I'm not sure how to fill out this form with my name.
Here, I'll write it out for you. It's Pang Khee Teik.

You can call me Pang, but it's my family name. My given name is Khee Teik.

Probably not.
I guess.
You must agree before submitting.

See, the order in which my name appears is determined by the form.
Entering is correct—as far as the forename/ surname convention goes. But it isn't my name order.

And I'd like to make sure my name appears as it should on my cert.

Why? It's important to me.

We should contact Student Records at my university.
Could you speak with them?

Open the chat in the bottom right.
Close it when you're done.

During the application process, the uni split my first name in half - I pointed this out and the response was "This is not a mistake, this is how the UKVI system deals with names that have spaces in them".

At enrolment my student ID was missing half my first name. "That's how it's supposed to be", they said.

We could specify how we wanted our names to be printed on the cert, so I did. And then the cert arrived with my name reversed. They claimed it was according to the naming protocol in the UK. No, it's a convention and different cultures have different conventions.

Took 67 emails and a year for them to fix it.

Well, I got around it by going to the office -- the manager knew what to do and rearranged it so that it would appear in the right order on my cert.

But it meant my last name in the system was 'wrong' for the remainder of the term...and they couldn't find my spot during the graduation ceremony.

Took me 29 emails back and forth with Student Records and Assessments before we agreed on a solution. Not as bad as you, Pang.

...I just left out my Chinese name completely because it was gonna get too complicated.

Hey, don't get me started on how my name has no surname...

It's not about one student at one university,
one aberration in one database,
one certificate with one jumbled name.

Think about the forms you filled over the past week.

How many of them said

First Name

Last Name

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And how often did you think about what you filled out?

What fields familiar, feels easy, goes unnoticed?

Standards and conventions make things easy, familiar, unnoticed when we learn them.

But one name's standard is another name's diminishing.

It means that hundreds and thousands of visa applicants in the USA become First Name Unknowns.

Or Last Name Unknowns.

Forms matter because they make matter.

A form choices—active, unconscious, benign, malicious—whether they're made visible

Last name should be at least 3 characters long.
+%$'!",./-_ not accepted.

or hidden from you

until what works for others, stops working for you.

Propose a change and you'll hear:

"...and even if we can make exceptions..."

"...the other systems and institutions we're connected to cannot."

Changing the fields in a university student records form isn't as simple as it might seem. Forms are embedded in and reliant upon all sorts of other conventions, laws, standards, systems, objects, labour, histories...

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Forms structure documents,
and documents structure forms,
structure names,
structure memories,
structure lives.

Can we imagine better ways to form, unform, reform how we handle names?
What are the uses of forms?
What could we do by attending to the ways forms are formed

what they enable, and what they make?

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This is a story about names, forms, people, and the ways we order each other.

Created as part of the Social Research for Public Engagement module in the MA Visual Sociology at Goldsmiths.

Visit the rest of the Infrastructure exhibition online.

Built with


Charis Loke En-Ping / Spring 2021

Thinking Inside The Box: Forms as Infrastructures For Personal Names

How do forms shape names and vice versa? The forms in this page do not do what forms are meant to do—collect data. Instead they present narratives and insights from interviews with students and alumni of UK universities, documents, and my own experience of correcting my name order in the Goldsmiths Student Records system. What might we learn when we attend more closely to forms?


Interactive fiction, text-based RPGs, found poetry, administrative jargon, and all the forms I've mangled my name for.


Gratitude to everyone who shared their experiences around the form-ing of names, including those who chose to not be named: Pang, Anna, E, Maya, Atikah, Choon Ean, Deborah, Xue Ping, Katayoon, Huda, folks on Twitter. And special thanks to Sharon for our ongoing conversations about infrastructures.


Feedback forms begone. Tweet @charisloke, email charis@charisloke.com or chat over teh halia.