On September 17th the People Like You team held a public event at Kings Place, London, on Contemporary Figures of Personalisation. It was an opportunity to showcase some of the work of our project, incuding presentations from three artists in residence, and to discuss key issues in personalisation across a range of sectors. Here are some images from the day.
Highlights from the day can be found in our blog “Those shoes that follow you round the internet”: contemporary figures of personalisation
‘People Like You’ hosted a small workshop exploring a new political arithmetic that puts data in dynamic relation through tracking, analysis, and feedback. Here’s some images from the two days, you can also read about it on our blog.
Rina Dave had stage 4 breast cancer and, during her treatment, made studio photographs of the people keeping her alive at Charing Cross Hospital and beyond. They were exhibited Imperial College London, 2014: 24 larger than life portraits that included a man on a motorbike, a father with his young child, a woman in a carnival headdress.
In 2015, Rina peacefully passed away at home in India. Inspired by her project, we designed a feedback wall for Imperial’s 2019 Great Exhibition Road Festival around Rina’s question ‘What makes you feel alive?’ We tested the device subsequently at a training session for cancer researchers, an open day and in a chemotherapy day unit. Since it helped spark conversations about research, we then made this video.
Figuration may encompass any or all of processes of representation, calculation, analogisation, prediction, and conceptualisation. It cuts across multiple scales, epistemological modes, and disciplinary areas of enquiry. It tackles problems that cross into disparate disciplines. The conference proposition was that it can help us think and study our increasingly datified present.
Over two days, more than 50 presenters and 4 keynote speakers addressed how the ‘figure’ and its variants—figuration, figuring, to figure, and so on—is being developed and used in disciplines including the medical humanities, the social sciences, media studies, art history, literary studies, philosophy, science and technology studies, urban studies, and geography.
In the project ‘People Like You’ we are interested in the creation and use of categories: from the making of natural kinds to what has been called dynamic nominalism, that is, the process in which the naming of categories gives opportunities for new kinds of people to emerge. And while the making of categories is often the prerogative of specialised experts, the last few years have seen a proliferation of categories associated with social, political and medical moves to go beyond the binaries of male/female and men/women. Emerging categories include: transgender, gender-neutral, intersex, gender-queer and non-binary.
The question of who gets included, who gets excluded and who belongs in categories is complicated, and depends in part on where the category has come from, who created it, who maintains it, who is conscripted into it, who needs to be included and who can avoid being categorised at all. Categories are rarely simply accepted; they need to be communicated, are frequently contested and may be rejected. There is a politics of representation in the acceptance – or not – of categories.
The case of toilet signs provides an everyday – sometimes humorous – example of this politics.