This site has been set up by Haidy Geismar and Hannah Knox at the UCL Centre for Digital Anthropology to collate ethnographic data on how people around the world are experiencing the appearance of COVID-19 in their lives.
One of the most striking effects of the virus has been the centrality of digital platforms to dealing with its everyday effects: the development of symptom trackers and state led systems of surveillance; the rapid transfer of intensely social activities like mealtimes, yoga and pub quizzes onto Skype and Zoom; and the fear of the effects of social isolation for those who do not have access to digital platforms.
As digital technologies both offer the promise of social salvation in the face of a global pandemic, and the risk of misuse under conditions of rapid change, this site aims to bring into view the everyday impact of COVID-19 on people’s lives around the world experienced through the lens of a digitally mediated pandemic.
Content for the site will be provided by a network of anthropological postgraduate researchers, alumni, postdocs and staff, as well as wider networks of research participants and colleagues who are already based in communities around the world and who are experiencing the effects of COVID-19 in their communities. Ethnography requires deep, long term relationships with people to understand their experiences in context, but at the same time, understanding an urgent crisis demands a different temporality.
By drawing on the experiences of those already conducting ethnographic research around the world the site aims to wed the sensitivity and nuance of ethnography with the need to rapidly gain an understanding of the unfolding social effects and implications of COVID-19 in real time. The site is thus an experiment in public anthropology and the data we collate is meant as a public resource for anthropologists now and in the future.
[ILLUSTRATION: CHRIS PHILPOT]