Friday, 13 August 2010

Mass Observation

In the 1930s, a UK social research organisation commissioned a program of Mass Observation. A panel of volunteers was encouraged to go out and write down and describe all that they saw in great detail. The result was a detailed and layered portrait of everyday British life.

In 2010, the University of Sussex, having revived the program in the 1980s, is promoting the topic once again. You probably couldn’t do the program on the same descriptive detail as in that past survey without being labelled a terrorist, or at least being accused of invading someone’s privacy. Instead, ordinary people are being encouraged to take six photographs of the community they live in on one specific day and upload them to a website, in order to capture a snapshot everyday life once again. One could argue that this has already been achieved by Google Street View, but the hope is to gain a different perspective than a camera on top of a car can, and to create a tapestry of community life as it was in Britain on 12 August 2010.

The experiment is being run through local community blogs, of which there are surprisingly many, and I came to it through Brockley Central, and you can read the post here. Unfortunately, I was leaving early to catch a flight, but I managed to get a few pictures before I left (on my way to the station!), which you can view below (click on them to make them bigger and see the detail). I would ideally have liked to get more of people going about their everyday life, but there wasn't really anybody about, so I focussed on locations and snapshots reflecting the community.

For more details on the scheme, see:

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