'The extra dimension' : a study and assessment of the methods employed by mass-observation in its first period 1937-40
The nineteen-thirties spawned many odd movements, among which
Mass-Observation is often mentioned in a footnote to histories
of the period. It is the purpose of this study to re-examine
the organisation's importance for sociological methodolo, y.
It is here argued that Mass-Observation has been ignored and
misrepresented, And that as a consequence the possibilities
it offered sociology have been wasted. In the introductory
chapter some reasons for this neglect are su;
the next two chapters particularly interesting areas are
examined. The first of these concerns the use of artistic
sources in social research, and the second the employment of
untrained observers in data-collection. The fourth chapter
is devoted to the debhte between Mass-Observation and academic
critics both of the time and subsequently. The final chapter
takes up some of the broader implications of the Mass-Observation
experiment for present research strategies, and raises
the question of the status of amateurs in social research.
The main thrust of this work is the examination of the degrees
to which Mass-Observation differed from other styles of investigation
and an evaluation of the success of such innovative
measures. It is this achievement that is referred to
as 'the extra dimension'. ' This work argues ' that the benefits
derived from literary and artistic approaches enabled the organisation
to develop a flexible and convincing reportage.
Furthermore, the amateur panel, 'untrained but shrewd', not
only provided a rich source of data, but represented the
germ of a new approach to the making of sociological records,
one only_ten up subsequently within phenomenological sociology.
It is the conclusion of this work that the example of
Mass-Observation is worth close study by all engaged in qualitative