There’s an academic publications page on our blog that gives a taste of, and provides access to, our research papers about the followthethings.com project. A book chapter has just been published in an open access e-book that brings together a series of lectures in Switzerland asking if and how social scientific research can transform society. Our answer is a qualified yes.
Cook et al, I. (2017) followthethings.com: analysing relations between the making, reception and impact of commodity activism in a transmedia world. in Ola Söderström, Laure Kloetzer & Hugues Jeannerat (eds) Innovations Sociales: Comment les Sciences Sociales contribuent à transformer la Société, MAPS: Université de Neuchâtel, 50-61 Full Text
What we are keen to find out are what filmmaking, artistic and activist tactics lead to what kinds of public and corporate responses, and with what kinds of impacts on whom. There is an established argument that, when this work is didactic and tries to enroll its audiences through blame, shame and guilt, it tends to fail. Audiences feel powerless, overwhelmed, apathetic, and angry at those making them feel this way rather that at the injustices exposed (Barnett 2010, Sandlin & Milam 2008, Cook & Woodyer 2012). Even the most cursory examination of our website suggests that the elements of, and relationships set out in, this argument are quite narrowly defined. To illustrate this, we offer below a taste of what’s to come from the analysis of the followthethings.com archive. We provisionally outline one engagement tactic, one kind of consumer response, one kind of corporate response, and one kind of impact.
Here’s another excellent example of journal writing from the Exeter Geography module behind our website. At the start of the module, we ask the students to add to their phone homescreens this photo of an Apple factory worker which, it seems, was accidentally left on an iPhone bought in 2009. The person who found this and four other photos posted them online and the quest to find out who she was, why photos of her were on that phone, and what would happen to her after they went pubic went viral (as documented on our followthethings.com page). We ask our students to keep her photo on their homescreens until the end of the module, for almost 4 months. What can happen to you when she looks at you every time you look at your phone, wherever you go? Sophie Woolf explains… to the person who became known as ‘iPhone Girl’.
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.
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.
In response to a student query today about the pride that factory workers can have in making consumer goods for others, I recommended that the two short films below were watched one after the other.
Both are about the notorious manufacturer of Apple and other electronic goods: Foxconn.
This is an extract from a documentary film in which young factory workers are interviewed in a photo studio across the road from the factory.
This is an episode of from the Al Jazeera TV series Activate, about the investigation into worker rights, health and safety in Foxconn factories by Hong Kong based NGO Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour.
Over the course of the 2013-4 academic year, we’re following seven school teachers and they use and adapt followthething.com in their classrooms in England. Our second post is by Natalie Batten. She reflects on how she encouraged her students to use our site last year to help compare and contrast multinational corporations. This year, she will be using one of our new game-based teaching resources to encourage her students to better appreciate corporations’ diverse policies regarding workers’ rights and monitoring.
I covered a similar topic to the one discussed in Oprah’s #followtheteachers blog post – that of globalisation and multinational companies. This scheme, however, was implemented for AS Level Geography students (studying the OCR exam syllabus). This highlights the versatility of followthethings.com site as a resource for a variety of student ages, even when covering the same topic area. For example, while Oprah used the site to introduce globalisation at Year 7, I used it at A level to consolidate pupils’ prior learning and provide them with examples and case studies for their exams.
The pupils were not familiar with the site, so time was incorporated into the scheme of work for them to explore it. They really liked the layout and navigation of the site and its recognisable format – like other online stores such as Amazon – which made the site personal to them and their interests.
The different forms of data presentation on the site (eg. film reviews, travel journals, newspaper articles and Lego re-creations) provided opportunities for differentiation with more able pupils challenging themselves through interpretation of more abstract research sources. In particular, some used the Ford Car Seat page – based on a 2006 film called ‘Made in Dagenham’ – to explore social and historical geographical topics such as feminism and women’s rights. This was important as it allowed pupils to ‘find the geography’ and make synoptic links to other geographical topics during their MNC research task.
An extension to a task like this could be to incorporate followthethings.com’s new teaching resource – Ethical Trade Trump Cards as a way to compare and contrast global MNCs on categories such as worker’s rights, policies and monitoring in an exciting and familiar game for pupils.
Both they and myself as a trainee teacher took a lot of positives away from this activity and I will certainly be using followthethings.com in my future teaching for this and other topics.
It’s International Women’s Day today. We’re asking smartphone owners to dedicate their homescreen to ‘iPhone Girl’. She was a quality control worker checking iPhones in Foxconn’s Shenzhen factory. Her workmate is said to have taken her photo to check the camera, and then failed to delete it.
It was found by a UK iPhone buyer. It appeared on his new phone’s homescreen the first time he switched it on. He posted his experience and the photos on his camera on the macrumors forum. The rest, as they say, is history…[read our ftt page that tracks this story here).
Young women (and men) like her assembled your smartphone, so let’s acknowledge this today (and every day).