Charting the lockdown experience

Covid-19 Opinion

Over recent weeks we at Vox Pops International have edited and released weekly videos curated from footage filmed by six millennials through the Covid-19 lockdown.

The video diary series has seen an encouraging response, possibly the result of a strongsense of connection between our viewers and our diarists. By melding their stories into aweekly narrative-led edit we’ve conveyed gripping insights, parallels and contrasts throughthis life-changing epoch.

Each participant began recording aspects of their lives in-transition just one week before the UK went into lockdown. The “data” (the diarists’ footage) is, of course, qualitative andanecdotal. We have a small target group. It’s a centralised target group. But nonetheless, our edits of their content tell important real-time stories of how the lockdown and outbreak are affecting the lives of said group.

The footage we gather from the diarists alone shows clear trends and disparities across their experiences week to week. There’s an abundance of insights which we plan to explore further by making themed edits. However, our main goal for now has been to formulate their videos into a topical piece of storytelling to release each week. Stories portray culture, time, place and experiences in a way that data just can’t and it’s in this way that our series hasbeen a success. A huge challenge for us has been whittling down footage for our weekly edit since the content has been so captivating.

The process

Just before the UK lockdown, we gave our participants a simple task list. Introduce yourselves; who are you? Where are you? Has your life changed yet? Has your work been affected yet? Your social life? Your living situation? How do you feel about everything that’s happening and how do you think the outbreak will develop? Don’t just tell, please show, too! It just so happened to be the time when everything radically changed. Partway through the week, the government announced a nationwide quarantine. The diaries show participants reacting to the news that their jobs have been put “on-hold” while others make the migrationfrom the office to home. We see hard decisions being made, like who to spend lockdown with and where? We see a nurse in quarantine after getting sick and bemoaning the near non-existence of PPE. We see a household of young renters take in the BBC News at Six and the lockdown measures as they are announced.For the first and second weeks we loosely “directed” our diarists by suggesting general themes on which to give their opinions and aspects of their lives for them to show. However, it quickly became clear that this wasn’t the best way to move forward. While some aspects of life were ubiquitous for the sample group (everyone is experiencing a lockdown) others, of course, varied. Maintaining close contact and communication with our diarists became an essential part of the process to ensure we could be reactive in adapting to a participant’schanging situation and gently guiding their content for individual relevance each week.

The raw footage

Though we weren’t actively searching for patterns among the participants, it was fun to notice some similarities arise in video files that we received each week. For example, three of our participants were nominated by friends via Instagram to run 5k and donate 5 pounds to the NHS all in the same week (one can only wonder at the power of social media inspreading trends and synchronizing events in this demographic) and two of our participants purchased home plants from the same trendy online plant retailer, again in the very sameweek as each other. From a glance it’s easy to draw the following conclusions: this small sample group takes the lockdown rules seriously. They are worried about work, they might not be hit as hard asothers groups, lots of them have been exercising more than usual (even professing they’d never been fitter). Many people picked up old hobbies. And then there were disparities. Some jobs made an easy transition in moving to a working from home set up. Others’ jobs had dried up, while our NHS worker had to swap wards and experienced extra hours.

Outcome and potential

However, our objective was not to compile statistics but to utilise all this information to simply tell real people’s stories in the face of this outbreak and lockdown. To chart a group undergoing a huge change in lifestyle at a globally significant time. And the series does just that, in what we hope is an enlightening, touching and engaging way. Some of the stories may resonate with viewers, others may not, but either way, they represent and compellingly portray true consequences of the time.

We see a huge potential for this format or similar to be used for conveying so much; times of transition, personal journeys, experiences, opinions and inner lives from the likes of consumers, clients, employees, etc. Video diaries can be a powerful tool for learning about other perspectives too. When managed and curated carefully, we believe that video diary footage has the power to explore important issues through connecting with viewers,captivating their attention and leaving a lasting impact, too.