The coronavirus has made the familiar strange in a lot of unprecedented ways. At this uncertain and challenging time, as a sociologist it is fascinating to watch society being made and remade on a daily, often hourly basis. Even our prime minister seems to have had to admit that there is now such a thing as society. My sociological work to date has focused on social inequality and young men’s lives, both within and beyond educational institutions. Yet this current time of crisis has drawn me to a new project, which will provide a social science lens to the responses from both vital medical and epidemiological expertise. Reacting swiftly to this in terms of creating a new research study, is helping me process these changes and maintaining some normality, although a new normal will emerge from all this.
The CoronaDiaries project is situated within this current and ongoing period of global uncertainty. It is a reactive study to an unprecedented crisis, which will gather rich, thick qualitative data over the next six months from participants own accounts across the UK and wider afield. The project will record and archive the experiences of people living through the crisis and after it by collecting written or visual documents, testimonies and accounts, similar to those collected before, during and after the Second World War in the Mass Observations Studies. Participants own responses could directly impact on and create a strategy and execution of the Coronavirus reaction and the contexts of planning for future outbreaks and to also get ready for them. Sociology, and it’s other social science counterparts as BSA president Susan Halford outlined last week, is needed to make a difference and to make sense of what is going on. From the responses I have already gained, I think these different forms of documentation, will act as a coping tool and be a way to share pains and experiences with others. They will also act as a recording for future generations of the current situation.
Key questions that guide this study:
1) Whilst governments and organizations are advising or forcing individuals and families to create new ways of living, e.g social isolation, social distancing and ‘lockdowns’, how are people experiencing and coping with this?
2) When people lose control to an unseen enemy and they are unable to control the situation of their own lives, what strategies are adopted in unprecedented contexts?
3) How is society being made and remade during the pandemic?
4) How do individuals cope under times of enormous pressure and changes?
5) How is society being organised at different levels, state, nation, community, family and individually?
6) What challenges do people feel they face now and in the future?
7) How does social class, gender, ethnicity and sexuality impact on people’s experiences of the pandemic?
Documents will be collected in batches, with participants submitting documents at the end of March then at the end of each month until September or when circumstances allow.
Find out more about the project and taking part.
Dr Michael R.M Ward, is Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences at Swansea University. His work centres on social inequality and the lives of young men within and beyond educational institutions. He is the author of the award-winning book From Labouring to Learning: Working-Class Masculinities, Education and De-industrialization (2015) and has edited or co-edited a further five titles which explored issues around higher education, youth and belonging and conducting qualitative research. He is also editor of Boyhood. Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Michael is BSA convenor of the Education study group and annual conference stream coordinator.