At the end of 2015, followthethings.com CEO Ian Cook gave a talk explaining why we re-create scenes described on our website it LEGO, what our shoppers like about them, and what they add to our scholar-activist work. That talk was filmed and you can watch it below. He talked through a series of re-creations made in response to the controversy provoked by a TV documentary film called ‘Primark on the rack’ that was first broadcast 2008, and re-energised by Primark’s response to the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013. It draws upon the work of Political LEGO artists like legofesto, whose conversation with Julia Zielke we published a few months ago. Ian’s talk outlines the argument being made in an academic paper he’s currently writing. Think of this talk as its Trailer….
One of our former interns, Eeva Kemppainen, now works in Helsinki for the pro-Fair Trade NGO Eettisen kaupan puolesta (Pro Ethical Trade Finland). In 2014, she published a paper in the Finnish journal Natura about ways in which she tries to engage students in humorous critiques of consumption and advertising. They examine, then cut up, rearrange and/or scribble on magazine adverts. They try to subvert their messages so that the information that they hide is made visible. What they produce are what’s called subvertisments. Here Eeva describes how she organises subvertisement workshops, and showcases some of the work that students have produced.
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
Greenpeace & Lego
Greenpeace want Lego to end its links with Shell, and are currently campaigning through the medium of imaginative Lego re-creation. This video is one of a number of examples, whose aim is to encourage people to sign this petition. In the wake of the hugely successful Lego Movie (whose stars make a cameo appearance) this campaign is becoming perhaps the most lavish and high-profile example of Lego activism to date.
followthethings.com & Lego
On a much smaller budget, we’ve been making, photographing and posting online re-creations in Lego of (imagined) scenes from trade justice films, art and activism for a while now. See, for example, our recreations from and around the BBC Panorama documentary ‘Primark on the rack’. Continue reading
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.
Buying gifts to give to loved ones presents unique dilemmas to those who are concerned about who made them, under what conditions. Can you express your love for another person by buying them conflict jewelry, or child labour chocolate? And what are the alternatives?
Teaching and learning resources
If you’re looking for resources to help creatively discuss the controversial issues in Valentine’s Day supply chains, here’s a selection.Continue reading
Yesterday at the Department of Geography at the University of Exeter, we heard Carry Somers talking about Fashion Revolution Day at our ‘What (not) to wear?’ conference. There was mention of an Ethical Trade Trump card game invented by students taking ‘Geographies of Material Culture’ in 2012 – using data from free2work.org – being adapted as followthethings.com’s contribution to this campaign.
A new Fashion pack will soon be designed, but today we tested out the idea in class. Students each made a card based on something they were wearing, sketched it, added the grades from free2work and – for extra information at the bottom of each card – added whether that company / brand had signed the Accord on Fire & Building Safety in Bangladesh.
The match report
6 teams of 8 students each made one or more cards in the first 15 minutes. One student was elected from each group as their player, and we staged a 6 player tournament at the front of the classroom. The cards were shuffled and dealt. The game began with player one calling out a brand (Cheap Monday!), a category (policies!), a grade (A+!), and then slamming the card on the table (drama!). The other players then took the card at the top of their pack, one after the other, called out its brand (Calvin Klein! or Adidas!), and its policy grade (C-! or A+), and slammed their cards on the table. The audience gathered round, watching their cards being played, helping their players to win and lose each round.
In each round, the player who called out the highest grade took all of the cards, and started the next round. If there was a draw – like between Cheap Monday and Adidas, both with A+ grades for their policies – the ‘key fact’ could be played: had the brand / company signed the Accord? In this case, only Adidas had (only very recently, the referee had to say), so that was the winning card.
The game went on with rounds in which, for example, only ‘worker rights’ scores could be played. It ended with a ‘winner takes all’ round, with the 3 remaining contestants. This was dramatic: a draw that was resolved by the key fact. The Accord-signatory won. Well done Adidas! Good job you signed the accord. Nobody wants a losing card. Whoops all around.
