1.Introduction

Research Question & Project Outline

Realm of Design Research — In order to critically reflect on the effects and consequences of the classificatory systems of difference (Hall, 1997), I want to research the realm of human classification that are used in 21st century Dutch media reality through visual analysis and designed dialogues.

Research Question — How are classifications of human groups used in Dutch media reality to organise and identify a society?

Which systems of classification are used and how is it used to define different social groups? By which parameters are groups categorised, labeled and classified? How do the groups relate to each other? What are the power structures? Who classifies and who is classified? What are the effects and consequences of these systems on methods of inclusion and exclusion: how we assess groups as ‘part of’ or ‘not-part-of’ our society? Is it possible to move beyond limitations of labels, to break through barriers of to transcend the boxes? How can we design an alternative system or strategy that celebrates or acknowledges the complexity, ambiguity and fluidity of identity?

The project took on a shape by creating a database. I started to cut out and collect articles from De Volkskrant on a daily basis during a period of 11 months. This body of data consisting of images, facts, quotes and headlines became the designated area for a more in depth design research into the work of classification in Dutch media society. Through iterative processes, I designated different perspectives on how to approach this subject. This ultimately led to the multitude of visual analyses you find in chapter three. All of these analyses focus on a certain perspective. The incomplete timeline of human classification is an ongoing collection of found cartographies of classificatory systems that are used in Western society. This creates a historical context of the research. The first and second analyses, i.e typology and stereotypology are both infographics; the first with a focus on what is defined as a group and the second one on how a group is talked about. The third analysis visually describes the dialogue as method to get a new perspective on the subject. In the following chapters I will expand on the objectives of the database and mappings and show you which design choices were made and what the consequences were. All together, I hope this publication gives you insight into how these different layers of information, selected, re-edited, re-categorised, re-interpreted and discussed, lead to a complex and ambiguous notion on the purpose of social classification.