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.
… Valentine’s Day
Buying gifts to give to loved ones presents unique dilemmas to those who are concerned about who made them, under what conditions.
Because it’s Valentine’s Day – A.K.A International Flower Workers’ Day – soon, we’ve added the latest seasonal header to our website.
Teaching and learning resources
If you’re looking for resources to help discuss the controversial issues in Valentine’s Day commodity chains, here’s a selection.
a) the Worrison’s flower collection
A spoof website created in 2017 by students taking the university module behind our site. Click the image below to get there, click the flowers you like, read the online reviews and make sure you click ‘Buy now’.
b) our LEGO Valentine’s Day album
Check this set of LEGO re-creations, click the images, read the text underneath, and maybe re-create other scenes from Valentine’s Day supply chains. This takes you there…
- one is based on a followthethings.com page about a controversial advertising campaign by the Finnish chocolate brand Fazer, which refers to a documentary called ‘The Dark Side of Chocolate;
- another (above) re-creates a scene from Kanye West’s music video ‘Diamonds are from Sierra Leone’, in which a New York jeweller takes a diamond directly from a child miner and gives it to a wealthy client;
- a third takes Livia Firth’s short film about the care that unseen garment, shoe- and jewelry-makers invest in consumers’ appearance, and applies it to Valentine’s day flower growers;
- and the last one re-creates part of an activist documentary arguing that these kinds of hidden relations encourage us to think differently about ‘love’ in all of our relations, near and far, known and unknown.
Click the links or the slideshow photo to find out more, and to get some advice on more ethical Valentine’s Day gifts.
c) our Youtube playlist
Watch the original sources, parts of which we re-created in LEGO and/or inspired our work: on the human stories in the supply chains of chocolate, diamonds and clothes, and the activist concept of love.
February 14th could be an unforgettable day.
We are going to love this week at followthethings.com HQ.
We’ve redesigned our website’s header for the season. Here it is:
[click the Cherubs’ banner, and you will get to this page]
We’re adding Finland’s favourite chocolate to our site, a new page created by University of Helsinki MPhil student Eeva Kemppainen. She’s working with us in Exeter this Spring. She is creating our first pages to be simultaneously published in English and Finnish.
We’ve started to tweet Valentine’s Day issues, stories and activism. Like this:
On Thursday, all of our efforts will come together in a public Lecture at the University of Exeter. It’s ‘The St Valentine’s Day public lecture: love, following, things.” Here’s the opening slide:
Here’s the description on its facebook event page:
Come take part in a public lecture and discussion that puts chocolate, renowned for its romancing qualities, under the spotlight this Valentine’s Day. Ian Cook (Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Exeter) will be using Finnish chocolate (following them through the world economy as physical goods) as a case study in a broader discussion of trade justice and emphatic socio-economic relations. The discussion will also cover the ways in which this approach to understanding the exchange of material goods can be taught and learned in universities, engaging students in the issue of trade justice activism in critical, creative and enthusiastic ways. The event will take place in the Peter Chalk Centre, lecture theatre Newman C. It will take place at 2pm on Thursday 14th February.
Everyone is welcome.