Sunday, June 04, 2006

Rupert and Felicity and Wayne and Leeanne

This website at UCL allows you to type in your surname and see where people who share the same surname live and lived 100 years ago. Looking at the surnames of my four grandparents, it's interesting to see that my two grandmother's names are mainly from the northeast of England, whereas my grandfathers came from the southwest/Wales and Scotland. Although my surname is a traditional "common" surname, reflecting a trade, the majority of its holders are in the top quarter of society. Weird.

The site also has a link to Experian, which has created an extremely detailed social classification of people living in the UK called Mosiac. Using multi-statistical techniques people can be grouped into 11 major categories, which are further sub-divided into 61 types. Rupert and Felicity, for example are part of category A - Symbols of Success. A little photomontage shows smiling be-suited couples, surrounded by golf balls, Amex cards, a Marks and Spencers shopping bag, a yacht, sports car and personal organiser. On the other hand, Group I: Twilight Substinence are called Percy and Ada, and their photo montage shows an elderly couple surrounded by a budgie, dice, Daily Mirror, TV listings magzines, bus, pots of jam, playing cards and a pension book. For some reason, I get a little choked when I look at Percy and Ada's photomontage.

Because Mosaic is created by professionals, the detailed 210 page document it produces is rather sniffy about some of the social categories, particularly those who watch tv or aspire towards "lazy beach holidays". However, it makes for fascinating reading, especially when you try to work out where you fit into the system. I'm a bit difficult to classify because I was born into the working-class D "Ties of Community" class (most likely something like D21 Respectable Rows or D24 Coronation Street), but for most of my life have been in E Urban Intelligence, either as a student (E34 University Challenge) and then a researcher/young lecturer. (E33 Town Gown Transition). But my fella on the other hand is most definitely an A (Symbol of Success, most likely A02 Cultural Leadership) which probably explains why I often feel that socially I fit in everywhere and nowhere simulaneously. I still do lots of "D" things like eating egg and chips, watching soap operas and reality tv and going to cheap seaside resorts. And I can't engage with a lot of "E" things like Radio 4, The Guardian, organic food or being green (I do recycle - but I find the whole ethos rather dreary, puritanical and judgey). Culturally, I'm useless - I can't stand most classical music, theatre makes me itchy and bored, ditto opera, I dutifully go round museums and galleries but my heart's not usually in it, and I'm hopeless at giving opinions about world events unless they directly relate to me - which is rare. At an "E" dinner-party the other night I was stumped to find anything interesting to say about Europe. Most of my friends are typical Es - and I think I now know why I find it hard to understand them and they me. Maybe Mosiac should invent a new category just for me - "Trash Dressed Up".

1 comment:

Emma said...

I like this website as it has overwhelmingly confirmed my northerness! All my paternal and maternal lineages are from "oop north", both now and in 1881 - thanks for pointing out this website - it's fasinating!