This year we have been working with Dr Carolin Schurr in Switzerland. Her new ‘Follow the Thing: Studying Transcultural Markets’ course at the University of St Gallen ran in parallel to our ‘Geographies of Material Culture’ course at the University of Exeter. To showcase the awesomely critical, creative scholar-activist work that our students produce, this year we’ve published student guest blogs about gun sights, iPhones and paint. This post contains two pieces of work on palm oil by Carolin’s students Gianmarco Zorloni, Harpreet Perhar, Julian Krauth, Leonardo Ehnimb and Milan Kuzmanovic. We start with a short animated information film (expertly put together using Videoscribe software), followed by a script showing how ‘the thing with palm oil’ can enter conversation and affect behaviour, and finishing with the research report upon which this work is based. How can you respond to ‘follow the thing’ research that finds that thing in, more or less, everything?!
The information film
Given that over 90% of the world’s goods have travelled by sea, anyone interested in ‘follow the thing’ research needs to have a detailed sense of the geographies of container shipping. This animated, interactive shipmap shows global commercial shipping movements (including but not limited to container shipping) in 2012. It’s awesome. It was shortlisted for the Global Editors Network Data Journalism Awards in 2016. Click the image to get to it. Click play and all is explained. Then experiment.
Here’s the latest of our Lego re-creations, made today to add to one of our first published pages: on Melanie Jackson’s (2006) digitally generated animation (and catalogue) A Global Positioning System. Continue reading
Greenpeace & Lego
Greenpeace want Lego to end its links with Shell, and are currently campaigning through the medium of imaginative Lego re-creation. This video is one of a number of examples, whose aim is to encourage people to sign this petition. In the wake of the hugely successful Lego Movie (whose stars make a cameo appearance) this campaign is becoming perhaps the most lavish and high-profile example of Lego activism to date.
followthethings.com & Lego
On a much smaller budget, we’ve been making, photographing and posting online re-creations in Lego of (imagined) scenes from trade justice films, art and activism for a while now. See, for example, our recreations from and around the BBC Panorama documentary ‘Primark on the rack’. Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago, we published a guest post from Eeva Kemppainen describing the ways in which her work for followthething.com and her masters thesis on trade justice pedagogy in the UK and Finland, had led to her work on a ‘Closing the Gap’ project with Finnish pro-ethical trade NGO Eetti . This is Eeva’s second post, in which she describes how she works with diverse groups of students (using followthethings.com as a resource) and shows the kinds of subverts that her students create.
Creative academic expression
There’s an undergraduate module at the University of Exeter called ‘Geographies of Material Culture’. It’s one of two University modules whose student coursework form the basis of almost every followthethings.com page. The module is assessed through students’ critical self-reflections on whatever comes to mind through reading the academic literature and working together to research and publish draft ‘compilation’ pages and new work for the site. They are encouraged to be creative, to express themselves in ways that rework the traditional essay formal that everyone is used to. The work is diverse and fascinating. You never read the same thing twice.
‘How am I gonna be an activist about this?’
One type of work that’s started to emerge in 2013 are original songs, written, recorded and published online by students and written about on paper. There have been two so far. The first is by Jenny Hart, who submitted her song at the start of the module this year (in October). She’s trying to get her head around the key theoretical baselines of the module. The second is by Tommy Sadler, who submitted his song at the end of the module last year (in January). He’s expressing what the module was about, for him. Both shared their songs via Soundcloud, and you can listen to them here:
We’ve been working with a group of trainee high school teachers at the University of Nottingham this year. We’ve talked in detail with them about how followthethings.com could help them engage their students in a variety of complex and sometimes controversial geographical issues.
We enjoyed working together so much that, after hosting together a ‘Teaching with followthethings.com’ workshop at the 2013 Geographical Association conference, we decided to continue our work as they begin their careers as Geography teachers.
We decided to call what we were doing the ‘follow the teachers’ project. This would a) follow the use, adaptation and creation of followthethings.com resources to teach geography and related subjects, and b) share these experiences and resources online for others to use. Over the next few months, we’ll be hearing from seven teachers involved in this project.
We begin with Oprah Whipp’s use of our page on a Simpson’s couch gag to teach her students about globalisation and geographical thought.
I had a class of 30 year 7 pupils, mixed ability who had never studied the concept of globalisation, however this is a topic covered in detail in year 9, and again at GCSE and A Level. What could I do to put a spin on this topic, that wouldn’t become repetitive?
