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….
Last year we co-ran the Idea Zone at the Geographical Association conference in Guildford. We filled a table with Lego for delegates to recreate scenes described on our website. We set up a card table to make a play our Ethical Trade trump card game. And a Nottingham PGCE student called Hannah Campion brought along some lesson plans, teaching materials and student work showing how she’d used our site and classroom resources to develop a lesson series about ‘The Geographies of my Stuff’. She was asked if she’d be interested in writing a short paper about all of this in the GA’s Teaching Geography journal. It’s just been published, and here’s an extract.
“… My five-lesson sequence was developed for year 8 and followed on from a year 7 unit, ‘The Geography of my Stuff’. I wanted to develop students’ ability to investigate and critically reflect on the hidden connections which link them to often distant global communities, and to empathise with the people who live and work there. To do this, I chose a familiar but often untraceable commodity which students could easily identify with – a plain white T-shirt. … In the first lesson we used a ‘who, what, why’ starter, with images of horses, clothes and the Rana Plaza factory collapse to stimulate students’ curiosity. … Lesson 2 introduced the £4 T-shirt as the commodity to be investigated. After we had covered the role of the first link in the chain, the cotton farmer, the main activity required students to explore, in groups, ‘How much of the £4 should x get paid?’ … Lesson 3 focused on manufacturing and worker conditions. The enquiry question was: ‘Who was to blame for the Rana Plaza collapse?’ … Having helped students to step into the shoes of ‘others’ and investigate the structures and processes of the clothing industry, in lesson 4 we focused on the ethical standards of global retailers. The class was divided into two groups, representing H&M and Primark … [and] students played the Top Trumps game to compare multiple retailers. … [Finally] The assessment activity was to produce a newspaper article … entitled ‘Behind the seams… the story of a £4 T-shirt’.”
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
In 2011, we spent three weeks making things out of Lego with our summer interns.
We started off by the live tweeting of our Lego Maersk container ship and ended up re-creating scenes from different followthethings pages in Lego.
This week, we ran a Lego Lab at the Annual Conference of the Geographical Association in Guildford, in the UK. We have found Legoing to be a fantastic way to imagine and appreciate the relations what our site describes, and also to discuss the issues it contains in toy form.
We’ve also asked people about their favourite things, what they like about them, to imagine someone somewhere who made them for them, and then to write down what they would say to that person if they had the chance.
So, what happens when you combine these two approaches: ask people to think of a favourite thing, imagine who made it, and then Lego that imagination?
That’s what happened on the last day of our summer 2012 Lego Lab, when 11 year-old Ruby did this for her favorite dress. We asked for one scene, but she made the stop-frame animation – pictured above – of the whole commodity chain. It’s quick…
This is one way to imagine an answer to Fashion Revolution Day’s 2014 question: who made your clothes? And we’re publishing it today in advance of the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse. 24 April. Try it yourself!
… 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.
At a packed followthethings.com 2013 award ceremony last night at the University of Exeter (entirely made from Lego), actor Daniel Radcliffe presented the awards.