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Observation and the Everyday


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor: to be confirmed
  • Assessment: a 2000-word essay (100%)

Module description

Observation is part of everyday life: we are observing the people we live with and encounter, the places we pass through and inhabit, all the time. But do we really see what is before us? Do we really listen to the voices and sounds that surround us? What do we focus on? Why do we notice some things and not others? What do we remember of what we observe? How much of what we observe 'gets inside us', affects us? What just passes us by, and escapes our attention? What are we missing? And how might we use our observations of everyday life situations as a resource to better understand the psychosocial dimensions of the world we inhabit?

In this module we explore the practice of observation as a mode of psychosocial inquiry and research. You will be introduced to a range of traditions of observation in the social sciences, arts and humanities, in order to develop a psychosocial observational sensibility and a repertoire of observational skills that mobilise our senses and stimulate our thinking about the everyday world in which we live. Recognising that observation takes place in time and space, we will pay attention to the particularity of specific places at particular times and for a specified duration. Our focus will be on 'everyday' settings and public practices in the urban environments and neighbourhoods of London.

Throughout the module we will reflect on the role of the observer and her/his relationship to the observed, and we will consider issues of power, responsibility and ethics in relation to observation.

Indicative syllabus

  • Observation as a method of psychosocial inquiry and research
  • The idea of 'the everyday': urban spaces, public encounters, habitual and social life
  • Traditions of observational inquiry I: sociology and anthropology
  • Traditions of observational inquiry II: psychology and psychoanalysis
  • Traditions of observational inquiry III: psychogeography and artistic practice
  • Traditions of observational inquiry IV: journalism and street photography
  • Mobilising the sensorium: seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, feeling
  • The ethics and politics of observation

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate awareness of the range of ways in which researchers might engage in practices of psychosocial observation
  • understand the concept of the everyday within psychosocial studies and related fields
  • demonstrate skills in recording and re-presenting psychosocially informed observations of the everyday in one or more specific urban 'sites of the psychosocial'
  • demonstrate a psychosocial sensibility that is attuned to the visual, the auditory, the olfactory and the kinaesthetic dimensions of everyday life in the city
  • demonstrate awareness of the importance of reflexivity and the positionality/situatedness of the observer/participant
  • think about the relationship between subjectivity, space and embodied experience.