Given that over 90% of the world’s goods have travelled by sea, anyone interested in ‘follow the thing’ research needs to have a detailed sense of the geographies of container shipping. This animated, interactive shipmap shows global commercial shipping movements (including but not limited to container shipping) in 2012. It’s awesome. It was shortlisted for the Global Editors Network Data Journalism Awards in 2016. Click the image to get to it. Click play and all is explained. Then experiment.
This is the week when the work that we’ve been doing this year with and for school teachers is brought together and made available on our site. We’re bringing together ideas and resources developed with student teachers, undergraduate students, followthethings interns, and educational consultant Alan Parkinson.
We’ll explain more about our longer-term project with teachers – #followtheteachers – in another post. Below, for those who like advance warning, is a screengrab showing roughly what our new classroom page will look like.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please post a comment, tweet us @followthethings or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have recently started working with the Scottish Development Educational Council (SCOTDEC) who have invited us to run a followthethings.com workshop at a ‘development education’ conference in Krakow this week. This is the first teacher conference in the ‘Changing habits for good’ project which brings together school teachers from Scotland, Poland, Slovenia and Bulgaria (for more, see the project outline below). We’re taking part via a videolink, and this is the blog post that will hopefull organise what happens. We’ve been asked to introduce our website and the wider project, including our ongoing ‘classroom’ project, and then to talk through some of the shopping bag activities we’ve posted on the Guerrilla Geography education website Mission:Explore.
This is followthethings.com
What is followthethings.com?
- It’s an online shopping website, if you understand ‘shopping’ to involve betraying the origins of things, like you might ‘shop’ a person to the police.
- It’s designed to have the look, feel and architecture of familiar online stores.
- It’s stocked with examples of art work, documentary film, journalism, activism, academic, student and other work revealing the lives of everyday things, i.e. the relations between their producers and consumers hidden by commodity fetishism.
- It shows how their makers tried to make these relations apparent, visible, tangible in ways that might move their audiences to act by trying to make them feel guilty, shocked, appreciative, awkward and/or involved in other people’s lives and work.
- It researches what its makers and viewers have said online about each example: what it aimed to do, how it was made, what discussions it provoked, and what impacts it had.
- It’s full of quotations that are arranged so that they read like a conversation, a conversation that can move from the computer screen into the classroom as teachers create lesson plans and schemes of work with its contents.
- It aims to inform and inspire new ‘follow the things’ work (by teachers, their students, as well as artists, filmmakers, journalists and others), which we hope to publish on the site too. Some examples of new work have already been published.
- It has become a popular website for teachers looking to engage their students in North-South relations via the geographies of commodities. So, we’re working on a new ‘classroom page’ to bright together materials and ideas already developed for this purpose.
First: let’s browse!
Click the homepage image above and you’ll get to the store. Get a sense of what’s available by browsing its departments. Where do you want to look? I’ll talk about any page you choose!
Second: a preview of our classroom page
Our site isn’t intended for any particular group of people.But we know that school teachers and their students are keen to use it. This is a page whose contents we’ve been working on for the past couple of months, with a teacher trainer, student teachers, an educational consultant, and undergraduate students. It’s not published yet, but will be by the end of this month.
Third: workshop activities
To get a sense of the educational materials and activities on this page that could imaginatively engage students in ‘development’ issues, we were hoping to give out some of our shopping bags (they didn’t arrive on time, unfortunately). We had these made in a factory in China that makes them for UK supermarkets. They are made by the same people, in the same way, to the same specifications. And we have produced a series of missions based on their lives and travels on the Guerrilla Geography education site Mission:Explore.
To get a vivid sense of Guerrilla Geography and Mission:Explore are all about, this video is excellent ( you don’t have to be a geographer to find this interesting!)
There are six shopping bag missions, starting with ‘get the bag’, and ending with ‘go ladybugging’! You can complete the series to win the ‘followthethings.com champion shopper’ badge, and you can borrow and adapt these missions for classroom, fieldwork or homework activities for your students.
We’ll go through the missions this afternoon, and then try one or two now (perhaps even setting one as homework). These aren’t impossible if you don’t have the bags. We will have to improvise! And feed back tomorrow morning…?
If you want to find out more, please comment on this post or email us at email@example.com . Thanks!
PS: ‘Changing habits for good’
This is a 3 year project funded through the European Commission’s programme for ‘Raising public awareness of development issues and promoting development education in the European Union’ (details here). It brings together a organizations in Scotland (SCOTDEC), Poland (Polish Green Network), Bulgaria (Creative Effective Grassroots Alternatives) and Slovenia (Institute for African Studies).
In this post, I want to briefly set out ways in which High School Geography teachers in the USA (and elsewhere) could use our site with their students. Why? Totally by coincidence. We’re visiting the Watson Institute at Brown University this week. Across the hall, a conference for High School Geography teachers is taking place that’s organised via Brown’s Choices program. When they found out that we were here and have been working this year on our classroom project – creating resources for UK school Geography teachers – I was asked to talk about this just before dinner today (for 10 minutes). This is the blog post that I’ll be showing on screen, combining what we’ve already done and what’s coming next in the followthethings.com project.
