Archive for November 4th, 2011

The art of eavesdropping

4 November 2011



The picture above is by Knut Ekwall, a Swedish painter (no, I hadn’t heard of him either).  It’s actually entitled ‘The proposal’, and in the room behind the eavesdropper you can make out a man and a woman in conversation.  As I come to the end of my first week as part of the Mass Observation project I have been realizing that my eavesdropping skills are not so hot.  In fact, my observation skills are not so great either.  On the bus I have learned to tune OUT rather than tune IN; and besides, hardly anyone talks!  Walking down the street I tend not to look directly at anyone, but to be thinking about something and simply using my eyes to avoid obstacles.  I most definitely don’t usually try to count pieces of rubbish or numbers of people smoking or people wearing red coats.  I thought a cafe would be a good place to hear what people are talking about but in fact there was so much chatter and noise that I could hardly pick anyone’s voice out.  The loudest and clearest person in any situation is always the person on their mobile phone.  Unfortunately sometimes it is hard to make out what they are talking about with only one half of the conversation.  And don’t get me started on hand cramp induced from actually having to use a pen for an extended period to take down my notes…This has been a useful learning experience already!