We were delighted to find out that we were successful in gaining funding from the ESRC to begin work on the ‘Defining Mass Observation’ project; and we are thrilled that that this is a collaborative project, with academics working in partnership with the Mass Observation Archive (MOA).
The project aims to find out more about the 4,000 people who have been writing for the contemporary Mass Observation Project (MOP) since it started in 1981. We hope this will benefit a wide range of communities: schools, adult education groups, community groups, lay researchers, academics, policy makers and practitioners.
Why we are doing this
For some time there has been a debate about the ‘representativeness’ of the MOP writers. The MOA has undertaken some basic analyses of its writers, and found that at certain points in the lifetime of the MOP, writers have been over-represented by women, aged 50+, living in the South East. Using these analyses, some academics have argued that the MOP writers are not representative of the broader UK population, and thus their writing should not be used for research purposes. Other academics have argued that the depth and quality of MOP writing makes it a unique longitudinal resource that can be used by a range of different types of researchers, from all walks of life, and from any disciplinary field. Unfortunately this debate has impacted on the trust and use of the archive.
This project aims to finally put an end to this debate by producing sophisticated analyses of MOP writers that provide clear descriptions of writers and their socio-economic characteristics, and insights into how writers perceive themselves. This will enable all users of the archive to be confident about how and why they use this resource.
What we hope to achieve by the end of the project
At the end of this project we will have produced several outputs that will be of direct benefit to the users and potential users of the MOP:
- An interactive, online, searchable database, enabling archive users to undertake a wide variety of searches of writer characteristics and responses to different directives. This will be accessible through the MOA website.
- Published accessible reports and articles describing MOP writers, that will be of interest to lay and academic audiences
- A day conference launching the interactive database.
The project will run until 2016. We aim to provide regular updates on our progress. So please keep visiting.
And, please leave comments! We would love to know what you think about the project, and the website.