Mass-Observation, Microscopy, and the Everyday Essay

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Mass-Observation, Microscopy, and the Everyday

The everyday is an assimilation of fragmented happenings that are interwoven to manifest society. A general stereotype of society can not be drawn from a single fragment, but must be created through an examination of the relationships between individual pieces. Every fragment, no matter how banal, contributes to the understanding of the everyday. In order to study the everyday, the use of microscopy and Mass-Observation are essential because they provide a way of viewing the everyday in a way that is unfamiliar.

Every minute atom is part of a whole intricate system of operations. Though the atom is minute, the way it interacts with the objects around it is important. Whether it is
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Society is intricate and comprised of countless fragments that interact on a day to day basis. To examine only one fragment at a single point in time does not suffice to give knowledge to the everyday. Observation of the interactions of the fragments within the environment provides meaning to Simmel’s theory that "Society is merely the name for a number of individuals, connected by interaction” (Fundamental Problems of Sociology). Mass observation at the microscopic level attempts to create a macroscopic view of the totality of society. Looking closely at the minutest fragment and comparing it to thousands of similar fragments generates a general theory about the fragment and the environment.

Looking at the ordinary of the everyday at a microscopic level and summarizing it in a database provides a unique way to examine the everyday. Cataloguing every detail of a similar environment at a microscopic level allows inferences to be easily made and supported. Mass observation originated in the nineteen hundreds when thousands of accounts of the ‘ordinary’ were archived to be examined (Highmore 75). The approach to accumulating the ‘ordinary’ varied, but the information archived allowed the everyday to be analyzed. The focus of Mass-Observation is viewing and recording the ordinary in a way that is objective. Information gathered through Mass-Observation provides a basis for looking at the familiar in an unfamiliar way.

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