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Mass Observation 80th Anniversary Conference, University of Sussex, 10-11 July 2017

Mass Observation 80th Anniversary Conference, University of Sussex, 10-11 July 2017

Live notes, so an incomplete, partial record of what actually happened.

Tags: mo80

My asides in {}


Monday 10 July

Joe Moran (Liverpool John Moores), Notes of a shy mass observer

What can MO teach us? Value of immersion .. surprisingly interesting experiences of the ordinary .. social norms/rules that disappear into the mundane can reemerge .. MO allows us to be genuinely interested in the mundane, everyday .. too easy to mock/condescend the recent past, celebrate our rejection of recent modernity ..

Beautiful politics of taking seriously & valuing that which is "unexplored because it is everyday" in recent past #MO80 @joemoransblog

— LucyRobinson (@ProfLRobinson) July 10, 2017

.. arguments emerge implicitly from MO writer, just by observing the world .. you can make the everyday visible by upsetting the tacit conventions of social life ..

Joe Moran giving excellent talk opening the #MO80 conference. Love this! 😂

— Tayler Cresswell (@tayler) July 10, 2017

.. awkwardness as a way into understanding social rules, norms ..

Truly wonderful keynote from @joemoransblog Strong theme on the importance of treating the recent past with kindness and empathy. #MO80

— Hannah Charnock (@HannahLC88) July 10, 2017

1A Panel: Who are the post 1981 Mass Observation writers?

Panel on the ESRC project 'Defining Mass Observation'

John Mohan - Constructing and using the Mass Observation Project Database .. does it matter if MO writers are representative? what sort of people volunteer? .. 66k records .. 302 people account for over half the 66k responses .. average 17.8 responses .. 69 of 229 directives generate more than half the total ..

Daiga Kamerade - Using metadata from the MO archive to inform our understanding of post-1981 writers' demographic characteristics

Who are the MO writers? .. 3672 respondents .. compared the data they had to Census Data (whole population) and Citizenship Survey (volunteers) .. 71% of MO respondents joined between 1981 and 1995, but only 17% of these were still writing 1996-2005 .. dominance of women in MO declines but still more than population .. large over-representation of older writers in MO even compared to those in the population who volunteer ..

#mo80 Demographics of @MassObsArchive compared to the population (so: lots of older people represented)

— James Baker (@j_w_baker) July 10, 2017

.. massive over-representation in the south east .. so, MO observers a double self-selected sample: both volunteer to MO and volunteer to respond to particular directives .. unreliable data for quant work that intends to extrapolate

Rose Lindsay, What the 2008 "Your Lifeline" directive tells us about people writing for post 1981 MOP

Aim to help people more confidently sample .. contradictions and elisions {or what I think I'd just call changes...} in things like emotions, circumstances, occupation over time .. adds colour to the data .. lifelines directive asked people to list all the important things in their lives ..

The creativity of form as analysis in 2008 Lifeline Directive via #MOPdatabase #MO80 <3

— LucyRobinson (@ProfLRobinson) July 10, 2017

2A Panel: Technological developments; digital; online and the challenges of curation

James Baker/David Geiringer, Mass Observing the advent of the home computer


A @MassObsArchive respondent opinion on the internet, in 96. She would definitely be horrified by mid-lecture tweeting 🙈 #MO80

— Isabelle (@ISABELLEAMAZON) July 10, 2017

1996 - "quite sad" to use the Internet at home #MO80

— Tayler Cresswell (@tayler) July 10, 2017

.@j_w_baker at #MO80 making me feel old and talking about his use of Mass Observation Project data in his research @davidgeiringer

— Jane Harvell (@jharvell) July 10, 2017

@dunstanbruce Saw this and thought of you via @j_w_baker @DavidGeiringer #MO80

— LucyRobinson (@ProfLRobinson) July 10, 2017

Alexandra Reynolds/Tony Steyger, Rediscovering Video Nation: A Working Case Study

'Video Nation' a BBC show .. people filming their lives .. handheld camera a game changer .. grammar of the screen changed with appearance of unfolding narratives via these devices .. ~12k tapes saved at Southampton Solent (because the BBC were throwing the rush tapes out!) ..

V poignant talk by @tonysteyger making and archiving of #videonation "YouTube before YouTube" #MO80

— Daisy Cresswell (@842Daisy) July 10, 2017

.. rushes go beyond what was selected by the BBC to think more about what resonates today .. now project

Alban Webb/David Hendy, Mass Observation and histories of BBC Radio

1967 start of Radio 1 .. oral histories from the BBC that provide a new way into thinking about this .. people already had access to pop music via pirate radio, so the advent of Radio 1 was a moment of regulation, not a revolution but a counter-revolution .. very new for the BBC + new hierarchies - pop was station 1, home service was 4 .. period where radio as fore or background under debate .. 1967 is part of the black hole in Mass Observation .. but 1967 is the anniversary peg .. but both MO and MOP get at radio: radio runs through MO, whilst by MOP radio one of many sources of information/entertainment .. MO: listening already a 'inattentive', background activity to some listeners, even though producers saw themselves as making radio for fully attentive audiences .. MO: lots on radio in files not explicitly about radio; MOP: it mostly pops up in files about radio .. The BBC Genome Project is a digitised searchable database of programme listings from the Radio Times from the first issue in 1923, to 2009 ..

