Category: Geographies of Material Culture

Guest comic – Painting the way for change

Here’s yet another strange and wonderful piece of work from the Exeter Geography module behind our website. It’s Rebecca Jones’ cartoon strip in which she tries to humanise paint and its commodity relations, health, safety and ethics. It starts like a talk by a young woman, but other speakers soon appear….

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Click the image to download the rest.

Shopping and subversion

This week, for the module behind our website, we held an arts and activism symposium at the University of Exeter. One of our speakers was artist Louise Ashcroft, who worked with us on our sister project the Museum of Contemporary Commodities earlier this year (what she made is here)Never have we heard students laugh so hard and be so inspired in an academic classroom. Watch Louise’s TED talk and you’ll see what we mean.

 

Our Arts & Activism Symposium @exetergeography today

Today is an exciting day in the university module that powers our website. It’s our annual Arts and Activism Symposium, funded and hosted by the Department of Geography at the University of Exeter. Here’s the line-up and some background info on the projects our speakers will be talking about. After this, our students develop their own commodity activist work.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-21-12-391) Orsola de Castro: watch this

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followthethings.com as digital geography

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Ian was asked recently to write a short article about the subversive possibilities of digital geographic practice for the journal  Justice Spatiale | Spatial Justice and to place followthethings.com in this emerging, absent, who knows what, tradition. It’s just been published.

We noticed that followthethings.com, or anything that seems (to us) to be anything like it, was not being discussed in reviews of digital geographies. So, we imagined the kind of review in which it would be a central example. A review that’s based on already-published literature that’s informed and helped us to make sense of what we’ve made and what we can do with it. A review whose plea for ‘more digital geographies’ is a plea both for more experiments in digital geography, and for experiments that are themselves more digital.

This kind of work more fully lives in and works through the new media ecology of web2.0. followthethings is an example of what this can look like, how it can operate, the kinds of arguments it can make, how it can make those arguments, how it could be assessed, what we could and should write about ‘it’ in academic journals.

Other examples are, of course, available. For us, the Museum of Contemporary Commodities (MoCC) project also fits this bill, in its own unique ways.

See what you think. Click the image to read the full argument.

Thanks to our friends at Paris 7 University for this opportunity to express ourselves.

On the making of followthethings.com

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Here’s Ian et al’s first paper about the making of followthethings.com. It was published in French in 2014 and has recently been made available on open access. You can now download the paper as it was originally written in English. If you want the French version, click here.

followthethings.com was not designed and then made, but emerged from an iterative, creative, collaborative, conversation-infused, open-ended, making project. The paper is written to reflect this. Here’s the abstract: Continue reading

New on followthethings.com: the 2 Euro T-shirt: a social experiment

It’s Fashion Revolution Week this week. Last year’s headline, viral #whomademyclothes smash came from Germany. A vending machine apparently dispensing t-shirts for only 2 Euros in a Berlin square. If you put your money in, you had to watch a video showing the sweatshop conditions in which they were made. Twenty seconds in, you were presented with an option to buy the t-shirt or donate your 2 Euros. You were also filmed. With your permission, your reactions were included in a short film that was posted on YouTube on 23 April 2015. To date, over 7 million people will have seen your reactions, the expressions on your face, and joined the often heated, occasionally funny and carefully reasoned conversation in the comments below, and elsewhere online.

At followthethings.com, we turn the thousands of comments all over the internet into a digested read, a single conversation. Reading this you might get a sense of how successful this experiment was, and what made the video go viral. You might also think what you might have added to the conversation. What is the experiment showing? What’s it not showing? See what you think. Here.

Highlights from the conversation: Continue reading

Coming soon to followthethings.com

Most followthethings.com’s pages begin their lives as group research work in a University of Exeter module called Geographies of material culture. We show the students a selection of followthethings,com ‘compilation’ pages, and ask them to produce pages just like these for a new set of provocative sources.

They’re called ‘compilation’ pages because they are compilations of quotations taken from online discussions of a film, art work, etc. that are arranged on the page to resemble a lively conversation about that film, art work, etc.: how it’s been described, how and why it was made, what discussion it provoked and what impacts it had. There are eight groups of students working on eight new pages, right now. Their draft followthethings.com pages will be published as wordpress blogs. Here’s what you have to look forward to…

A: 2 Euro T-shirt Vending Machine.

Hits:  457,000 (Google), 6.8m (YouTube), 4 (Nexis) & 0 (Google Scholar). Continue reading

Guest blog: follow the poppies

Our latest guest blog is by Joe Thorogood, a former student in the ‘Geographies of material culture’ module at Exeter University who is in the early stages of a ‘follow the things’ PhD in the Department of Geography at University College London. His research is on poppies. In the post below, he outlines what he’s found out so far about the Remembrance Day variety. As usual with following research, you may be surprised by what he finds.

Royal British Legion poppy: click for source

The Remembrance poppy is a symbol of memorial. In the couple of weeks before November 11th – Remembrance Day – these poppies are available in exchange for a charitable donation to the Royal British Legion, a UK charity that provides services for ex-military personnel and their dependents. It is worn in the UK in memory of service personnel who died in the First World War and in wars since then. It’s a symbol for personal grief and reflection, but also of national loss. Many countries have poppies shipped out to expatriates and families who have relatives who fought on behalf of the British Empire and British army in campaigns abroad.

I’m researching Remembrance poppies for my PhD, using a methodology that studies the lives and issues that are connected through their travels and transformations as things.

It wasn’t hard to find out about how and where Remembrance poppies are made. You could do it yourself by simply visiting the Poppy Factory in Richmond, Surrey,  where they make about 500,000 of the poppies the public wear. Ex-service personnel and their dependents are crucial to this effort, as they often work in the factory or are supported by factory to find employment after leaving the armed forces. Continue reading

For International Women’s Day: Maquilapolis – city of factories

It’s International Women’s Day tomorrow, so we’ve picked out a documentary that’s soon to be featured on our site: Maquilapolis – city of factories. This is a preview of its page in our Electrical Department. It’s unique in the ‘follow the things’ genre because its both about, and made with and by, factory working women.

Maquilapolis – city of factories

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Year: 2006

Type: Documentary film (68 mins, in Spanish with Spanish or English subtitles)

Directors: Vicky Funari and Sergio de la Torre, in collaboration with the factory workers.

Production Company: Independent Television Service (ITVS).

Availability: DVD (California newsreel $24.99 for home use), transcript (English & Spanish, free), online (sections & whole film, search).

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Guest blog: Avocado Story author Freddie Abrahams gets back in touch

It’s great when you get an email out of the blue. Especially if it’s from a former student whose ‘follow the thing’ dissertation is available from your website. And especially if it is, to date, its most viewed example of original student work on the site. Fred was a BA Geography student at the University of Birmingham. I’d supervised his dissertation. He’d enjoyed researching and writing it. Then he graduated and went off into the ‘real world’… but why’s he back?

FTT Awards: Lego Fred graciously accepts his award.

FTT Awards: Lego Fred graciously accepts his award.

He returns my email, eventually. He says it’s good to hear from me, especially so given how eager I am to get back into this writing malarkey.

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