The Mass-Observation Movement


The New Yorker has published yet another interesting and relevant article. In his discussion of the Mass Observation Movement Caleb Crain describes how, during the 1930’s and 40’s hundreds of observers recorded the everyday habits, actions and attitudes of the ordinary person. “No detail was too trivial. Mass-Observation studied which end of a cigarette people tap before lighting it (57% of people tap the end they put in their mouths)”.

The inventors of the movement were anthropologists, poets and painters and had strong links with the Surrealist movement and yet from these fantastic beginnings the movement eventually became incorporated into the most respectable of activities, market research.


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