As you guys are talking about, we are living through historic times, and our lab at Michigan State is working on a project where we’re collecting oral histories from across the state of Michigan to kind of document this as it happens in real time.
So who are you asking?
We’re really looking for – we want to get perspectives from really everyone we can. [….] So far we’ve heard from a couple people who have recovered from COVID-19. We’ve heard from teachers, who are having to figure out how to navigate this new distance learning situation. We’d love to hear from, young know, small business owners. What are they doing, how are they navigating what I know is a hard economic time? We want to hear from really everybody.
Part of the project is these little mundane things that feel really small. But when you collect data from everybody, it turns out to be very interesting. So for instance, two weeks ago it was a very nice beautiful weekend and I was out in my backyard gardening, and my neighbor was also in their backyard gardening, and we talked over the fence a little bit. And I realized it was the first time I had spoken to someone who wasn’t my husband in over a month. It seems like a mundane story, but when you get all these little stories from people across the state, you really get a picture of how people’s lives are being affected right now.
And so what is the goal of the end product of this project?
So I’m part of the sociolinguistics lab, which studies how language changes and how social factors influence language. So one of the questions I’m interested in is, how does being socially isolated from people change how you talk? How does connecting to people via the internet change how you talk?
You know we’re already seeing – there’s a bunch of new terms. COVID-related and isolation-related terms that are entering people’s vocabularies. So it’s already happening.
How have you been encouraged by engaging in this project?
Thank you for asking that. It has been — you know, being in social isolation can be difficult. But hearing from people across the state, both stories of solidarity, that other people are going through similar things and of the creativity and the resilience of people across the state has been very uplifting.