After the game ended, we discussed what had happened, why some cards were worse to play that others, why – with one exception – the policy grades were higher than the ‘workers’ rights’ grades, and how to find out why by looking at brands’ detailed free2work ‘score cards’. So, 40 minutes into class, we were talking about, asking informed questions about, and having a good idea how to find out more about the relations between ethical trade policies, transparency, monitoring, workers’ rights and the Accord.
This game can be made and played by any group of people trying to learn the basics and/or intricacies of Ethical Trade and Corporate Social Responsibility.
This is our 46 card pack, scanned after the game. What would your pack be like?
If you want to have a go:
- download the pack template, research and playing instructions here
- find the grades for your cards here www.free2work.org
- find out who has signed the Accord here www.bangladeshaccord.org/signatories/
Let us know about your game, send us your packs and match reports!
This game was devised in 2012 as coursework ‘Geographies of Material Culture’ at the University of Exeter by Joe Thorogood, Michael Franklin, Sophie Angell, Florence Flint, Bryony Board, Toby Swadling, Jack Saxton, Jake Pincock, Emma Hargreaves & Joe Harrison. This pack was re–designed by Ian Cook, in consultation with the #followtheteachers ‘user crew’ Alan Parkinson, Oprah Whipp, Victoria Salt, Charlotte Wild, Jenny Thomas, Natalie Batten, Heather Taylor & Mary Biddulph for use in schools and universities.
This pack was revised in 2014 as followthethings.com’s contribution to Fashion Revolution Day, an Ethical Fashion Trump Card Game is part of its Education Pack (download link to be added when this this is live).
Date: 11 November 2013, 4-6pm
Venue: University of Exeter, Streatham Campus, Streatham Court, Lecture Room C.
Setting the scene: journalism, activism & ‘Primark on the rack’
Our audience: curious & expert students
& Carry Somers
How can we use images to tell the stories we want to tell – an avoid repeating the ones we don’t? (Platform 2012).
We were very happy to see that Set 11 of Lego’s Minifigures included a new Grandma figure with a cat and shopping bag. We purchased our Grandma at the Thomas Moore store in Exeter, where staff can tell you what’s in each packet just by feeling it.
We know that photos of Cats and Lego are among the most shared on social media. We want more people to know about our site and what it’s all about. ‘Flo the Cat’ is helping us to do this.
These are the first ‘What the cat brought home’ photos that we added to Flo’s flickr set today. They point towards our page on Anna Chen’s 2010 Radio 4 investigation China, Britain and the Nunzilla Conundrum. Let us know what you think and, maybe, buy yourself a cat and bag and take some other ‘Flo the cat’ photos for us to publish.
If you haven’t seen Nunzilla wound up and in action, watch this short video:
And here’s what this radio show did with her:
“[The Nunzilla Conundrum] takes the example of British designed, Chinese-made ironic novelty gifts … and expands it into an illuminating discussion of the cultural differences between the two nations, with Chinese production line workers hard-pressed to describe what it is they’re making while British designers are oh-so keen to deconstruct the joke” (Naughton 2010, np).
See our page for more.
This post began as a contribution to a special issue of the journal ACME on the new ‘impact’ agenda in British Higher Education. Our shopping bags and ‘ladybugging’ activities seemed to fit this bill, although their ‘impact’ wasn’t measurable (and that was the point). In the end, another short piece on impact was written for the journal. We have revised that original paper to post here, and hope it may be interesting for readers who are keen to use our site and/or bags in their teaching and wider ‘shopping’ activities.
Update September 2016: sorry, we have no bags left to give away. They’ve all gone. If you have one, it’s a priceless collector’s item. If you see someone carrying one, please say hi.
“We need to develop forms of critique that inspire hauntings, feed feelings, come alive, leap out and grab us, … that are not just about vital materiality but are themselves vitally material” (Cook & Woodyer 2012 p.238).