(old page)

This is where we will bring together ways in which academic and school teacher are using ftt with their students.

1. followthethings.com as ‘Cliff Notes’ for a book / film report

  • recommend a page on our site to be read after reading / watching the book / film on which it focuses (on some this is freely available, on others a purchase is necessary);
  • ask students to write a report that analyses not only the original, but what its ftt page says about how and why it was created, what discussions it provoked, and what differences it has made in the world;
  • this approach has been recommended by author Kelsey Timmerman, whose popular Where am I wearing? book was researched and featured on our site here;
  • this is how he recommends our site as a resource to help students to write reports on his book :

How exhaustive is the overview of WHERE AM I WEARING by FollowTheThings.com? … If you are doing a report, story, or are just plain interested in diving into the subjects I wrote about in WEARING, I’ve never seen a better place to start. This is by far the most extensive review of everything that’s ever been said about my book, both good and bad. These folks did their homework. I’m surprised they didn’t call my grandma to see what she thought. … [source].

2. Commodity Geographies and web2.0 (download)

  • edited version of 4 page handout used with undergraduates attending an International Summer School at Exeter University, July 2011;
  • for a 2 hour session with 3 tasks: a) ‘could the internet defetishise the commodity?’, b) using followthethings.com, and c) follow it yourself;
  • requires set academic reading for task a) (freely available here);
  • NB we cut out task a) and used b) and c) for a visit of 6th form students to the University;
  • assumes workshop takes place in a room where students have computers & internet access;
  • assumes the University has a subscription to a newspaper database like Nexis;
  • NB you may need the following links to help students doing the second ‘follow it yourself’ shopping bag task: Tesco 1, Tesco 2, Morrison’s & Sainsbury’s (this task shows that you can find a lot more than you’d think possible. Alibaba.com is a great resource for followthethings research, but it takes a very long time to find what you’re looking for).
  • NB the subject of the third ‘follow it yourself’ task – on the Bananas!* documentary – is now a fully fleshed out page on followthethings.com here. You could choose in its place a followthethings documentary that has not yet been researched for the site, like ‘Blood in the mobile’.

3. Geographies of difference – technology (global)

  • taken from the Geographical Association’s 2012 ‘Geography Awareness Week’ document [download here]:

d) additional activities for Post-16

Introduce students to ‘Follow the Things’. This project … explores the links between what we own and  the places they are manufactured. This resource http://followthethings.com/iphone4cf.html, for example, explores a satirical website, which explores the ethical side of iPhone ownership.

4. Mobile phone geographies – ‘Making the connection’ (link)

  • resources from a school-university project undertaken before followthethings.com existed that draw upon a student-centred ‘follow the thing’ approach to help think through the lives in/of phones;
  • includes lesson plans starting with banana geographies and ending with phone geographies;
  • plans can be adapted to draw upon the phone and other electronics-following pages in our Electrical Department here;
  • the project website (including downloads) is here.

5. Following food

  • first year undergraduate research paper option, 2012;
  • set for the World Cultural Regions course by Rachel Slocum at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse;
  • copied from the module blog here.
Most of us love food. Food studies is my area of research and the subject is increasingly of interest to students. Choose a food or drink or just something to do with food and follow it. This can be a very creative assignment. You can start in your own fridge. Take a picture. Or you can eat your way through a type of food in La Crosse (at a restaurant, in a store). Show me what it is and where it is. We are what we eat, after all, but also WHERE we eat.  You can choose something like whale meat—why do some people insist on eating it? Does it have to do with national identity? With certain economic or political interests? You could consider poultry and follow it from chick stage through processing up to Chick-fil-A. Thinking of the currywurst blog, what is “German” or “French” food? Why are we astonished when people whose racial identity is Chinese cook “French” food in Paris? Wow, they don’t just make Chinese food? I have lots of resources on this subject which I can give you once you decide what you want to “follow”. Look at this website to get some ideas of projects other students have done (in the UK) and some possible sources to use. http://followthethings.com/


6. ‘Follow the the thing’ approaches

  •  second year undergraduate coursework option, 2013;
  • set for the Human Geography Practice module by Ian Cook at the University of Exeter.

This assessment choice focuses on the ways in which ‘follow the things’ approaches are used by documentary filmmakers. The assessment requires you to think through the decisions and dilemmas that you might face if you choose to undertake ‘follow the things’ work in your dissertation: the aims of your following project, the choice of commodity, the practical and ethical issues you may have to face when conducting this kind of research, and the ways in which you may wish to engage different publics in your findings.


Tasks: please watch the films and read everything about them on these followthethings.com pages

[NB see what’s embedded or check the ‘Availability’ information on each page]

Assignment: watch and read with the following assignment structure in mind:

  • Use relevant literature to explain the purpose and main ingredients of academic ‘follow the thing’ research, along with its challenges and rewards.
  • Briefly describe the two films, as if your reader hasn’t seen them (e.g. who stars in them, what commodities do they follow, where in the world do they go, what issues do they raise?)
  • Drawing on what people have said about these films (quoted on their followthethings.com pages), explain how they illustrate a) what issues can be involved in undertaking ‘follow the things’ research, b) what issues can be involved in making something out of its findings to engage audiences in what is found; and c) what impacts the choices made by the filmmakers can have on how audiences do engage with the issues raised and stories told.
  • Imagine yourself doing this kind of detective work for your dissertation. How might this assignment help you to think through the challenges faced when planning and doing this kind of work?

NB in addition to drawing upon the multiple reactions of others quoted on these followthethings.com pages, you are welcome to include your own responses to watching the films.

NB you would not be expected to make a film for your dissertation. Rather, these films give a vivid insight into what this research might involve if you used ethnographic methods, as described in the academic literature.

7. Follow the Things research

  • teaching resource for UK school students at Key Stage 3 (link) produced by krystina2;
  • a free online resource available from the Times Education Supplement (register for access, no cost) in 2013;
  • suitable for teaching Geography, Globalisation, Fair Trade, People, Shopping & Fashion;
  • a simple table which students are asked to fill in and bring to class after looking through followthethings.com pages.

Using http://www.followthethings.com this worksheet can be used in class to cover globalisation, shopping, fair trade, and the understanding of problems and benefits. Learners with low literacy levels will need extra support, or perhaps some guidance on which product to choose. Could also be set as homework if ICT access is limited.

  1. Choose a product to research (food, clothes, technology)
  2. Read the article and watch the video if there is one
  3. Complete the table …

8. The geography of my stuff – Where does my stuff come from?

  • a set of teaching resources produced by the RGS(IBG) for Key Stage 3 teachers;
  • informed by one of our paper, which you can download free from our  ‘Follow it yourselves‘ resources (look for Cook, Evans et al 2007);
  • organised around a series of key questions / titles:
    • where does my stuff come from?
    • why can people buy more stuff than they used to?
    • where do we go to buy our stuff?
    • virtual stuff
    • the kids who make our stuff
    • global impacts and possible actions
    • stuff: using Google Earth
  • lots of downloads and links;
  • start here.

9. Produce a ‘Follow the Thing’ route and impact report for a Chinese product

  • Year 9 homework project: China;
  • posted on the ‘Explore through Geography’ website on 29 April 2012;
  • posted by Miss Harries, a Geography teacher based in London
  • the main instructions are:
    • Part 1: Find out how a product has come from China to the UK (route, transport etc.);
    • Part 2: Research the impact your product has had socially, economically and environmentally in China, and across the globe.
  •  detailed instructions, advice and resources are here.

If you know of any other assignments that use our website, please email us at followthethings@yahoo.com or submit a comment on this page. Thanks!


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