Here’s how we started our Geographies of Material Culture module last week. See the module outline here.
Week 1: Introduction
We start the module by watching a very short ‘who made my clothes?’ film, produced in the wake of the Rana Plaza factory complex collapse on April 24th 2013, in which over 1,100 garment workers were crushed to death making clothes for high street shoppers like you and me. It captures in two minutes and 46 seconds what this module is all about. So let’s watch it, think about it, read about it, and read around it to focus our minds for the weeks to come.
We start this module by getting used to the way that it works online, through teaching and learning that is both asynchronous (set work that includes watching videos, reading and writing) and synchronous (where we try to get together on zoom later in the week to share what has been learned as a class as a result). There will be a post like this each week which will try to clearly set this work, provide estimates of how much time should be spent on each task, and let you know when and how we will be meeting for our zoom class.
Please try to do all of this set work before our zoom class later in the week.
a) watch this short film
b) some questions while you watch
- Describe the plot of this film. What are its scenes? What are its turning points?
- How do you think this film reworks the geographies of fashion’s supply chains? What tactics does it use to bring separate worlds and lives together?
- What kind of response do you think this film trying to provoke or invite? How would you describe your responses to the film? What did it leave you thinking or feeling afterwards?
[Study time: 30 minutes]
c) flesh out your answers
Using these notes, write up some more detailed answers to these three questions which include descriptions of relevant scenes and quotations from the film. I’m keen for you to develop your take on this film before you read any further!
[Study time: 1 hour]
d) describe Handprint’s cinematrix
This is when I ask you to dig deeper! Every week, I’ll ask you to read its film’s followthethings.com page so that you can write its ‘cinematrix’.
So, first, I’d like you to read Handprint’s followthethings.com page. This page sets out how the film was described by its makers, viewers and critics, what discussions it generated about (un)ethical trade, and what impacts it had on its participants and audiences.
Then, second, I’d like you condense from this webpage a ‘cinematrix’ page, no more than 500 words long.
What’s a cinematrix?
In 2019, I started to write the activist handbook that’s based on the followthethings.com website. In it, the dramas of each followthethings.com page will be boiled down into a two page, 500 word chapter with sections that try to summarise the most evocative, interesting and juicy parts of its description, making, discussion and impact. Check out these 3 samples to see what this handbook’s example / cinematrix chapters looks like.
Why am I asking you to write one every week?
By summarising each film’s followthethings.com page as a cinematrix, you’ll have to read it carefully, think it through in detail, work it out! What’s the relationship between the final product, the intentions of its makers, the ways in which it engaged audiences, how they argued with it, and the impacts that it seems to have had? Then, how would you boil this down into a list of ingredients [check the bottom of the left hand column]? How would you label its intentions, tactics, responses and impacts?
By doing this every week, you should start to see pattens emerging that will help you to write both pieces of coursework.
[Study time: 2 hours]
e) flesh this out with some reading
Each week, I’ll recommend some additional academic readings that can offer some extra critical faculties to read each film, followthethings.com page and/or the trade justice issues that they highlight. These will also be the readings that should form the backbone of your coursework essays.
As this is the module’s intro session, this week’s list includes some intro readings. Please try to read at least one from each section below before our Zoom session.
i) introduction to trade justice activism and followthethings.com
Ian Cook et al (2017) followthethings.com: analysing relations between the making, reception & impact of commodity activism in a transmedia world. in Ola Söderström & Laure Kloetzer (eds) Innovations Sociales. MAPS: Université de Neuchâtel, 50-61 [read here]
Essential reading to get a sense of the followthethings.com project of which this module is part.
Dietlind Stolle & Michele Micheletti (2013) Discursive political consumerism. in their Political consumerism: global responsibility in action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 170-203 [read here]
A brilliant work-through of the first viral example of trade justice commodity activism, from inspiration to impacts.
ii) traces of labour in our things
Kitty Hauser (2004) A garment in the dock: or how the FBI illuminated the prehistory of a pair of denim jeans. Journal of material culture 9(3), 293–313 [read here]
Those ‘barcode’ lines across the seams of your jeans are a collaboration between the garment worker who sewed them and the way you have worn them! The closest-fitting academic reading for the Handprint video!
iii) how people respond to appeals to shop ethically
Jungbong Choi (2012) Of transnational-Korean cinematrix. Transnational cinemas 3(1), 3-18 [read here]
Choi describes the cinematrix term of pages 9-12. Basically, he’s arguing that a film’s meaning can’t be understood out of context. Saying what you think about a film is important but it isn’t enough! Not an essential reading.
We’re not publishing this here!
Related followthethings.com pages
Each week, I’ll post links to other followthethings.com pages which could allow you to pick up themes from that week’s example and conversation. You don’t need to look at them as part of that’s week’s tasks, but they may be worth returning to to develop ideas for your coursework.
This week I’m recommending pages that, like Handprint, were inspired by and documented the Rana Plaza collapse in April 2013. This catastrophic event has been a huge catalyst for ‘follow the things’ filmmaking and activism.
Boertje, O., Ryley, J., James, A., Carter, V. & Watts, R. & Osborne, R. (2016) The 2 Euro T-Shirt – A Social Experiment. followthethings.com
Craig, R., Daniel, A., Dubec, O., Glynn, E., Jackson, K., Rees, S. & Ward, F. (2020) The True Cost. followthethings.com
Kelleher, W. & Cook, I. (2014) Cries for help found in Primark clothes (a.k.a. ‘labelgate’). followthethings.com
Scotford, N. (2013) The Eternal Embrace. followthethings.com
And, if you want to have a look at the followthethings.com page on the example that Stolle & Micheletti (2013) talk about, see:
Jennings, E., Hargreaves, A., Goddard, M., Joslin, A., Whittington, M. & Bell, C. (2017) The Nike Email Exchange (NEE). followthethings.com