ARA1001 : Stuff: living in a material world

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Why do you love your new phone? Why do we style our homes? Why do we care when some things are broken? What can you tell about a person from their shoes, their car, or even from their evening meal? This module aims to introduce students to ideas about people and their things. It is concerned with one of the most fundamental parts of our lives: our stuff. We will consider why, and how, people use things in their lives. We will interpret ways in which we use things and ways in which things can exert power over us.

As humans we surround ourselves with things which play an important part in our lives whether we recognize them as significant or not. Graduates in a variety of careers need to be equipped to interpret the role of all kinds of objects in people’s lives. We will give you the skills to consider objects and people from different times and different places to help you to understand our contemporary world. This module will be of interest therefore to anyone who seeks to work with people and things in a range of disciplines and careers such as business, marketing, economics, Film Studies, English literature, heritage and tourism, geography, sociology, architecture, art, history or archaeology.

This module will introduce students to the study of stuff (also known as material culture studies!) through a series of thematic teaching sessions based on both lectures and workshops. Each week, we will introduce theories of material culture and examine the work of key scholars who have influenced thinking in material culture studies. Students will work together to reinforce and develop learning in practical sessions and assignments. The module will make use of the Great North Museum: Hancock’s artefact collection and other resources available locally in Newcastle city centre from shopping centres to art galleries and will seek to build both subject-specific skills and key graduate skills.

Outline Of Syllabus

The syllabus will include topics covering broadly those areas outlined here

Getting started
Block 1: What is Material Culture Studies?

Block 2: Material Culture and Us

Block 3: Artefact Biography

The Individual
Block 4: Things and Childhood

Block 5: Coming of Age and Adulthood; Clever Stuff: Technology, Wearing stuff

Block 6: Powerful Stuff

Block 7: Death and Stuff

The Home
Block 8: Eating Stuff

Block 9: Drinking Stuff

Block 10: The Living Room

Other stuff
Block 11: Imagined Communities

Block 12: Stuff, Heritage and Nostalgia

How to produce a good podcast
How to produce a good group project

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion741:0074:0045% of guided independent studies
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading741:0074:0045% of guided independent studies
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching122:0024:00Seminar
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study161:0016:0010% of guided independent studies
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Each week the first session will be a lecture on a topic followed by a double session for a workshop on a related theme

We will set two key readings in advance of each practical, linked to the material we will look at.

LECTURES impart core knowledge and an outline of the knowledge that students are expected to acquire and they stimulate development of listening and note taking skills.

SEMINARS encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral presentation, interpersonal communication, problem-solving skills and adaptability.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M501500 Words
Research paper2M502000 words Group Project Research Paper
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Essay (summative) together with podcast and photograph (formative)
Each student will be asked to decide on an artefact for their 'History of the World in 100 objects' essay and podcast. The essay text they write will be part of the summative assessment for the module. The text will be based on library research and will be supported with references and bibliography. The hard copy text should be written to be spoken as a podcast on a website. Thus the assignment should be accompanied by photograph file of the object suitable for inclusion on a website together with a podcast file which will be the student’s verbal presentation of the essay recorded as an audio file. The rationale for this assignment is that students will gain the research skills needed to write a critically informed study of their artefact as with a usual essay, but they will be crafting their writing for a podcast which is arguably more readily useful for the ‘real world’ than an essay alone. Thinking about their audience will enable students to develop their writing skills and delivering the podcast will enable them to practice skills in public speaking.

This piece of assessment must provide:
1) an essay (with references and bibliography) - summative
2) images to go with the podcast text - summative
3) a pod cast sound file (with the student’s voiceover reading the submitted text) - formative

Written exercise 1: Write 'History of the World in 100 objects' 'podcast' essay text (1500 words). This must be based on ONE selected artefact - to be agreed with module leader
The text should be read and the podcast uploaded to Blackboard

Group Project Research paper
The aims of the research paper will be to enable the students to collaborate on a project in small groups in order to explore an assemblage, an artefact type, or the concept of artefact biography.

Research paper 1: To include Research paper by group, Goal Setting and Action Planning, Self-awareness and Reflection, Project on assemblage, or artefact type, or artefact biography

Student teams will design a plan and timetable for their project to be submitted with the assessment.
Students will also reflect on their learning from doing the project and include it with the research paper.

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Exam only:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Coursework only:
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.
Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.

Reading Lists