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New project will record a digital day in the life of modern childhood

Dear Digital Diary...Sussex researchers are creating an archive of children's lives in the multi-media modern world.

A new digital archive of children’s lives, using the material they themselves have produced, is being created by researchers at the University of Sussex.

Curating Childhoods is a 12-month study that will involve pupils at schools in East Sussex submitting their own multi-media accounts – including videos and photographs -  of a day in their life.

The material, which will be gathered by researchers at the University’s Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth (CIRCY), will be housed in the University’s Mass Observation Archive.

The project is one of ten being funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in the UK as part of its new Digital Transformations theme, aimed at looking at the creation and interpretation of ‘big data’ in  arts and humanities research.

Lead researcher and Sussex sociologist Professor Rachel Thomson says: “At the moment children and young people use social media to personally record and document their lives on a daily basis, but there are very few contemporary public records of their daily lives.

“The project will open up dialogue between researchers, archivists and young people, asking if it is possible to  create ethically sensitive public accounts of children and young people’s everyday lives in the digital age.”

Professor Thomson, who will be working with CIRCY’s Dr Liam Berriman and Mass Observation’s curator Fiona Courage, adds: "Building on the legacy of the Mass Observation Archive as a record of everyday lives - we hope that this project will create an important historical record on everyday childhoods in a digital age, and that it will be useful to researchers now and in the future."

Although the project is only being piloted for a year, the researchers hope to make the gathering of one-day multi-media accounts an annual event.

The AHRC is funding nine other digital projects at other universities through its ‘amplification awards’.

Professor Andrew Prescott, the AHRC Theme Leader Fellow for Digital Transformations, commented: “A particularly important aspect of these awards is the way in which a number of them explore the role of artistic practice in helping us to assimilate and explore the explosion in the availability of data of all types.”

Notes for editors 

By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Wednesday, 9 July 2014