MI Diaries Project – How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed Michigan residents’ lives and language?

Over the past almost two years, life in Michigan has gone through some profound changes. For example, shortly after the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, the practice of social distancing was adopted to some degree by a large number of people. How has this led to changes in peoples’ lives, and how have these changes affected people’s language? Now that some aspects of daily life are shifting back into a degree of normalcy (many schools and workplaces are operating primarily in-person, etc.), what kind of effects would one expect this return to have?

These sorts of questions motivated Dr. Betsy Sneller and Dr. Suzanne Wagner, two linguists at Michigan State University, to launch a large-scale project collecting oral journal entries from as many Michigan residents as possible. This project became MI Diaries.

Share Your Story Each Week And Be Part of History

Every week, the MI Diaries project sends an email to participants; these emails contain prompts to help participants start talking and sharing their stories (like “What are you grateful for this week” or “Have you ever had a first impression of someone be wrong?”), but participants don’t have to stick to them—they can talk about anything and everything they want. Some diarists use the project as a daily or weekly journal. Others use it to talk about important events in their lives periodically. There is no one right way to record entries: that’s up to each diarist.

MI Diaries recognizes its potential as a significant primary historical source documenting life in Michigan during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. This is why the project has partnered with the Library of Michigan to preserve these anonymized recordings for posterity in their digital corpus. Each participant can determine for themselves whether or not they want their
recordings to be held in this manner.

How You Can Participate in the MI Diaries Project

MI Diaries Project

MI Diaries is still very actively collecting spoken diary entries from both recurring contributors and new participants! Signing up is a simple process: first, visit the main project page at https://mi-diaries.org/. From there, click on “Sign up” on the homepage, follow the directions listed on the following page, and enter your information and privacy preferences.

After you sign up and the project sends you a confirmation email, you can download the app that’s used to send diary entries to the project—for Apple users, it can be found in the App Store, and for Android users, it can be found in GooglePlay. As a way of recognizing the value of the diary entries that participants provide the project, those who contribute at least 15 minutes of audio diary within every two weeks are eligible to receive a $5 thank-you (as an Amazon gift card that will be emailed to you).

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