Focus Group 2013/2014
The Quantification Focus Group will analyze the production and communication of numbers. Comprised of historians, sociologists, accountants and anthropologists, this group will examine the power of numbers to represent, alter and create social worlds. We associate quantification with objectivity, precision, rationality and, increasingly, with accountability and efficiency. How did these associations come about? What causes quantification to spread? Which kinds of expertise and resources are needed in order to make credible numbers? What powers do we attribute to numbers and how do they interact with other kinds of authority? In what ways have numbers changed how we think about the world, solve problems, and engage in politics? These are some of the questions our members will address in institutional contexts ranging from statistical offices in India, insane asylums in Europe, credit ratings in the United States, and the development of infrastructure in the Qing Empire.