1. the main idea
This is explained in the short paper circulated at the conference. This was published in a journal produced by the Geographical Association – the professional association of Geography teachers in the UK – for High School Geography students and their teachers. The paper begins:
Many of us pay little or no attention to where the things in our lives come from. We may be concerned about factory conditions in other parts of the world, but not feel any direct sense of connec- tion with the people working there. ‘Made in…’ labels and ingredient infor- mation don’t tell us much about these connections and relationships. But they can be starting points for ‘geographi- cal detective work’ (Hartwick, 2000). This can allow teachers and students to piece together their understanding of commodities and their complex geographies, and provoke classroom discussion about the impacts of con- sumers’ decisions, which inevitably draw upon the key geographical concepts including:
globalisation – uneven development – interdependence – scale and connection –
proximity and distance – relational thinking – identity responsibility
This paper includes examples of student ‘follow it yourself’ research on socks, chewing gum and an iPod. You can download it here.
2. the website
This is the spoof online shopping site that opened in 2011. It contains over 60 examples of films, art work, and activism that aims to show consumers who makes our stuff, and to encourage us to discuss the rights and wrongs of globalisation and international trade. Each example has been thoroughly researched, and that research is showcased here. There are also examples of original student work, including the 3 examples in the paper quoted above. Please click the image to get to the site and browse…
3. the missions
The site isn’t made for teachers and their students. It’s made for anyone and everyone who makes this kind of work, or wants to teach with this kind of work. But its core ideas and content fits into the UK High School Geography curriculum in many ways. So we’re now working with Geography teachers and teacher-educators to develop and publish ideas and teaching resources for schools. The first of these was a series of missions on the Guerilla Geography site Mission:Explore. Its Explorers do missions, earn points and can win badges.
We have a series of six missions focused on the reusable followthethings.com shopping bags that we had made in China and are now giving away free to anyone who wants one (see our site’s Shopping Bag page here). The links for the missions are here (you don’t have to do the missions, some teachers just borrow and adapt the ideas):
These are the postcards that one trainee teacher asked her students to write based on Mission 3:
— followthethings.com (@followthethings) April 3, 2013
4. our classroom page
This is what we’re working in at the moment with educational consultant and soon-to-be-a-Geography-Teacher-again Alan Parkinson (see his excellent Living Geography blog here). We’re pooling resources in a soon-to-be published ‘classroom page’, which includes this searchable map (draft copy below).
5. get in touch!
This is the ship that brought our shopping bags from China (where they were made) to the UK (where we are located, and from where we send them to you!) in 2011.
The idea is that ‘shoppers’ do this over a period of weeks or months and send us the location (if you want to do this now, just paste its latitude and longitude into a comment on this post). We then pin – with a followthethings.com ladybird – each spotting on the map below and add your name as the spotter. Ian has started this off with a ladybird that shows the ship leaving the southern end of the Suez Canal.
Together, we can map it’s travels. What route does it use to get from here to there and back? Please check back…
You will notice that we have added an extra icon to the map: a ghostly sunken ladybird. These mark the locations of some container ships that have caught fire or sunk during the course of this followthethings.com project. Click these icons, see the wrecks and find out more about the dangers of container shipping.
As part of our ‘classroom project’ we’re creating a searchmap for our website which will appear on it’s new classroom page.
This will allow followthethings.com shoppers to see where the stories on our site’s pages are located. It’s organised via department (the blue cars are pages from the ‘Auto Department, etc.). You will probably have to click the link to the larger map to make the most of this feature!
This map is currently ‘under construction’. It’s being put together by summer interns Nancy Scotford and Tommy Sadler. If you think you might search our site this way one day, please test drive it for us now and let us know your thoughts in a comment on this post. We’re keen to get this right.
A special kind of world trade map telling stories of commodified human organs, kidney “producers” and “consumers”. Click the symbols on the map that reveals some hidden social relations linking countries and people together.
The ideal conditions of an ‘open’ market economy have thereby put into circulation mortally sick bodies traveling in one direction and ‘healthy’ organs (encased in their human packages) in another direction, creating a bizarre ‘kula ring’ of international body trade. … These new transplant transactions are a strange blend of altruism and commerce; consent and coercion; gifts and theft; science and sorcery; care and human sacrifice. …networks of organized crime (and so called ‘body mafia’) that are putting into circulation ambulatory organ buyers, itinerant kidney hunters, outlaw surgeons (Source: Scheper-Hughes 2003 p. 19).
This map was created by Eeva Kemppainen for followthethings.com. It will appear as part of a new ‘human kidneys’ compilation page based on Nancy Scheper-Hughes’ research and activism, in a new expanded ‘Health & Beauty’ department currently under construction.
This was tweeted and this was the response:
followthethings.com (@followthethings) August 02, 2012
@followthethings wow. The need to place things on a map feels stretched in some cases, but still makes flows of kidneys feel very 'real'!—
Mark Graham (@geoplace) August 02, 2012
Alan Sloane (@alansloane) August 02, 2012
UPDATE this map (with a reference list and Lego re-creations) in now published on followthethings.com here.