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Materialising Number Through Measure

Celia LuryMaterialising Number Through Measure: Sensing, Knowing and Participating

Numbers are not abstractions, but situated material-semiotic entities.


The focus of this project is on the performativity of numbers in the creation and use of units of measure. Units of measure can be traced back to, and acquire authority in relation to, samples, populations and medical knowledge. As thresholds, probabilities and targets, they also refer forward to contexts of use, including medical, health and well-being practices in professional and everyday life. The dynamic capacities of units of measure - to refer backwards and forwards, anticipating contexts of use - belie the apparent abstraction and inertness of numbers.

Units of measure are likely to be multiplied in the hybrid medical and health practices emerging in different national contexts and associated with ongoing developments in e- and m-health. This study is exploring the emergence of new numeracy in practices of sensing, knowing and participating, and combines theoretical exploration, empirical investigation and design practice.


Professor Celia Lury (Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, Warwick)
Professor Sophie Day (Anthropology, Goldsmiths)
Dr Nina Wakeford (Sociology, Goldsmiths).


Intel Foundation