The Mass-Observation ClockWriting for the Mass-Observation Project
About the Mass-Observation Project Since 1981, the Mass-Observation Archive has been recruiting a national panel of writers.  The project was initiated by David Pocock, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex, who wanted to record the 'concrete and specific contexts of particular lives' in order to capture the kind of everyday detail which can be lost from 'large-scale' summations of history. 
The project is rooted in the ideals of "Mass-Observation", an organisation set up in 1937 by Tom Harrisson, Charles Madge and Humphrey Jennings who sought to develop what they called an 'anthropology of ourselves' by recording the day to day activities and thoughts of the British public. The original organisation had two main strands to its research technique.  The first was co-ordinated by Tom Harrisson who employed paid investigators to work in industrial Lancashire.  The second strand was the inspiration of Charles Madge and Humphrey Jennings, who recruited volunteers to send in diary material and answer open-ended questionnaires (directives) on a variety of different themes.
David Pocock's Mass-Observation Project (taken over by Dorothy Sheridan in 1990) is a revival of Madge and Jennings' idea of a volunteer panel of writers, which incorporates their use of a directive to prompt the correspondents to comment on their experiences and opinions. When a volunteer joins the project they are added to the mailing list and are sent a directive at least three times a year in Spring, Summer and Autumn.  Each directive asks the correspondent to write about two to three different topics or themes with an emphasis on the self and the subjective.  The topics vary from national and international issues to more personal themes which have included politics, religion, relationships, education, work, pleasures, dreams, shopping, holidays, age, death, war and reading habits.  Since the project began 2533 correspondents have taken part, and this year (1999) around 350 people have been actively writing for the project.
The length of time each correspondent takes part varies from person to person and a single directive reply can be as long or as short as the correspondent desires.  Some correspondents answer with a few sentences, others will write 10 or more pages.  The correspondents are free to choose how they wish to communicate with the archive.  Replies are generally written in pen and paper or word processed but audio or visual recordings are also acceptable and can be sent in via post or e-mail.  All the replies are processed, sorted and boxed by the archive staff and are preserved under temperature controlled conditions in the archive's store.  They are open to research and are used by a range of different sectors of the community including academics, writers, the media, students and people who just have a general interest.  The users come from all over the world and access the material under supervision at the Mass-Observation Archive.
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