Clive Barnett – new paper on segmentation practices & policy

My colleague Clive Barnett has blogged about a new paper he has coming out with Nick Mahoney in Policy and Politics concerning segmentation methods for marking practices and how these are used in the public and ‘third’ sectors.

Clive says, on his blog:

This paper seeks to open up some interpretative space for exploring what is going on when marketing practices get used in non-commercial sectors, without presuming in advance that what is going on is something to be called ‘neoliberalism’.

I find the paper interesting not only for this reason, but also because when preparing my article “Memory Programmes” I briefly looked into segmentation systems (like MOSAIC and Tapestry) when looking at supermarket loyalty card schemes like Tesco’s ‘Clubcard’ – and the sorts of (monitoring/ surveillance) apparatus they construct.

As Clive and his co-author argue, there is:

a shared rationale underlying the strategic use of segmentation methodologies. First, across these varied fields, segmentation methods are used to generate relatively stable images of public attitudes and values. Second, these images are used to inform strategies that seek to either change these dispositions or to mobilise them in support of new behaviours.

This stabilising of categories of attitude and value that can then be used as a parameter in/with a dataset that is continually interrogated and processed in order to attempt to gain ‘insights’ that may influence behaviour. I argued in my article that:

The geographical imaginary Clubcard invokes is of populations of consumers, segmented by lifestyle preferences and socio-economic factors, distributed and delimited (or ‘bordered’) through particular categorisations of space. The consumer is thus enrolled into an industrial system that retains habits of consumption in significant detail, both at an individual and collective scale, and operates on that historiography in order to influence prospective future habits.

In addressing the public sector use of segmentation Clive and Nick Mahoney argue that

the configuration of fields of agency should be the core focus of further research focussed on the critical evaluation of the deployment of ‘dividing practices’ such as segmentation methods

I think this call probably stands for the commercial use of segmentation too…

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