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Displays of power | LSE Festival exhibition

Hosted by LSE Festival: Power and Politics

Great Hall, Marshall Building

How can we visualise different forms of power and their impact on politics?

Bringing together research from across the social sciences, the exhibition explores the people and institutions, technologies, infrastructure and other phenomena that shape our world.

Join us for the launch of the exhibition on Monday 10 June from 12-2pm, a reception with a chance to speak to some of the featured researchers.

More about this exhibition 

This event is part of the LSE Festival: Power and Politics running from Monday 10 to Saturday 15 June 2024, with a series of events exploring how power and politics shape our world.  

Projects on display:

Who has the power to address the child penalty globally?

The average working-age woman in the UK earned 40 per cent less than her male counterpart in 2019. The gender pay gap vastly increases after parenthood. This is known as the child penalty - the average amount by which a women’s probability of being employed declines in the 10 years following the birth of her first child. As of 2024, 24 per cent of women leave the labour force in the first year after having their first child, and 15 per cent are still absent after 10 years. Research by the LSE Hub of Equal Representation asks: what is driving this child penalty gap and what role can policymakers play in fixing it?

The uncertainty and scarcity of water in Jordan

Jordan is increasingly defined by water scarcity: its status as one of the most waterpoor nations on earth is repeated frequently in both the country’s own economic and climate change strategy documents, and in the reports of international donors. Yet this idea of absolute scarcity erases the way water flows are shaped by social practices and by power, and how this scarcity is experienced is extremely uneven.

Ethnographic research by Dr Frederick Wojnarowski, with users, officials and those whose lives are already being affected by water and scarcity, challenges the technical and apolitical understandings of the system and the types of solutions that might be effective. This display represents Jordan’s water system not as a technical system for the movement and management of a natural resource, but as a social and economic metabolism, in which many people and places are brought into relationships with each other at different scales by the contested flows of water. Water here speaks to wider flows of power, revealing issues of equity and distribution. Through a series of case studies the map looks at the water system, as it is generally understood, and asks some questions about what within this picture is unknown, uncertain, open to question or contentious.

Making research less... WEIRD

Most face libraries used in psychological research include only younger, Caucasian participants from Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic cultures. These databases are not representative of the diverse range of facial characteristics and expression found in general populations globally, which presents a major challenge to the quality and impact of research findings.

The study of face perception plays a pivotal role in advancing our understanding of social dynamics, and contributes to real-world developments in fields such as medicine and technology. Dr Deema Awad’s project calls for more researchers to report the demographics of their study participants, and paves the way for diversity in face libraries through the creation of a new, inclusive face database.

Making women's labour visible

Women and their largely unpaid and underpaid labour are missing from economic policymaking and are not recorded in key economic measures like GDP. This makes women’s contributions to the economy and society invisible. Created by five artists as part of the Invisibilised Labour project, these artworks show the impact of this erasure of women’s labour, make women’s work visible, and challenge dominant narratives about women’s worth.

Artistic contributions by Aida Namukose, Clariss Rufaro Masiya, Halina Rauber-Baio aka Juno Algaravia, Kashushu, and Olusayo Ajetunmobi aka Ajet. Research by Roos Saalbrink, Senior Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity.

Who is leading Europe's cities?

The majority of Europeans live in urban areas, giving cities a critical role in addressing the continent’s most pressing policy challenges, from inequality to climate change. LSE Cities, through the European Cities Programme, has created a knowledge hub of key data from over 160 of Europe’s capital and largest cities, allowing us to track the changing nature of these challenges. 

Among other things, we are tracking data on the profile of Europe’s elected city leaders, the extent to which they reflect Europe’s growing diversity, and changes in the urban political landscape.

The politics of conversation

To understand the core institutions of our world, we need to understand the conversations that are foundational to them. Research by Professor Elizabeth Stokoe, Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science at LSE, explores how power works in the interactions between people – from silence to glances, to interruptions, and refusing to answer questions.

In search of spider consciousness

We can easily forget that we are only a tiny part of a vast sentient world full of other conscious beings with lives of their own to lead. Even those of us far away from centres of political power have immense influence over huge numbers of animal lives. LSE Philosophy PhD student Daria Zakharova invites us to consider the weight of our influence, especially on those beings far removed from our everyday considerations – the invertebrates.  



