The Mass Observation Project
The Mass Observation Project (MOP) is a unique UK-based writing project which has been running since 1981. It exists to:
- Provide a structured programme within which “ordinary” people can write directly about their lives in the knowledge that what they send in will be archived for posterity and used for social research
- Create a resource of qualitative longitudinal social data with an emphasis on subjectivity and self representation which will contribute to our understanding of everyday life in the late 20th and early 21st century.
The MOP differs from other similar social investigations because of its historical link to the original Mass Observation and because of its focus is on voluntary, self-motivated participation. It revives the early Mass Observation notion that everyone can participate in creating their own history or social science. The Mass Observers do not constitute a statistically representative sample of the population but can be seen as reporters or “citizen journalists” who provide a window on their worlds.
The material is solicited in response to “directives” or open-ended questions sent to them by post or email three times a year. The directives contain two or three broad themes which cover both very personal issues and wider political and social issues and events. For more information about commissioning a directive visit here.
Over 4,500 people have taken part to date, many of them corresponding over several years. The current panel of active participants is 500. For more information about becoming a Mass Observer, visit our page about writing for us.
The collection comprises in-depth accounts (both opinion and experience) of everyday life: stories, memoirs, lists, letters, diagrams, drawings, maps, diaries, photographs, press cuttings, confessions, reports on people, places and events, across a wide variety of topics. Many of the themes have been chosen in collaboration with researchers and we continue to seek partners. For more information about working with us on research take a look at our page on collaboration on a directive or contact us.
Observing the 1980s
Selected Directive responses collected as part of the Mass Observation Project in the 1980s are available for research online. In 2012 the University of Sussex received JISC funding for a project called Observing the 1980s. This project brings together ‘voices’ from the Mass Observation Project and the British Library’s Oral History collections alongside 1980s documents and ephemera from the University of Sussex Library. For more information visit the Observing the 1980s webpage.
Find out how to search our collections.