Quotes from the archive on the love of radio #MO80 #thearchers - fascinating talk from David Hendy & Alban Webb

— Tayler Cresswell (@tayler) July 10, 2017

3A Panel: Mass Observation; emotional management and emotional citizenship

Owen Emmerson, 'Unholy silent prayers that it would keep going': emotional management, fear and the sound of the ‘V-bomb’ campaigns in 'provincial' Britain, 1944-1945

Doodlebug, 'V' Raids, early-cruise missile .. sound and the control of sound was considered a key activity by government during air raids .. people were encouraged to see sirens as a good sound, something that would ensure their safety .. people didn't like it when the siren drowned out the sound of V1 missile approaching .. quietness key to a sense of nationalism during ww2 .. cooking, harvesting, wireless could all drown out the v1: people rushed jobs in the silence between the missiles .. v1 undermined the sonic embodiment of the nation

Great paper by Owen Emmerson on aural histories of V1 attacks #mo80

— Lucy Noakes (@LucyNoakes1) July 10, 2017

Jessica Hammett ‘Nothing is worse for morale than inactivity and a feeling of helplessness’: Civil Defence Communities and Emotional Management during the Second World War

Greatest emotional suffers were those with little to do .. so many woman (most likely to be left without a clear role) volunteered via civil defence work: activity that was a distraction from worry and a community that could offer emotional support .. collaborative management of emotion: eg what was acceptable and unacceptable to talk about on duty as a Civil Defence Volunteer (eg ARP) .. CRVs often expressed frustration during the phony war, almost wanted a real raid to justify their existence .. collective image seen as important to maintaining solidarity .. bomb stories were taboo

Fascinating paper from @J_M_Hammett on the control and management of emotional experiences in civil defence communities during WWII #MO80

— Katherine Howells (@KHowellskcl) July 10, 2017

Claire Langhamer, Emotional citizenship in the atomic age: feeling, experience and the politics of ‘nuclearity’

Emotional citizenship after 1945 .. views and feelings central to how observers were asked to respond right from the start of MO .. 'my feelings are so overwhelming that I have no views' DR1022 August 1945 .. emotion of fear is about the body: it is fleshy, precarious (see Joanne Bourke) .. people struggled to process their emotions .. utility of feeling (and whether or not that feelings are good things to deploy) .. many Mass Observers claim the wide acceptance/ubiquity of their own view; but they regularly contradicted each other .. strongest dividing line around questions of morality: was the a-bomb morally different, justifiable given what it achieved, what role for the church in mapping the terrain of new era of total war

{sound, sight, imagination}

Tuesday 11 July

5C Panel: Women, work and domesticity Chair: Claire Langhamer

Helen Glew (University of Westminster), Imagining women’s futures in 1944: Mass Observation directives about work, the family and women’s roles in the post-Second World War world

Marriage bar .. Jan 1944 responses .. gallop polls showed indecision to married women undertaking paid work .. MO question was "What are your feelings about married women going out to work after the war?" .. broadly speaking, respondents 'offered a live and let live response to the question', but with nuance .. such as, no objection to women working but don't see why they'd want to .. one writer felt that no woman should work if any head of households were out of work .. distinction made between professional and non-professional women, former treated with more sympathy .. presence of children often led to qualification of opinions on women working: children should come first .. women expected to give emotional labour freely (see Langhammer)

Kate Wall (University of Sussex), ‘I enjoy writing my cheques and keeping an account of what I am spending’: Re-examining women’s relationship with household financial management through the Mass-Observation Project

By mid-1984, bank accounts were no longer the preserve of the middle class .. shift in attitudes to credit (positive by late-1970s), not represented in older MOP sample .. women reported not using cashpoints for fear of getting mugged .. striking number of women who decided to talk about annoyance at use of cheques or cards in supermarkets (MOP didn't ask about this!) .. managing money an emotive topic .. importance of good financial management to women's self image .. middle class taboo about the discussion of money .. women's money management practices historically specific and subject to rapid change (novel to habitual to mundane) .. MOP via money management offers an optimistic account of women's interactions with technology, agency, pleasure.

Rebecca Wright (University of Sussex), Mass Observation and the "Emotional" Energy Consumer

Energy scholarship moved to look at range of cultural practices and material arrangements (eg of energy in the home) .. cultural, social, and symbolic processes feed into energy use .. "Resource Man" a dominant idea of energy: economically rational, tech savvy, total control .. thus consumer compressed into simple models, charts for - say - projected use .. MO gives us a more complex view of the energy consumer: autobiography, sentimental .. respondents talk a lot about how their homes have changed due to the arrival of new appliances .. "energy used a marker that divides life stages", passage of time .. changes in energy use never seen as a simple progression .. mass observers didn't 'progress' technologically, they use of energy - and technologies - went back and forth based on circumstances (life, social, economic) .. sentimental use of energy .. recreation of mantlepieces an example of retaining the feeling/symbolism of the coal fire, even when the fire removed ..

#mo80 @rebkwright critiquing the dominance of "Resource Man" in how we think about energy use.

— James Baker (@j_w_baker) July 11, 2017

.. moral economy of energy use.

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