CoronaDiaries : Documenting the everyday lived experiences of a global pandemic
The CoronaDiaries project provides a significant contribution to the understanding of, and response to, the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on everyday life, by recording the experiences of people through written and visual documents, testimonies and accounts. Whilst crucial medical and epidemiological knowledge is being produced to understand the virus, there is also an urgent need to use a social science lens in the response to COVID-19. It is vital to understand the key social, economic, and cultural features of this crisis and the impact of social isolation and confinement on individuals and wider society. These accounts, which document the first two years of the pandemic now appear in this online digital collection for public viewing and could directly influence the strategy and implementation of future waves and the contexts of health emergencies to better control future outbreaks and to prepare for them. These documents also act as a collection for future generations of the current situation
The CoronaDiaries project was a reactive social science study to an unprecedented crisis and began in March 2020. It collected different accounts over the first two years of the pandemic.
The project had a total of 185 participants, from or writing about, exeriences of the pandemic in 15 different countries. These participants were aged between 11 and 89. Nearly 1000 first-hand submissions - ranging from handwritten notebooks, diaries and dream logs to videos, social media posts, Tik Toks, music playlists and even a cross-stitch sampler - chronicle the first 24 months of the pandemic. Many of these accounts appear in this online digital collection.
These accounts of catching and surviving COVID, losing loved ones, and the reports of loneliness and isolation are highly moving, with rich descriptions of a rapidly changing world. They show how quickly people adapted to the crisis with submissions describing key events such as panic buying, social confinements and lockdowns, the NHS clap in the UK, political leaders catching COVID-19, the ongoing waves of the virus throughout 2020 and into 2021 and the development and implementation of a vaccine. Other events are also recorded such as the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter protests, the US election defeat of Donald Trump, 'Party Gate' in the UK and the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Participants also submitted summary pieces for the first and second year anniversary of the beginning of the pandemic.
These diaries also contain hope and humour, with contributors responding to the pandemic in creative and imaginative ways and with new interests and online interactions leading to a different kind of social life. The participants also report thar recording their experiences was cathartic and had helped them to process the changes that have taken place. This online digital collection is supported by a physical collection held at the Richard Burton Archives at Swansea University.
Most of these accounts have been anonymised to protect the identities of the participants and those they have included in their documents, but this anonymity has not always been possible for audio/visual accounts. All the material on display here, has been provided with written consent from all particpants.
Key Questions that guided 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?
The project began in March 2020 and the majority of documents were collected in batches, with participants submitting accounts at the end of each month over one calendar year, or when circumstances allowed. A small number of particpants maintained their diaires for two years, whilst others submitted summary pieces for the first and second year anniversaries of the pandemic.
The CoronaDiaries project was led by Dr Michael Ward, Senior Lecturer in Social Science at Swansea University. Over the course of the research period the project has been supported by Ellie George, Hanna Lloyd and Megan Evans, who all acted as Research Assistants. A team of student volunteers further assisted the project with data analysis and in preparing the documents for public viewing in this online digital collection. These volunteers include Catherine Hamilton, Ellen Weller, Nicole De-Pellegrin, Folasade Ajose, Ellie Griffiths, Nahomi Witt-Calvas, Sana Afreen, Angeliki Glarou, Stella-Rae Hicks, Ciaran Barry, Holly Beardshall, Maisie Godden, Georgia Rees and Emily Anderson.
The CoronaDiaries team have also worked in partnership with the Digital Humanities team at Swansea University to design and create this collection.
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 explore issues around inclusion and higher education, youth and belonging and conducting qualitative research. He is also editor of Boyhood. Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal.