Individuality – What makes us who we are?

To start with we went over the project and what we have done so far. This helped us refresh after the Easter break and get back up to speed and also gave us the opportunity to look at what we will be doing this term.

Today’s session was all about what makes us an individual. We looked again at how medical imaging and the idea of portraiture have both changed over time. Then we thought about what it is that makes us all individuals.

Tom mentioned that it was ‘what was in our head’. It is a sum of our experiences and of influences from lots of different things (family, friends, books, magazines, TV etc). We thought about how we would have been if we had lived in different time periods and how that would have made us different:

In years gone by we would only have gone to school if we were rich.
Most of us would probably have been working in the fields
Death at an early age was common
Marriage at an early age was commonplace
Access to computers and the internet is a recent development that has opened up a whole new range of influences and areas of knowledge.

Nowadays we have a lot more choice and freedom than ever before and a much wider range of possible influences, meaning that it’s a lot easier for us to choose what sort of image we want to show the rest of the world

We then looked at what questions we could ask the subjects of our exhibition. We discussed how to phrase questions in different ways to get more information from people.

We talked about people refusing to answer – including looking at an interview with Meg Ryan on Parkinson. Different people can also answer the same question in different ways, with some people choosing to give the shortest answer possible so as not to reveal too much about themselves.

We need to come up with questions to ask our subjects and then find a way to present the information in the final pieces.

In pairs we came up with some questions, including:

1) What do you do in your spare time and why?
2) What is your IQ?
3) What is your darkest secret?
4) When did you decide that this profession was for you and how did it change your life?
5) What did you most enjoy during your time at school and why?
6) Are you interested in music and if so what type?
7) What is your dream job, and why?
8) What qualifications do you have?
9) Who would you most like to be, and why? (living or dead, real or fictional)
10) If you had to invite a famous person , living or dead, to a party, who would it be and why?
11) What made you agree to take part in this project?
12) What’s your favourite book and why?

Even other teachers coming into the room were subject to random questioning. We learnt quite a lot about the Maths teacher and Mr Evans, the Head of Science.

We found that short questions didn’t really work i.e. Are you married? Short questions like this make it easy for people to give brief yes or no answers. However we might want to ask short questions if they are related to some of the rest of the portrait. One idea was to ask people their IQ and then see how that compares to their brain scan..

We decided on some good questions to include but we’ll get together again one lunchtime to agree as a group on the final list of 10 questions.


  • The IQ question could be a bit tricky – how likely are people to know what it is? Can we frame this differently? Maybe as, “what is your best academic achievement”, or, “what are you most proud of achieving” or similar? Would help to solve the short-answer problem you highlight. People could otherwise reply, “200!”, or, “I have no idea”.

    damianApril 10, 2008
  • Yes, something we all discussed. We thought IQ might be interesting in relation to peoples MRI scans. Does someone with a high IQ necessarily have the ‘intelligent’ looking brain?

    Kirsty and I wondered about getting people to do an IQ test as part of the interview. If you click on IQ above it takes you to a free online test.

    geodesicApril 10, 2008
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