Daria and an interdisciplinary team created an art installation “In search of Spider Consciousness” for Nowhere Festival in 2023, which invited people to enter the head of a giant Portia jumping spider to discover an artistic meditation on the mind of an arthropod. Visitors would enter the giant spider sculpture and be immersed in the spider’s point of view on the world, as represented obliquely through the medium of light, sculpting and original music, inspired by scientific evidence.  

Virtual reality experience:  

A 3D capture recreates virtually the experience of the original sculpture, which was 3.5 by 12m2. As in the original, the installation invites the viewer into an immersive walk inside of the spider’s head and into the spider’s mind. The artistic interpretation of the imagined subjective states of the arachnid mind are presented through an original music piece paired in a beautiful choreography with light patterns in the two main eyes of the spider. This immersive encounter invites reflection on the complexity of consciousness that thrives in even the smallest of beings, urging us to reconsider the boundaries of our moral and ethical responsibilities towards them. 

Daria will be speaking as part of the Festival event "Invertebrate minds" on Saturday 15 June from 2-3pm.

Artistic team: Daria Zakharova, Ivan Isakov, Paulo Ricca, Andrey Novikov, Stephen Allwright, Lucy Onischenko, Michael Haber, Maribeth Rauh.
Collaborators: Luke Hollis, Sean Toole.
Supporters: Professor Jonathan Birch and the ASENT team

What goes into the making of a sentence in Chat GPT?

Generative AI is poised to make a fundamental difference to the functioning of economy and society. While ethical implications and consequences for the nature of work are at the forefront of debates about its impact, the technological and financial dimensions of the rise of large language models like Chat GPT have mostly remained unexamined. Dr Nils Peters’ research explores the infrastructure that lies behind the biggest computational undertaking in human history, revealing the power dynamics at play.

The tabloid effect

In the run-up to both the Brexit referendum and to Trump’s US election win in 2016, online tabloid newspapers, including the UK’s Mail Online and the US’s Gawker, accurately anticipated voting outcomes, whilst broadsheets were blindsided after a failure to capture the public mood. Dr Helena Chmielewska-Szlajfer’s analysis of over 2,000 online articles, and over two dozen interviews with tabloid journalists, reveals how the tabloid penchant for celebrity gossip, sensationalist copy and forthright political opinion, far removed from traditional political surveys and expert analyses, helped tabloids to engage and align with the views of the general public.

(Not) Kidding: politics in online tabloids by Dr Helena Chmielewska-Szlajfer is published by Brill.

Who has power over our visions of the future?

Over the past two decades, our perspective of what lies ahead of us has been radically shaped by Silicon Valley. Research by Asher Kessler, Department of Media and Communications at LSE, explores how one company, Facebook/Meta, has envisioned the future in different ways over the last 20 years. How do these futures reorient our sense of the present and reshape how we come to retell the past? And how can we imagine the future in alternative ways?

Who rules Britain?

What do we know about the people wielding power and influence in Britain? In their forthcoming book, Born to Rule (Harvard University Press, September 2024), Professors Sam Friedman and Aaron Reeves have shown that white men from elite backgrounds, who have all too often attended a tiny group of private schools and highly selective universities, remain profoundly overrepresented in the contemporary British elite.  

Research draws on data from the 125,000 people featured in Who’s Who since 1897, currently representing about 0.05% of the UK population, combined with probate records, survey and interview results, and data sources illuminating specific aspects of the lives of the elite including Desert Island Disc choices and UK Supreme Court judgements. The analysis identifies within Who’s Who those who hold exceptional wealth, the top 1% of the national wealth distribution – a wealth elite, both positionally and economically elite, around 6,000 individuals or 0.01% of the UK population. 

Why do elections matter?

Professor Michael Bruter and Dr Sarah Harrison founded the Electoral Psychology Observatory (EPO) to put citizens at the heart of how we study elections, arguing that the experience of the people voting matters as much as the outcomes of elections when it comes to democracy. A better functioning democracy must have the experience of citizens at its heart. 

Part of their research has involved observing elections all over the world, and these photographs and quotes from voters help to tell a story about people’s experience of Election Day. 

From time to time there are changes to event details so we strongly recommend that if you plan to attend this event you check back on this listing on the day of the event. 

How can I attend? Add to calendar

This exhibition is part of the LSE Festival: Power and Politics. Entry is free and open to all from Monday to Friday of Festival week between 10am and 5pm, and accessible outside of those times for those attending events in the Great Hall.  The exhibition will be open to the LSE community after Festival week until Friday 28 June. For any queries email events@lse.ac.uk.


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