      KIRSTY PATTRICK: So today we're down at the Open Market,on London Road, in Brighton.And the idea is we're trying to capture everybodywho comes through the market to take away a pack about our 12thof May day-diary project.Hi!Are you local to the Open Market?

    • 00:26

      SPEAKER 2: I am, actually.

    • 00:28

      KIRSTY PATTRICK: OK, good.

    • 00:29

      SPEAKER 2: I just moved.

    • 00:30

      KIRSTY PATTRICK: We're from Mass Observation,and we're getting people to do a diary of their day.So we're giving out packs, here at the Open Market.And if you take a pack from us, you'llbe entered into the prize draw, wherewe've got some lovely prints from a local gallery, some foodgoodies, some books, and a behind-the-scenes tourof the Keep, if I can interest you in doing a day diary.

    • 00:47

      SPEAKER 2: Well, that sounds fun.

    • 00:49

      KIRSTY PATTRICK: Great.OK.I'll get you the details.We're encouraging people to write a diary of their day--write about what they do from when they wake upto when they go to sleep.What they're looking forward to, worries,just the everyday minutiae of what they get up to.And we're very much encouraging people

    • 01:10

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: to write as little or as much as they want to.And that's all part of our wider 12th of May project,where we're encouraging people across the UKto write a diary of their day.So Mass Observation started in 1937.And it sought to capture the thoughts and opinionsof ordinary people across Great Britain.

    • 01:32

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: By the founders of Mass Observation,it was meant to capture a picture of Britainthat they didn't think was being portrayed by the popular pressof Britain at this time.So they undertook various methodsto capture this material.They went out and they observed, and they watched,and they listened to conversations, very covertly.

    • 01:55

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: And they also recruited a panel of volunteersacross the country.Those volunteers were recruited to respond to what we wouldsee as open questionnaires.They were termed "directives."And also to write day surveys of whatwas happening on their day.And these were things like Christmas Day, Armistice Day.

    • 02:17

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: But one of the initial projects wasto write about what happened on the 12th day of each month.And on the 12th of May, 1937, that was the King's coronation.So on that date, they actually put outa call to the entire country to ask people to documentwhat was happening on that day.

    • 02:38

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: And what we now hold in our archive isa very rich collection of these diaries of people veryexcited about the event, documentingstreet parties-- you know, activitiesthey were getting up to, how they hoped to go to Londonsee what's happening.As well as diaries of people sayingthey had no interest whatsoever and it

    • 02:58

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: didn't affect their life.And it was happening, and they had other things.So it captured a more detailed and fuller picture of Britainon this day than you would capturefrom newspapers of that time.

    • 03:19

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: This is the first time we've done an eventlike this, down at the market.It was quite an organic process in the way that it came about.But the Open Market's very much a cooperative and a community.And it's been open just over a year.So for Mass Observation we thoughtthis would be a great opportunity,with people of all walks of life coming through the market,and to capture them documenting their day.

    • 03:41

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: People very much say to us "But it's not the big history.I haven't done anything important today."You know, "I'm just working," or "It's my day off."But that's exactly what we do want.That's exactly what we do want to record,because that isn't, often, the big history that is captured.And in 50, 100 years' time, what is deemed quite ordinaryis extraordinary.

    • 04:05

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: The archive of Mass Observation, the original organization,came to the University of Sussex to bein the care of the University of Sussex in the 1960s.And in 1981 it was restarted by Professor Pocock, hereat the University of Sussex.And it's today that it remains as an active research project.

    • 04:25

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: So what I manage today is we have a panel of volunteers,nationally.We have over about 350, at the moment, some of whom--about 14-- are still writing from 1981.So we have a huge longitudinal strengthof data in which people can look backon responses of those individuals from 1981

    • 04:47

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: up to the current point in time.And what that means is that three times a yearwe send out open questionnaires.We still use the term "directives,"as the original founders did.And we send these questions out to our panel of writers.And they respond.And they write as much or as littleas they want to on a subject.We ask them to write about their personal experiences,

    • 05:12

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: their observations, their thoughts, their opinions.And as a researcher you come in and youknow their age, their gender, whereaboutsin the country they live, and their household status.But other than that they're effectively anonymous,which means that people write very candidly and very openly.So, as a source of data, it's very

    • 05:34

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: rich in its qualitative nature.And for subjects that are very personal--sibling relationships, families, extramarital affairs, health,illness-- people disclose-- they do disclose-- and they doshare a lot with Mass Observationthat they haven't necessarily with their friends

    • 05:55

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: or their loved ones.People use it because they like writing.A lot of people will write for Mass Observationand take part in other creative-writing activities.But there are those that write and participatebecause of the history of Mass Observation,because they know it's an archive, because we'lltake care of those responses, because it supports

