If you have a blog or a website then you know that one of the most valuable tools around is a traffic tracker. It’s almost like spying on your own site, seeing where your traffic originates, and in many cases, what search brought them to you. (I did a post on weird searches that brought traffic here, but I’m really due for an update.)
Last week I noticed I was getting a lot of traffic from a site called compositionatthebeach.com. To be honest, if I get a link in my stats that looks a bit fishy, I usually refrain from clicking through to the site, but this sounded innocuous enough so like a good spy I went off to investigate. Turns out that The Beach is California State University at Long Beach, and the link was to a forum where first year composition students discuss topics assigned by the instructor.
In this case the topic was “Do you ever stop to think about where your belongings come from? Does that affect their value?” To facilitate the chat, the students were assigned to read two pieces, and one of them was a blog post I wrote about how I was concerned about how Pinterest users do not always properly link back to the source. The other article was from Lucky Peach magazine, written by Christine Muhlke and titled “Trickle-Down: The Circuitous Path of Ideas in Food and Fashion.” I can’t find the article online, but it is about how a good idea travels from innovator to mass market.
I thought this was an interesting way to get the students to talk about intellectual property and design. When I first read the prompt, I assumed that this was going to be a discussion about products being made in Third World countries, but instead the instructor was referring to the actual origin of the belonging – how it was conceived. And I loved that my blog was considered to be a “belonging.”
The resulting chat was interesting for as much as what the students did not say as for what they did say. It was encouraging to read that most of them did see how I’d be upset that my photos and writing were posted on sites like pinterest and tumblr without giving proper credit. It was a bit disturbing to read that some of them thought I was being naive to think I could post anything on the internet without knowing it would be stolen.
Many of them did take a more literal approach to the question, and discussed where their belongings were actually made. Almost every single one who made a statement of this sort said they never look at the labels to see where things they are buying are manufactured. Most of them said that the cost of an item was more important to them than where the item was made. And only a handful of them mentioned the issues of human rights violations in manufacturing.
Obviously there is work to be done in raising awareness of this issue. Perhaps that is why the instructor chose the introduction to Elizabeth Cline’s Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion as the next springboard to discussion.