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mass observation

anthropologists, home from studying exotic natives in the islands of the empire, turned the same practice to the English working class in the 1930s. excited to see what meaning would reveal itself through the detailed observation of the minutiae of their impoverished  lives; how an archive of singular observations could coalesce into something constructive / instructive.
in english the word ‘experience’ has two meanings – that which happens to us and that which constitutes understanding or some kind of mastery. in German; erlebnis and erfahrung respectively. Walter Benjamin’s trauma of modernity was the relentless cascade of erlebnis.
so the mass observationists collected an expanding archive (2million words documented in the first year) of erlebnis. erlebnis of workers at the pub, in the factory, at home; never-ending diaries of what happened one meaningless day to one meaningless person multiplied by a million.

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