Like many people, I’ve spent most of the past six months in isolation or near enough, doing lockdown projects. This is a great catch-all term to cover everything, from active work to scrolling through Twitter reading about anything that seems crucial at the time.

One of the best things I did was complete my first FutureLearn course: Why We Post – the anthropology of social media. FutureLearn is a great platform and I highly recommend it. You can access all sorts of interesting academic courses – for free. Here’s the current list.

On the anthropology course, I heard about Anthrocovid – a crowdsourced “digital ethnography” of life during the Covid-19 pandemic.

What is digital ethnography?

Ethnography is the study of a particular human group or society in their real world environment. Digital ethnography is the online version. The Anthrocovid website is very cool. It’s filled with everyday stories of people all over the world caught up in the coronavirus pandemic. It’s open to anyone – you can add your own experience here.

You’ll need to answer three questions:

  1. What is the main challenge Covid-19 has posed in the community you’re working with or are a part of?
  2. How are people responding?
  3. What aspect of your experience is important to document?

Here’s my contribution.

(Thanks Outsider Tart, Ocado, Dave Woods and X-Ray Ted for screenshots!)

More great stories

If you search for “Digital ethnography” on Wikipedia you’ll get redirected to a page on cyber ethnography started in 2006. I suppose at some point we won’t need to worry about what to call it as we’ll no longer be making any distinction between on and offline.

Anthrocovid is supported by University College London and reminds me of Urban Tapestries, an early collaborative project run by Giles Lane and backed by the London School of Economics. Urban Tapestries was set up in 2002 and collected stories from members of the public about specific physical locations. The aim was to build up “organic, collective memories that trace and embellish different kinds of relationships across places, time and communities”.

But while Urban Tapestries mapped a network over real places in London, Anthrocovid maps a network over the world. You can read about people using digital technologies to enhance their lockdown experience in many countries.

Here are some of my favourites:

Even if you don’t contribute, Anthrocovid is well worth a visit. Especially in these travel-limited times!

The impact of social media on people, society and culture