Category: bananas

Commodity activism in a transmedia world: our latest publication

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.

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Defining the ‘living wage’ bananas* want farmers to be paid.

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…

*and pineapples.