What I Learned About “Wants” from Traveling 30 Countries

To begin this post I would like to begin with a quote by Nigel Marsh in which summarizes the negative impact that consumerism has on people: “There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.” When I first heard this quote it really struck me because of how true it actually is and how much we can relate it to our own lives. Think about all the “status” materials out there: Lexus, Mercedes, Michael Kors, Prada, Apple, Samsung, and think about the reason people buy these things. From one point of view, a person buys these materials to “treat” themselves with extravagant things; however, another view could see this as a sign for a person wanting to impress others and the possession is merely a tool in order to impress people. However, to what extent are these desires intrinsic qualities that all humans possess and to what extent are they cultural qualities? I would like to attempt to answer this question from my own experiences that I have gained through my cross cultural experiences. All in all, I have been to thirty countries around the world, which adds up to a total of about fourteen months abroad. Throughout this time period I did not try to be the “tourist,” but I really tried to immerse myself in the different cultures and understand how they think and compare it to how I was taught to think growing up. I...
Blog Post #9: Wanting Things

Blog Post #9: Wanting Things

Over the course of the semester, one of the things we have circled around is the problem of desire. To what extent is our desire for things an intrinsic and necessary part of human existence? For example, according to Csikszentmihalyi and Belk we need objects to help us form a cohesive sense of self. And to what extent is our desire for things manufactured by what Bejamin might call the “dominant ideology”? For example, advertisers convince us we need stuff not necessarily because we need it to survive or even to be emotionally and physically comfortable, but because companies need consumers to buy their products in order to turn a profit. For this week, consider the different factors that influence human desire. What role does basic necessity play in shaping our desire for things? How do the intrinsic properties of the things we desire influence our consumption habits? How much of desire is socially constructed? Posting: Group 1 Category: Wanting Things In your Blog #9 post, you should do more than offer a list of answers to these questions. Rather, try frame your post around the description of a central experience or practice from your own life, or an interpretation and analysis of the information you’ve gathered in your research for the object analysis. Please carefully read and follow the guidelines and posting information for this blog as they’ve been outlined in the Blog Project Description. Feature Image: “CONSUMED” by Mark Colliton on Flickr....

Blog Post 8: Potential Purposes of Telling History

In previous posts, I’ve touched on the human impact on history, and it is a theme that I constantly find myself reflecting on while reading for this class and working on my object’s definition for our project. It’s true that in a growing technological world that there are fears of human disconnection– it’s the basis of many Science Fiction works. However, there seems to be more evidence that technology is enhancing and encouraging human interaction and cataloging. As we move into a generation of user-generated content, we’re creating endless historical catalogs. There are multiple perspectives, mediums, topics, and events that are covered daily. For example, SnapChat had compilations of users during International Women’s Day, several marches on Washington, and cover the casual culture of modern America, too. There is undoubtedly an opportunity within these processes of sharing personal experience to create a larger weaved narrative of the current moment in time. Even beyond social media accounts of trends and events, there are growing amounts of online exhibits that use high quality representations of historical material with the broad reach of the internet to reach wider audiences than ever before. But the question still remains: Why do we still feel the need to catalog our accounts or research these accounts? Alexis’ blog post 7 about iodine history plays with this question while she raises the question of inaccuracies within historical texts. She mentions that there are celebrity accounts and authors that seem to supersede the accounts of other participants in history– to the point that those participants’ accounts do not exist in history. There seems to be a casual fame attached to archival practices, especially in today’s...
Blog Post #8: Telling History

Blog Post #8: Telling History

History’s Silences In her response to Blog Post #7, Alexis poses a number of questions about the relevance of history to material culture studies, and how we determine which of the many potential histories of an object to include in the scope of our research: What are some other challenges we may face as we continue to research the history (or histories) behind an object? How should we approach this, or what different types of histories are there to consider with your object? What can an object’s history tell us about the culture or society in relation to time? Why (or why not) is it important to look into history as we research our object?   One of the things we learn from doing this sort of work is how incomplete our historical record–material and documentary–actually often is. We realize how the narrative histories we’ve received in our textbooks, and popular sources such as movies and novels, all depend at least in part on some degree of speculation and inference. And as Prown points out in “The Truth of Material Culture,” all of our attempts to “understand another culture whose patterns of belief, whose mind, is different from our own,” are made more difficult by how “[o]ur own beliefs, our mindset, biases our view.” For Prown, the promise of material culture studies is how it helps us to cultivate a “mindless” approach to cultural studies, “at least while we gather our data”: To identify with people from the past or from other places empathetically through the senses is clearly a different way of engaging them than abstractly through the...

(Iodine) History is Never Easy to Define

Blog #7: Reading Things We have learned through class discussion(s) that sometimes learning about an object’s history can be difficult, and it can be difficult for many reasons. It could be due to personal bias, a lack of cultural understanding, or a lack of historical context. I am definitely seeing these challenges come up as I start the research on my object, the iodine bottle. There were so many questions when I started the research for this project: should I look up the glass history? Should I look up the medical practice of prescribing alcoholic tinctures? Should I try and find out where this bottle originated from? Should I figure out what iodine (tincture) was used for? I decided to start off with digging up the history of iodine. I found an article titled “Discovery and Early Uses of Iodine” by Louis Rosenfeld from the Journal of Chemical Education (I know, boring) that discusses the discovery and early nineteenth century use of iodine. Chemical elements and compounds are things that we encounter within our lives on a daily basis. Medications and foodstuffs rely on these things to make consumers healthy and nourished. The route I have taken so far for this project has involved researching the history of iodine. This choice was partly due to my interest with the science-based side of the iodine bottle but also because it seemed to have more results than searching for “glass history” or “tincture history.” That being said, the history of iodine is not so simple at all. Many of our material objects are linked to a specific (and more than likely, famous) inventor’s name, but who invented...

What We Can Learn From the Civil War Technologies

For my timeline, I am researching about the Civil War belt buckle, which was unearthed during the construction of the MARTA rail lines. In this post I will be referring more to the Civil War than the belt buckle itself because during the Civil War, new material (i.e. technology)  highly affected the war. The Civil Wars was fought between the American North and the then Confederate South. Although many people believe that the Civil War was entirely a war about slavery, it actually was filled with many more aspects. For both sides, the soldiers fought for honor and their country; however, the wealthier class was “fighting” for different reasons. However, in accordance with this post that is not important. What I will be discussing in this post is how technology made this war different from the previous wars and how these “materials” separated this war from previous wars. The article Civil War Technology on the History website discusses the various technologies that were introduced as a result of the war or during the same time of the war. Firstly, the rifle replaced the musket because it had a longer range and a better accuracy. Due to advances in technology, it was also much faster to reload than the musket. Eventually, these rifles would also be able to hold multiple bullets before they needed to be reloaded. This transition from musket to rifle revolutionized the way that soldiers fought because they were able to stand further away from their enemy and no longer have to stand in a line to fire. This minor change completely changed the game of war...
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