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
There are two weeks to go before our latest pedagogical experiment begins: the free online course called ‘Who made my clothes?’ which we have put together with Fashion Revolution and the University of Exeter. To help to spread the word, CEO Ian will front a small number of ‘Who made my…?’ films which show how we can imagine and find traces of labour in everyday commodities. The first film is about mobile phones and ends with a request. Please try this out and let us know what happens. Then watch the others in this playlist.
Not sure if this is or is not the ‘norm’ but I just received my brand new iPhone here in the UK and once it had been activated on iTunes I found that the home screen (the screen you can personalise with a photo) already had a photo set against it !!!! (Source: markm49uk 2008, np link).
I hope she doesn’t get fired, she looks so bloody happy! I will dedicate my iPhone homescreen to her for the rest of this week (Source: vegasdodger 2008, np link).
markm49uk (2008) iPhone 3G – already with pictures ! (aka “iPhone Girl”). macrumors.com 20 August (https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/iphone-3g-already-with-pictures-aka-iphone-girl.547777/ last accessed 13 June 2017)
Cook, I. (2011) iPhone 3G – already with pictures! (aka ‘iPhone Girl’). followthethings.com (http://followthethings.com/iphonegirl.shtml last accessed 13 June 2017)
Cook, I. (2013) The 14 best examples of shop-dropping… ever. followtheblog.org 23 March (https://followtheblog.org/2013/03/22/paper-activism-in-store-in-things-on-things/ last accessed 13 June 2017)
Woolf, S. (2017) Dear iPhone Girl. followtheblog.org 11 February (https://followtheblog.org/2017/02/11/guest-blog-dear-iphone-girl/ last accessed 13 June 2017)
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’.
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
There are a lot of follow the thing films that we’re looking forward to watching. We’ve seen the trailers, checked the websites, read the facebook posts, and we wait…
We found out today that this one is now available on demand, although not (we then found out) in the UK. So we’re watching the trailer again, and asking anyone who can watch the whole film on demand, or who has seen it at a festival, to tell us about it! We’re looking forward to the DVD release. This looks awesome!
I hope she doesn’t get fired, she looks so bloody happy! I will dedicate my iPhone homescreen to her for the rest of this week (Source: vegasdodger 2008)
To mark Mike Daisey’s publication of the transcript for ‘The Agony & Ecstasy of Steve Jobs’, we are publishing a draft followthethings.com page on the ‘iPhone Girl’ phenomenon which inspired his work.
In it, we research the origins of the story in a macrumors.com posting, its travels worldwide, and the conversations that it provoked. … This is now published on site here.
See Mike Daisey talking about how the ‘iPhone Girl’ photos inspired his work in this TV interview:
Check out our other pages on how the ‘Foxconn suicides’ newspaper stories coincided with the 2010 launch of the iPad in the UK (here and here) and the spoof ‘iPhone CF’ web page and action by the YesMen et al (here). In the summer of 2012, more pages researching Apple/Foxconn cultural activism will be added to followthethings.com, including Molleindustria’s PhoneStory app (see here) and Mike Daisey’s ‘The Agony and ecstasy of Steve Jobs’ (listen here).
Students taking Ian Cook’s ‘Geographies of material culture’ module are now researching the following examples to produce new ‘compilation pages’ for publication on followthethings.com.
Help with our research?
If you know of any good discussions, interviews, videos and any related information on any of the sources below, please comment on this post. Thanks…
Starbucks Coffee, iPhones and tents: Louise Mensch on Occupy London (BBCTV Have I Got News For You, 26 October 2011: watch here).
Various food: Food Inc documentary (2009: watch trailer).
Hamburber: McLibel film (2005: watch trailer).
Nike training shoes: Jonah Perretti’s Nike ID emails (2001: read emails).
Various clothing: ‘Primark: on the rack’ BBCTV Panorama documentary (2008: doc webpage).
Jeans: China blue documentary (2005: watch trailer).
Various clothing: Kelsey Timmerman’s Where am I wearing? book (2008: watch trailer).
iPhone: The agony and the ecstasy of Steve Jobs, Mike Daisey monologue (2011: watch interview)
Various electricals: Maquilapolis documentary (2006: watch trailer).
iPhone: PhoneStory app (2011: watch review/demo).
Various toys: Santa’s workshop: inside China’s slave labor toy factories documentary (2006? watch whole film).