    • 06:18

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: academic research.But also because it's documenting history,and it's documenting that point in time.That's the key thing.It's about saying that their voice is as importantas anybody else's, and that this is their opportunityto document their everyday.Getting up and having a shower in the morning, the productsthey're using, what they're havingfor breakfast, how they get to work,

    • 06:38

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: the frustrations they have on their journey to work,or what they see.It's all that minutiae of detail that we don't normally capture.And it's absolutely fascinating for researchers todayand for the future.Because we look back at those 1937 diaries,and it's incredible to capture that detail

    • 06:59

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: that isn't really recorded anywhere else.And we get school groups, academics, the general publicto come along.And they can look at these diaries comparatively.And with that they can see the differences and the changes,over the years, over the decades.But also the synergies of what was important to peoplethen as it is now.The same worries and concerns about money, about family,

    • 07:21

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: about politics is still there.We'll also pick up trends-- most recently,in things like social media.So I was looking at diaries from last year--2014-- and how many people with technologywere using their iPads, their iPhones.How many people are looking at social mediaas soon as they wake up and when they go to bed.So you get a picture of what's trending and what's important

    • 07:43

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: and how that fits into their daily life,as well as those bigger pictures of what's happeningin the world at the time.It's a fascinating opportunity to capture Britain in a dayand to preserve that for the future for many generationsto come.Mass Observation is unique in its

    • 08:03

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: being an archive of everyday life,in its longitudinal capacity.So the fact that the current research projecthas been going for nearly 35 years now.And it's based upon the work of the former Mass Observationorganization.So the strength of you being able to research thatcomparatively with the new and the old.

    • 08:25

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: But its richness in its life-writingmakes it very unique.The amount in which people write, and how candid and openthey are.So the uniqueness is very much about the relationship wehave with our writers, as well.Now my role, and my colleague's role,who's the education outreach officer, in the last few years

    • 08:48

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: has been to widen that and engage more young peopleand wider groups, to increase the voice within our archiveof who participate.

    • 08:56

      SPEAKER 3: Tonight, we're going to be workingon the Mass Observation project, which willinvolve filling in a diary.What I want you to do is to writeabout what you've done today.

    • 09:12

      SPEAKER 4: "I woke up at 7:15, got changed into my schooluniform.Then I brushed my teeth.Then I went downstairs and had my breakfast--I had Cheerios-- while my mum did my hair in plaits.Next, I went to school with my dad, on my bike."

    • 09:28

      KIRSTY PATTRICK: My colleague hasbeen partnering with different schools across East Sussexand Brighton and putting the call out nationally, as well.So we have diary packs that have been sent out to schools.And also we've been working with prisons.We've been working with Lewes Prison,locally, around our creative writing project.So we've also put the call out to prisons, nationally.

    • 09:49

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: The groups we've had recently into the Keepare absolutely fascinated by the diariesof schoolchildren but especially prisoners,because it's an unknown world.And for us to take diaries into the prisonand to say to them "You actually have a voice like anybodyelse has a voice, and you have that right to record it,and we will value that, and that will sit in our archive,

    • 10:11

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: alongside anybody else's diary" isincredibly powerful for both those who take partand for those who access it.The Mass Observation archive is used across disciplines.There are those who use it historically,looking back to activities of the '30s and '40s,but those who look-- sociologistswho look at the methodological approach of how

    • 10:34

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: the original founders-- and how we, today-- capture that data.It's a unique data set.We've never claimed to be, in any form,representative of the nation.It's a small, very detailed, rich, qualitativeexample of what ordinary people think and feel.

    • 10:57

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: And in that respect it appeals to different disciplines.So we teach, here at the Keep, to studentsfrom both University of Sussex and the University of Brighton.Mass Observation from the earlier phase--from 1937 to late 1960s-- has now all been fully digitizedand is online.And that's been purchased by different institutions

    • 11:20

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: around the world for their teaching and research.So Mass Observation is used both academically by researchersbut also for creative projects.The material's used to inspire activities, as wellas other projects that have happenedover the years-- for example, the Kevin Macdonald filmLife in a Day.And so people have taken the concept

    • 11:43

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: of what Mass Observation is about,in recording the everyday, and used that as a platform.So it's about lunchtime, today, and we've given outabout 50 diary packs so far.We've got a lot of interest from traders,

    • 12:03

      KIRSTY PATTRICK [continued]: from regular visitors, shoppers, coming through and picking upthe packs.So we're hoping to get quite a good response from today.

Sociology of Everyday Life

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Abstract

Mass Observation is a British organization that tries to capture the thoughts and opinions of ordinary people across Great Britain. They achieve this by encouraging people to keep a daily diary, recording as little or as much as they want. The diaries are then kept in an archival record.

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Sociology of Everyday Life

Mass Observation is a British organization that tries to capture the thoughts and opinions of ordinary people across Great Britain. They achieve this by encouraging people to keep a daily diary, recording as little or as much as they want. The diaries are then kept in an archival record.

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