May 12, 2012 Massly Observed

May 2, 2012

Hello and happy May-days.

I am starting a new project and I’d like to invite participation.

75 years ago a group called Mass Observation published a compilation of reports from over 200 individual observers. The book, May 12 1937, is a portrait of life in a single day.

The day of the title was a special occasion – the coronation of George VI. Yet, the actual remit of the Mass Observation movement was more about the everyday experience.

In the current environment of surveillance and twitter, I’d like us to return to a potential origin of self-consciousness as both repetition and homage.

I’d like us each to record a bit of May 12, 2012. At any point during the day, wherever you might find yourself, write down what you see, what you hear, what you feel. It can be extensive or brief, in depth or broad, whatever suits. Then email or post it to or 1 Agamemnon Road, flat b, London, NW6 1EB, UK. If you would like to maintain anonymity that’s fine, if you would like to be noted as a Mass Observer that’s fine too. The plan is to publish the results in a small volume.

Feel free to get in touch with any questions or queries. Comments are welcome. This call will be on Facebook and WordPress sites.

Some History:

The Mass Observation movement included a reliance on randomness and association to attempt to uncover an experiential picture. They then presented their observations through documents that result in depictions of associative connectivity. Begun by a poet, journalist, and Surrealist painter, Charles Madge, a documentary filmmaker, Humphrey Jennings, and an anthropologist, Tom Harrison, Mass Observation aimed to create “an anthropology of ourselves” by recording everyday life in Britain through a panel of around 500 untrained volunteer observers who either maintained diaries or replied to open-ended questionnaires. These observers acted as recorders, attempting to capture the everyday existence of their own lives and the lives of those around them.

Some Links:

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