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