Ian Cook is professor of Cultural geography at the University of Exeter, with longstanding interests in material geographies, connective aesthetics, new media ecology, commodity activism. He combined these interests to create followthethings.com, a spoof online shop, resource, database and fieldsite stocked with provocative ‘follow the thing’ work by academics, students, filmmakers, artists, journalists and others.
`Follow The Things’ (FTT) is a new approach to the study of geography. The paradigm shift it represents has evolved in stages over the course of Dr Cook’s academic career. Initial research focused on understanding and conceptualising the social relations underpinning international trade and using this insight to affect public debate around trade ethics. Drawing on David Harvey’s arguments about the need to de-fetishise commodities (Cook and Crang, 1996), and funded by two ESRC awards, multi-site ethnographic research was undertaken into the commodity geographies of tropical fruit and other food products available in UK supermarkets. This research helped to transform geographies of food research and, beyond this, has shaped the questions that are now being asked by researchers (academic and non-academic) investigating commodity geographies more generally.