The Geographies of Material Culture module that I took at Exeter University in my Erasmus year triggered a fascination about trade justice education and culture jamming. Quite an effect? Yes… and let me tell where this has led.
I’m one of the interns who helped to develop the followthethings.com website. I also worked with the site’s #followtheteachers group. My Masters thesis at the University of Helsinki focused on creative teaching of commodity geographies, young people’s geographies and culture jamming – a research field in which academics are narrowing school-university-NGO-gaps. My aim was to introduce these mindboggling ideas in Finland.
Last summer I got advice from two university educationalists and contacted a ‘Pro Ethical Trade’ NGO called Eetti. With good karma, my research and bilingual chocolate study on followthethings.com were appreciated. Amusing jamming examples like Banksy’s Simpsons couch gag, the YesMen’s iPhone 4cf and subvertisements in general were acknowledged as inspirational classroom materials.
I was able to convince Eetti’s open-minded global educator Anna and became part of an initiative called ‘Kehitysmaat mainosten takana’ – ‘Developing countries behind advertisements’. As a volunteer, I started planning and doing trade justice education with Anna and a jamming expert journalist Jari Tamminen. Our workshops include discussions of ethical trade, electronics production, NGO campaigns, media criticism and culture jamming. The practical part is to analyse subvertisements and to help students make their own ones.
At my department the thesis raised controversy. However, I decided to apply for a blog project funding from Kone Foundation and got supporting statements from Ian Cook (followthethings.com’s coordinator), Sirpa Tani (Professor of geography education), Anna Ylä-Anttila and Minna Mannert (NGO educators). Eagerly, I have now started my ‘Kuilut umpeen’ – ‘Closing the Gap’ – project and become one of the #followtheteachers.
My Spring is full of workshops at schools and universities. To get the research and teaching experiences ‘out there’ in an easily digestible form, I will write blog posts. The Finnish blog is linked to Eetti’s homepage and the English texts will be posted here on the followthethings.com blog.
In 2014 I will share punchy information, pictures, interview videos and teaching experiences for teachers, students, school visitors and activists. I will also participate in public discussion panels and write one or two articles in Finnish journals. It feels inspirational to develop trade justice education in Finnish. My blog will discuss issues such as:
- what is ‘follow the thing’ research?
- should people know stories behind their ‘Made in’ labels?
- what is Finnish global education like?
- how can geography, culture jamming and radical pedagogies enrich it?
- how are minerals from Congo linked to the YesMen?
- what about clothing brands and subvertisements?
- How do you run a subvertisement workshop?
- how can you avoid world agony and which parody videos could you show?
Hopefully blogging will inform and inspire my Finnish audience. Critical commodity research combined with artistic culture jamming shows relevant educational links to geography, global education, social sciences, media studies and everyday news. This breadth is challenging, but proper lesson plans help when you have a 60-90 minute class.
The blog is intended to be an interactive platform to ask, participate in writing and comment on Twitter. It is valuable to hear views on development issues, culture jamming and teaching (and if/when you’re allowed to laugh in class). I’m hoping that readers of my English Language blog posts will want to follow what we’re doing in Finland.