Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Cultural extensions exercise

I just found this exercise online and it looks great - I have emailed the site for permission, in the meantime, check them out yourself... http://www.culture-at-work.com/body.html.

What extensions have humans created for these various functions of the body?

Purpose: The world can look different for several days after doing this exercise! It is useful in linking our societies' complex systems and technologies and beliefs with the fundamental, central reality of the human body as the core of our experiences and actions.

Materials: Names of different parts of the body, different functions of the mind, each on a separate slip of paper. For younger groups, you might also want to put one or two examples of extensions on each slip.

Instructions: Review the question "What objects or systems have humans developed to extend this particular body/mind function (beyond what is physically possible for a human to do without extra help)?"

Pick one of the slips out of the hat, and have the group generate a list together with the leader's help. Then ask participants to pair off. Each pair chooses a slip out of the hat. Give them about 5 minutes to generate the longest, most imaginative list they can.

Some Examples

Fingernails: screwdriver, scratch paper, backscratcher, thimble, shovel, utensils, tweezers.

Visual memory: camera, books, paintings, movies, post-it notes, planner, advertising, maps.

Skin: clothing, buildings, sunscreen, racial classifications, bedding, tatoos, artificial vitamin D.

Territorial part of the brain: maps, boundaries, armies, signposts, locks, global positioning systems.

Lungs: oxygen tanks for scuba diving, yoga, microphones and speaker systems.

Feet: trampolines, bicycles, escalators, cars, ballet point shoes, airplanes, 12 inch measurement unit, postal and delivery systems, canes.

Emotion of sadness: mourning rituals, Prozac, poetry, naming of buildings and places.

Counting on fingers (the original computing method was digital!): arithmetic, calculators, mathematics, computers, outlines, systems for ordering objects, calendars, money.

Discussion: You can either have each group read out the two examples that they think are most interesting, or draw a large silhouette of a human being and have each group write in one or two answers next the the appropriate part of the body. (You may need a separate sketch of a head if you have many pairs.)

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