I began looking through the followthethings.com web page, which I was introduced to during my PGCE course at the University of Nottingham and came across the video clip directed by Banksy, and the opening sequence he created for an episode of the cartoon series ‘The Simpsons’. This was something I felt that my class would relate to, and capture their imagination.
In the lessons prior to this, I had introduced key terms, and completed followthethings.com shopping bag missions 1-3 on the Mission:Explore website. I adapted mission 3 – ‘Who made it?’ – by splitting the class into two groups, and asking one what they would say to a person who had made their bags, and the other what they thought those workers would say to them. This allowed pupils to gain a brief understanding of the concept of globalisation, focusing on worker’s rights.
This lesson began with me recapping the term globalisation, and then introducing Banksy by showing the pupils a picture of one of his guerrilla artworks (download my powerpoint slides). I asked them to think geographically, and about the topic we had been looking at over the past two weeks to help them do so. The class coped really well with this, and a couple of the higher levelled pupils even knew the artist and were able to inform their peers on his background.
The detailed walk through of the clip provided on its followthethings.com page enabled the gifted and talented pupils to read out loud to the rest of the group, which ensured the initial material (the video clip) was accessible to each member of the class and they understood Banksy’s reasoning behind it.
My main task was for the pupils to create their own piece of guerrilla art. Here is where differentiation became apparent. The lower levelled pupils interpreted Banksy’s work, and wrote a vague description and reasoning behind their work, whereas the higher achieving pupils really came to life, incorporating ideas from the previous lessons (the postcards and the meaning of the word globalisation).
I really enjoyed this lesson, teaching it was a highlight of my teaching practice, especially because of the positive feedback I received from my pupils.
Update: twitter feedback
— Oprah Jade (@OprahJade) July 22, 2013
@OprahJade Write for us next!!:)
— Protocol Education (@ProtocolEd) July 22, 2013
Animation and humour can play powerful roles in trade justice campaigning. Perhaps the most well known example is the peanut who criticises the regulation of world trade in The Luckiest Nut in the World. See our page on that film here.
One recent example of this genre was launched In March 2013 in Switzerland. To make public the findings of their report on the sourcing of raw materials by Swiss chocolate manufacturers, Swiss NGO the Berne Declaration (aka Erklärung von Bern) commissioned animators / filmmakers Kompost to imagine what Chocolate Bunnies would do if they knew more about themselves. As Kompost state:
Easter in Switzerland is a busy time for the chocolate industry. Billions of delicious chocolate bunnies are produced by the grand masters of chocolate. Unfortunately, still many Swiss chocolate companies and retailers are producing their chocolate under exploitative conditions; a third even refuse to make a statement to this issue. EvB, a Swiss NGO responsible for fairer globalization, tries to put an end to this with the help of these ads.
The two commercials Kompost designed, directed and animated, show the EvB-chocolate bunny trying to take his life, as he simply cannot live knowing these shocking facts. With the help of a hair dryer and a hotplate, the chocolate bunny tries to melt his sorrows away. His attempts however fail, and he is left with the bitter reality.
‘If only they could see the truth.’ ‘We can help them.’
Yesterday, Greenpeace announced that:
After ten months of #PeoplePowered activities and behind-the-scenes haggling G-Star finally committed to eliminate all uses of hazardous chemicals from its supply chain and products by 2020.
G-Star joins corporations like Levi’s, Zara, Victoria’s Secret, H&M and Nike who have already agreed to do this.
The imagery conjured up in the Greenpeace campaign is vivid:
They say you can tell next season’s hottest trend by looking at the colour of the rivers in Mexico and China. That’s because global fashion brands like Calvin Klein, GAP and G-Star Raw are using hazardous chemicals and dyes to make our clothes. These chemicals poison our rivers, and traces of these hazardous chemicals also end up remaining in many of the garments people buy.
But it’s even more vivid if your campaign video is an animation. That’s where those words come from, and this is its ‘Detox Fashion’ video. Bubbles are popping. Worlds of production and consumption are coming into view.
At followthethings.com, we’re fascinated by the ways in which animation can be used in trade justice activism. Our favorite examples so far have been Emily James’ “The Luckiest Nut in the World” (our page with the film embedded is here), Melanie Jackson’s “A Global Positioning System” (watch this here, and read our page on it here), and ‘Make Fruit Fair: the Movie” (in a previous blog post here).
What is that animation can offer a campaign, that a film including ‘real people’ cannot? Check out our Nut and GPS pages above, and read this, for some answers…