Reflections on Day Three Day – Thursday 12th November 2015

As we come to the end of our time in the Pod, we are realising the breadth and scope of the conversations we’ve had with a wide variety of people. We will write this up in a more thorough way soon, but we wanted to share it here first. To sum up day three, it would be fair to say that the majority of Pod-talk today has been focused on chemicals we ab/use to keep us going; to keep us “functional” enough in our everyday lives; to keep us succeeding, achieving, competing. Neoliberal (and dis/ableist) ideas about having to always push one’s body and mind ever harder, just to “get by”, and cope with university, work, family, relationships (and, hopefully, enjoyment and leisure somewhere along the way), means an engagement with various chemicals. Today students shared what they deemed to be “problems” with energy drinks; one person “confessed” a sugar “addiction” which enabled her to cope with the stress of her studies (notice the language in these chats); a new lecturer shared that they go from caffeine to sugar, caffeine to sugar, caffeine to sugar, all day everyday just to make it through the harshness of a new job with significant demands (not to mention to 60+ hour weeks). This is very purposeful, and careful, management – while people spoke of them in terms of languages of addiction and misuse, actually these “behaviours” were often both strategic and necessary. This finding permits us to think not about chemicals, or our use of them, but about the environments, systems, and labours required of us as embodied citizens.

Do keep up with our project as it continues beyond the Pod. We would still love to know your thoughts, experiences, and engagements with chemicals if you would like to share them. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Day Three – Thursday 12th November 2015

Day three has begun well – we’ve had some students reflects on the economics of the chemicals they use – the use of cheap deodorants, body washes, hands soaps etc – as these products suit their budgets. Yet, at the same time, we’ve had people reflect on the extent to which they spend/consume vanity products. Typically, these conversations are gendered, with some men saying they don’t really care what brand/value of product they consume, and some young women feel pressure to buy brands which “are better for their skin”.

Check back for more reflections later!

Day Two – Wednesday 11th November 2015

Day two has started off brilliantly, with some fascinating debates in the pod (again) as to what constitutes a chemical. We’ve also had participants from around the world tell us about cultural influences around chemicals in their own cultures and countries. One participant from Beijing mentioned the prevalence of the smog – that being in the UK gave opportunities for much cleaner air. Another participant told us of the fear that some of her Muslim family members had around the alcohol content in things like throat lozenges, when she knows (as a chemistry student) that this form of alcohol has very different components to what we might conventionally think of as alcohol. Another participant stressed that everything is a chemical – from foods we ingest, to the topical solutions we use on our skin, to the air we breathe – living as a human means engagement with a multitude of chemicals.

So, if you’re interested in any of the above, do come down and visit us in the Story Pod! Or, check out our hashtag on Twitter  Or, find out how you can submit online! 

Check back for more later!

Reflections from Day One – Tuesday 10th November 2015

We had lots of people in the Pod today, and many people mapping their everyday chemical use on our body maps (see pics below). We had lots of interest, and lots of people tentatively peering into the Pod to find out what was happening. If you see us, pop in!

Thus far, we haven’t had much time to think through the brilliant responses that we’ve had, but we have a couple of critical questions as to the ways in which people are engaging with the project:

  1. Our first reflection centres on people’s (we assume) censoring of their own illicit/recreational drug use. In the middle of a Student Union where we are asking people to think about their consumption of chemicals, the “hardest” drugs talked about were cigarettes and alcohol. People clearly felt much more comfortable talking about chemical use in terms of vanity products (shampoos, make up, toiletries) than they did in any other sense. While we don’t know if anyone who visited us in the Pod had used recreational drugs or did so regularly (and not that this is our only interest), it made us think about how difficult it is in particular contexts to tell stories of experiences of this kind. We wondered if the project came across as moralist in some way – or whether this is implicit to discourse about recreational drug use.
  2. Our second reflection centres on what people assume a “chemical” to be. Many people were surprised at our inclusion of caffeine as a chemical; so too with our position that food (all foods, from fruit and veg to “junk” food) contain or are produced with or in engagement with a variety of chemicals. Debates about the differences between “natural” and “synthetic” chemicals, and which of these are “worse” for our bodies, were revealing of the confusion around chemical use.

These are merely some brief reflections of a successful first day in the Pod. Keep checking back here as we go through the next two days in the Pod to find out more.

Large Body map example

Body map example Body map examples x 2

body map example

Day One – Tuesday 10th November 2015

We have been busy setting up the Story Pod this morning, decorating it with lots of stimuli that we hope helps people reflect upon their own chemical use. The Story Pod will be open from midday, at the University of Sheffield Students Union (in the foyer) if you’d like to come along and tell us your story, construct a body map, or get arty in telling your story!

Many thanks to our School of Education volunteer Z for her help! If you would like to volunteer to help out in the Pod, don’t hesitate to tweet @kirstyliddiard1 or email us.

The Story Pod will be open until Thursday 12th November.

Arts stuff decorations  More decorations

Our Chemical Lives banner Decorations  IMG_0120