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About

Everyday Life in Middletown is a collaboration between Ball State and citizens of Muncie, Indiana, to record, represent, and study everyday life in our city. Volunteers keep detailed diaries of their daily activities, which become part of our archive. These diaries reveal countless details of everyday life that would otherwise go unrecorded. They reveal the rhythms and disruptions of everyday life, the joys and frustrations of habit and routine, the uncharted territory of ephemeral thoughts and emotions. And they shed light on the commonalities between us in these politically divisive times, and the real differences between our daily experiences.

Everyday Life in Middletown aims to become a digital commons where people can gather around the topic of everyday life. We are motivated by a sense that much online and digital communication in our era is divisive, sorting people into self-segregating and often hostile communities. We believe that there are profound commonalities to be found in everyday life. Everyday Life in Middletown is a place where you can search out such common ground with your fellow citizens, and learn what their everyday lives are like. You can become part of our digital commons by reading in our archive or by writing for us.

Origins

Everyday Life in Middletown is inspired by two early twentieth-century projects: the best-selling book Middletown: A Study of a Midwestern City and Mass Observation, a collaboration of writers, artists, and film-makers in England in the late 1930s. Middletown, by Robert S. and Helen Lynd, was the result of eighteen months of close observation of life in Muncie in 1924 and 1925. The authors studied and wrote about such everyday matters as school attendance, dating, and the daily impact of the period’s most disruptive technology—the automobile. Their book, published in 1929, became one of the most influential descriptions of modern American life. Mass Observation recorded everyday life in Britain in the late 1930s using the concepts and methods of anthropology. (Founding member Tony Harrison had done field research on pre-modern people in Micronesia.) Mass Observation enlisted more than 1,500 people to compile day diaries and questionnaires documenting their everyday life, and observed and recorded behavior in pubs and dance halls and at sporting events. Everyday Life in Middletown shares Mass Observation’s belief that increased awareness of everyday life, among individuals and communities, can mitigate political polarization and social isolation and help produce a more civil and cooperative culture. It shares Middletown’s sense that middle-American life is of intrinsic interest and marked by tensions between continuity and change.

Everyday Life in Middletown began as an undergraduate seminar at the Virginia B. Ball Center for Collaborative Inquiry in Spring, 2016. In that seminar, 15 students, led by Professor and EDLM founder Patrick Collier, collected day diaries and assembled them into an archival and scholarly website and made the documentary film Everyday Melodies. The diaries collected for the seminar are now part of the EDLM archive.

Supporters

Everyday Life in Middletown is a project of the Center for Middletown Studies, and is supported by the Digital Scholarship Lab and the departments of History and English at Ball State University.

Staff

Patrick Collier, Project Director, pccollier@bsu.edu, 317-574-1576
James Connolly, Director, Center for Middletown Studies and Co-Director, Digital Scholarship Lab, jconnoll@bsu.edu
Megan Vohs, Editor and Research Assistant, mmvohs@bsu.edu