'Clearly Necessary', 'Wonderful' and 'Engrossing'? Mass observation correspondents discuss forensic technologies
Sociological Research Online
This article explores the perspectives of Mass Observation (MO) correspondents on crime investigation and application of forensic technologies in police work. Using the Panel's replies to two distinct, independently commissioned Directives (the 2006 Spring Directive, Part 1 'Genes, Genetics and Cloning' and the 2011 Autumn/Winter Directive, Part 1, 'Crime and Investigation'), the article examines the meanings and place correspondents give to genetics and forensic science in everyday life and in relation to crime and investigation, surveillance and law and order. The analysis surveys MO correspondents' understandings of the relationship between forensic technologies and policing and identifies the ways in which correspondents interpret, engage with and discuss their writing tasks. It is argued that MO data offer significant insights into how individuals select and appropriate information on different topics and incorporate this knowledge into distinct worldviews. These accounts constitute a rich, yet under-explored resource for (1) documenting the range of resources that inform the 'forensic imaginary' on which correspondents draw in explaining their fascination with or disinterest in criminal investigation and (2) conceptualising the ways in which distinct publics reflect on representations of crime. While the analysis highlights the benefits and limitations of a Mass Observation approach to documenting collective views on the role of forensic technologies in crime investigation, the conclusion reflects more broadly on both the contribution such an approach could make to the literature on public understandings of science and the uses and potential of MO data for social science researchers.
Vol. 19, Issue 3