Rupture, repetition and new rhythms for pandemic times: Mass Observation, everyday life and COVID-19

Dawn Lyon*, Rebecca Coleman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The COVID-19 pandemic has foregrounded the significance of time to everyday life, as the routines, pace and speed of social relations were widely reconfigured. This article uses rhythm as an object and tool of inquiry to make sense of spatio-temporal change. We analyse the Mass Observation (MO) directive we co-commissioned on COVID-19 and Time, where volunteer writers reflect on whether and how time was made, experienced and imagined differently during the early stages of the pandemic in the UK. We draw on Henri Lefebvre and Catherine Régulier’s ‘rhythmanalysis’, taking up their theorisation of rhythm as linear and cyclical and their concepts of arrhythmia (discordant rhythms) and eurhythmia (harmonious rhythms). Our analysis highlights how MO writers articulate: (i) the ruptures to their everyday rhythms across time and space; (ii) their experience of ‘blurred’ or ‘merged’ time as everyday rhythms are dissolved and the pace of time is intensified or slowed, and; (iii) the re-making of rhythms through new practices or devices and attunements to nature. We show how rhythm enables a consideration of the spatio-temporal textures of everyday life, including their unevenness, variation and difference. As such, the article contributes to and expands recent scholarship on the social life of time, rhythm and rhythmanalysis, everyday life and Mass Observation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-48
Number of pages23
JournalHistory of the Human Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the British Academy (grant no. SRG2021\211073).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


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