Change4Life: Calculation, prediction and the future
This paper focuses on the British government’s ongoing attempt to intervene in the predicted obesity crisis through the Change4Life health campaign, ‘a society-wide movement that aims to prevent people from becoming overweight by encouraging them to eat better and move more’ (Department of Health). Drawing on recent analyses of the campaign (Evans 2010, Evans et al 2011, Moor 2011), the paper explores the ways in which Change4Life is organised around particular versions of the future that are brought into the present via predictions, calculations and measurements, and that become materialized as current ways of life. The paper contributes to a renewed interest in time and futures (Adkins 2008, 2009, Adams, Murphy and Clarke 2009, Anderson 2010, 2011, Adam and Groves 2007, Cooper 2006, Coleman 2012) by conceiving time not only in terms of linear progression, butalso as multiple, affective, intensive. Indeed, as Adams et al indicate, contemporary life might be defined in terms of anticipation, where ‘possible futures […] are lived and felt as inevitable in the present’ (2009: 248). If Change4Life is a campaign that aims to bring the future into the present so that the obesity crisis can be intervened in, now, in what ways does it function as a form of anticipatory politics? Or, in Brian Massumi’s terms, how is prediction converted into pre-emption, where the present becomes organised around the future, ‘as if it had already occurred’ (2005: 8)? In this sense, how is politics acting on the future, on time itself? How is time a ma(r)ker of the social, and of social difference? The paper addresses these questions via a concern with the role of measure and valuation in predictions and calculations about the ‘obesity crisis’.
Rebecca Coleman's research interests are in bodies, images, time and futures, and affect. She is currently leading an ESRC Research Seminar Series on 'Austerity Futures? Imagining and Materialising the Future in an "Age of Austerity" which examines possible changes in the ways in which the future is imagined, planned for, worked towards and brought into being. She has recently published Transforming Images: Screens, Affect, Futures (2012, Routledge) which tracks a socio-cultural and bodily imperative for transformation across a range of different screens and considers how images of transformation function affectively through a version of a better future. Also on bodies, images and time is her previous book, The Becoming of Bodies: Girls, Images, Experience (2009, Manchester UP).
Keywords: time and futures; bodies; materialisation; images; affect.
from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013