Panel Event

1 July, 2019 23:59

Call for Papers – ‘Figurations: Persons In/Out of Data’

16-17 December, 2019, Goldsmiths, University of London

Abstracts due: July 1st, 2019. Submit here.


Confirmed keynotes:

Professor Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Simon Fraser University

Professor Jane Elliot, University of Exeter

Professor John Frow, The University of Sydney

Professor Susanne Kuechler, University College London

Professor AbdouMaliq Simone, The University of Sheffield


We’re drowning in an ocean of data, or so the saying goes. Data’s “big”: there’s not only lots of it, but its volume has allowed for the development of new, large-scale processing techniques. Our relationship with governments, medical organisations, technology companies, the education sector, and so on are increasingly informed by the data we overtly or inadvertently provide when we use particular services. The proverbial data deluge is large-scale—but it’s also personal.


Data increasingly characterises what it means to be a person in the present. Data promises to personalise services to better meet our individual needs. Data is often construed as a threat to our person(s). Not every person predicated by data is predicted the same. The intersection between data and person isn’t fixed: it has to be figured.


The aim of this conference is to bring together an interdisciplinary group of researchers to explore how the person—or persons, plural—are figured in/out of data. The figuration of a person might 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. Our proposition is that the conceptual language of ‘the figure’ and its variations—figuration, figuring, to figure, and so on—can help us to apprehend what the person is and how it is processed in the present.


We invite proposals for 20-minute presentations that take up or respond to the question of how the person is figured in/out of data. We are interested in presentations that address the conceptual, methodological, analytical and/or empirical challenge of figuring the person in the present. Conversely, we are also interested in papers that take up the concept of the figure—broadly construed—as an heuristic for producing knowledge about the constitution of person(s) in the present.


Our proposition is deliberately interdisciplinary. We encourage proposals from researchers working in disciplines for whom the figure is central. These might include, but are not limited to: the social sciences, art history, media studies, the medical humanities, literary studies, philosophy, science and technology studies, urban studies, or geography.


The themes that papers might address could include:

  • The figuration of person or persons in/out of data;
  • Techniques of personalisation and the figuration of the person or persons;
  • Approaches that address the interrelation of visual, numerical, statistical, metaphorical, and/or philosophical modes of figuring the person or persons in the present;
  • Conceptual languages for apprehending persons in relation to data—e.g. the subject, identity, user, data double, individual, dividual, etc.;
  • The relationship between collective categories and/or category production—like persons, population, distributed reproduction, homophily, etc.—and techniques of figuration;
  • Figure as a concept for thinking gender in, e.g., science and technology studies;
  • The art-historical/psychological/media-theoretical concept of “figure/ground” and persons/data;
  • The relationship between visual and numerical modes of figuring and the constitution of persons;
  • Literary/linguistic uses of figuration in e.g. metaphor, analogy, simile, the icon, etc. in relation to the person or persons and data;
  • Figuration as a means of thinking the relationship between image/text/number or media and code;
  • Related concepts—like the diagram or pattern—as complements to or substitutes for the figure;
  • Conceptualising figuration in relation to resemblance, similarity, seriality, difference, etc.


Please submit abstracts of 300 words, including your institutional affiliation(s) and a short biography (a line or two is fine), via the online form at this link. The deadline for abstract submissions is July 1st, 2019.


Please also note that we have a small budget for bursaries to assist graduate students and early-career researchers with travel costs. These will be awarded based on need and more details will be advertised shortly.


If you have any enquiries, please direct them to Scott Wark at

Panel Event

30 April, 2019

Competition on the theme of People Like You

Competition on the theme of People Like You

Competition Brief

Have you ever been told ‘People like you like things like this’? Recommendations that come in this form are examples of personalisation.

Personalisation practices address you as an individual with unique tastes and preferences, whilst simultaneously saying you are similar to other people. Maybe you are ‘like’ someone else because you ‘like’ the same things. Maybe you are like others in other ways: you have the same interests; you share the same health condition; you like cats, not dogs; you don’t like being labelled. Maybe you’re not like others at all – maybe personalised services feel anything but personal to you. 

How do you imagine ‘People like you?’ What are your experiences of personalisation? When do they get it right and how do you respond when they get it wrong?

Share an image, text, data-based or number-based entry on the theme of ‘People like you’ for a chance to win. Let us know which entry you like best!

First prize: £250; second prize: £75; third prize: £50.

People’s Choice prize: £100

The competition opens on Monday the 4th of March and will close on the 30th April. Winners will be announced on Friday 31st May.

To enter, please visit the Competition website

People Like You is a research project funded by the Wellcome Trust (grant no: 205456/Z/16/Z).

Panel Event

12 April, 2019 15:00

Sophie Day

Ethnographies of disease stratification: Understanding novel clinical practices and their social consequences in contemporary cancer care

The biomedical ability to detect specific molecular features of tumours is driving clinical innovation towards more precise diagnoses and more effective treatments by way of “stratification”. These innovations inspire new hopes for more effective and targeted treatments with fewer side effects. However, they also provoke major dilemmas around individual and population-wide treatment decisions, equity of treatment access, and the social formations of care. Current approaches in cancer care thus re-articulate forms of biological and social stratification, with important implications for patient experience and biomedical knowledge.

This one day symposium brings together scholars from a range of social science disciplines to consider the social consequences of these innovations across a number of different sites around the world. Presentations will reflect on the ways in which contemporary oncology is becoming reconfigured at various levels by the practices of disease stratification and its promise of improved health outcomes for those affected by cancer. Further discussions throughout the day will be led by senior academics with expertise in historical and anthropological approaches to cancer:

Dr Sophie Day, Professor at Goldsmiths, University of London

Dr Maryon McDonald, Fellow at Robinson College, University of Cambridge

Dr Carsten Timmerman, Senior lecturer, University of Manchester

The event is free, but tickets must be booked in advance through Eventbrite. Limited bursaries are available for post-graduate students travelling from within the UK. Please contact us directly to request a bursary, outlining your research interest and approximate travel costs. Lunch and refreshments will be provided throughout the day.

This event is supported by the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness. For further information or to request a bursary, please contact Ignacia Arteaga at