For the past six weeks, Exeter Geography graduate Natalie Cleverly has been working as a nicely paid intern on the ‘follow the things’ project. She took the Geographies of Material Culture module that’s generated our site since 2008, but in its new 2020-21 online iteration. And, this summer, she read every ‘compilation’ page on our website, looking for timely events about each page to post on our Twitter and Instagram because they happened ‘on this day’. As Natalie was finishing up, we asked her what it had been like to read the whole site. We don’t know anyone else who has done this! What do you learn? What’s been happening to ‘follow the things’ activism since we first opened our store ten years ago? Here are her thoughts.
Last September, I began the Material Cultures module at Exeter University. Since I’d chosen the module five months prior, the world had turned so upside down and inside out that I’d forgotten what I’d even signed up for. But I was fascinated. Particularly by followthethings.com itself. It wasn’t like any research project I had seen before. I reached out to Ian – who ran the module and the website – ‘Is there any way I can help?’.
And here we are. I’m not a followthethings.com expert, but after reading through 70+ pages of the website (almost the whole thing!) I’ve gained a good insight. So, what did I take away from sifting through all these years of content around activism / filmmaking / grassroots organising / following-the-thing?
A lot.Continue reading
We have some exciting news. We’ve just posted this thread on @followthethings twitter. Here it is again with added whole films and/or trailers.
1/ Hello public archive!
If you’re teaching ‘who made my stuff?’ or if you want to find out more yourself, here’s our Geographies of Material Culture module archive. This is the module behind our website, fresh for 2020-21. 10 epic films. 10 epic http://followthethings.com pages.Continue reading
We like to showcase original student writing on our blog. CEO Ian talks to students about Disobedient Objects on Exeter University’s MRes in Critical Human Geographies. This was student Mara Murlebach’s response. She’s in Bonn. In 2016. Part of the Right to the City movement. Where sandwiches played a part…
Type ‘disobedient sandwich’ into the google search, and your screen will be populated with images of sandwiches whose fillings were dripping, drooping and falling out – some in a rather pleasant way (melted cheese), others not so much (lumpy salad). Disobedient sandwiches are rowdy. They do not behave.
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.
When doing the background research for the MoCC banana card (see below), we came a cross these definitions of ‘survival’ and ‘sustainable’ wages in a 2004 report on The real wage situation of male and female workers in eleven banana plantations in Costa Rica, in comparison to a sustainable living wage (link: p.11-12). The research was undertaken by Costa Rica’s Association of Labour Promotion Services (ASEPROLA) and Union of Agricultural Plantation Workers for the UK NGO Bananalink. We found the report on the Make Fruit Fair website. Its definitions of different kinds of wages should be useful in any classroom discussion in which students are asked to look at and/or research followthethings.com examples. It’s not only about the amount of money that people are paid, but what they can do with it…
The Centre for Reflection, Education and Action Inc (CREA) defines four levels of wages according to the categories of ‘survival wage’, ‘wage allowing for short-term planning’ and ‘sustainable living wage’.
In the first category, the marginal survival wage is not enough to cover the adequate basic needs. Even though it is enough to avoid hunger, it can lead to malnutrition, illnesses and probably early death.
Secondly, there is the basic survival wage, enough to meet immediate needs, including basic food, second-hand clothing, minimum shelter and energy to cook, but little else.
Thirdly, is a wage allowing for short-term planning, covering basic survival needs as well as the possibility of a small surplus income that allows for minimum planning. Such minimum planning allows improvement of survival, only from the payday until the next wage. Occasionally, it is possible to buy other basic products.
Fourthly, is the sustainable living wage, which allows workers to cover satisfactorily all their basic needs: food, clothes, housing, energy, transport, health services and education. It also allows the participation in cultural activities such as births and other religious festivals: celebration of First Communion, weddings, christenings, funerals, etc. With this wage, it is possible to save a small amount to plan future purchases of other products and the fulfilment of other needs that may arise.
Additionally, a sustainable living wage allows enough “discretional income” so that the worker can participate in the establishment of small businesses or activities in their communities, contributing also to the development of cultural and civic activities. In this sense, the level of wage makes long-term planning possible.
What we also like is the Make Fruit Fair’s short animation in which bananas and pineapples want YOU to take action on this. They have seen it all…