Follow it yourself

We are keen for ‘shoppers’ to submit work that will extend the range of goods followed in our store. Three kinds of pages are featured here. Please check below for details about this work, and for resources that can help to produce it.

Three kinds of work

  1. ‘article pages’: newspaper and other articles copied in full
    Work by journalists that follow things in order to better appreciate relations between their producers and consumers is published in full, with a full reference and a hyperlink to the original source. Additional material is also included, where relevant, if the story is talked about in other sources and has an impact on the ways in which the story unfolds. Examples of article pages already published include those on tea, iPads and perfume.
  1. compilation pages’: existing films, art work, books, academic articles & what’s been said about them
    These pages are based on already-existing examples of ‘follow the thing’ work. Each page encourages ‘shoppers’ to find and read/watch the original example – via the ‘database’ information at the start and, if possible, an embedded, downloadable or hyperlinked ‘original’ – and to then see how it has been explained, questioned, received and worked with by its makers, collaborators, audiences and various others. These explanations, etc. are presented in the form of ‘compilations’ of carefully chosen and arranged ‘clips’, i.e. quotations from various properly referenced and linked sources which, read together, should encourage conversation about what the source ‘is’, how it ‘works’ and for whom, and what it seems to have done in the world. Examples of ‘compilation’ pages already published include those on nuts, hair extensions and books.

    [If you want to include the making of a compilation page for as university, college or school coursework, please email for a worksheet].
  1. ‘new work pages’: work produced specifically for
    A key aim of this website is to encourage, inspire and showcase new ‘follow the things’ work. All of the new work currently in store has been produced by undergraduate students taking courses (or undertaking dissertation work) with Ian Cook at Exeter (and previously Birmingham) University in the UK and with Keith Brown at Brown University in the USA. Examples of these ‘new work’ pages include those on mirrors, avocados and laptop computers. If you would like to create some new work work, please email with ideas and questions.

All contributions will be reviewed (and may be edited) by Ian Cook and Keith Brown before publication. Contributors will be given a credit line at the foot of their page, and a ‘page reference’ identifying them as the author(s).

New work: useful academic resources

There are a number of freely available academic readings that we recommend you read before you start your ‘new work’ research:

Ian Cook, James Evans, Helen Griffiths, Lucy Mayblin, Becky Payne & David Roberts (2007) ‘Made in…?’ appreciating the everyday geographies of connected lives. Teaching geography Summer, p.80-3 ( last accessed 9 July 2011)

Ian Cook, James Evans, Helen Griffiths, Rebecca Morris, Sarah Wrathmell, et al. (2007) ‘It’s more than just what it is’: defetishising commodities, expanding fields, mobilising change… Geoforum 38(6), p.1113-1126 ( et al 2007.pdf last accessed 9 July 2011)

David Harvey (1990) Between space and time: reflections on the geographical imagination. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 80(3), p.418-434 ( last accessed 9 July 2011)

Hari Kunzru (1997) You are cyborg: for Donna Haraway, we are already assimilated. Wired, February ( last accessed 21 March 2011)

George Marcus (1995) Ethnography in/of the world system: the emergence of multi-sited ethnography. Annual review of anthropology 24, p.95-117 ( last accessed 9 July 2011)

Robert Foster (2006) Tracking globalization: commodities and value in motion. in Chris Tilley et al. (eds) Handbook of material culture. London: Sage, p.285-300 ( last accessed 9 July 2011)

Robert Foster (2008) Show and tell: teaching critical fetishism with a bottle of Coke®. Anthropology news April, p.38 ( last accessed 9 July 2011)

If you know of other useful and freely available writing on this topic, please contact us at or post the reference and link in a comment box below.

New work: useful online resources

For help with detective work about the thing (and/or its ingredients/components) that you want to follow, the agricultural and/or manufacturing processes they go through, the ships that they travel on, the research that may have been done on them already, the campaigns that may have focused on them, and the specific companies that manufacture them, these websites are recommended:

How Stuff Works - How Stuff Is Made - Sourcemap - Wikichains - Project Label - - Ethical Consumer’s Current Boycotts List and Buyers’ Guides - Corporatewatch - Women Working Worldwide - No Sweat - Supply Chain Times - - United Students Against Sweatshops- Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour - Nexis & Box of Broadcasts (newspaper and TV show databases - check your library subscription) - Google Scholar - Google Books - 94 Elements - World of Matter - Tales of Things - free2work - Slavery Footprint - Shipwreck Log - Fashion Ethics after the Rana Plaza collapse - Fashion Revolution Day - Shop Ethical - Buycott App - Commodity Histories - Evil Media Distribution Centre - add more here!

If you know about other websites that can help with followthethings detective work, please contact us at or post details in the comment box below.

Search tips

It's often difficult to find stories about the people who work in factories, on farms, in mines, and in other spaces of work along commodity chains, their work, their pay and conditions, and their lives beyond work. We have found that two search terms can help here.

i) you can search for the thing you're following + 'sweatshop", "slave labour", "child labour" and/or similar descriptions. There's a great deal of discussion online involving accusations, defences, and explanations of working conditions and labour supply as they are associated with the production of particular commodities such as sports clothing or cocoa. The lives of particular people are often told, and voices often included, to illustrate these accounts.

ii) you can search for the thing you're following + "occupational toxicology" or "industrial toxicology": the science that deals with the "(potential) toxic effects at workplaces on workers[from] the air inside the industrial plant, the risk of dermal or eye contact of chemical substances being at work, as well as development of occupational diseases in association with the chemical substances used or produced in the technologies" (link). We have found this useful to find out, for example, about the working conditions in pharmaceutical factories (sample search here) and cosmetics factories and associated workplaces such as mines (sample search here).

If you have found any other search terms helpful, please post them as a coment below.


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Posted by Ian Cook (last updated June 2014).