Throughout this semester, we will be studying what was significant in earlier civilizations.  We will investigate what had great surplus of meaning to those who lived before us and why they are still landmarks to our civilization today.  

Let’s begin by thinking about what is culturally significant to us today.


“A man by the name of John Freyer catalogued and sold nearly everything that he owned, using the public/commercial space of the online trading community Ebay as well as his online catalogue  He sold everything from his kitchen cutlery to his personal hygiene products, his Star Wars™ sheets and finally even the domain name itself, which is now owned by the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

He sold more than 600 items including his false teeth, a full size office copier, personal photographs, and his winter coat (in the middle of the winter).  He began each item at one dollar and when the auction had ended, he sent each of the high bidders details about the project as well as a brief history of the object s/he had purchased.” (

If you want to read more about this particular project, just go to the website provided above.  However, your assignment is NOT to sell objects of your life on Ebay.  

Here’s what I want you to do for your initial assignment in HUM 120: Cultural Studies.

  • Choose an object in your possession that is of great significance to you.  
  • Study and describe this object.

Would you be willing to sell this object of special significance that you have chosen?  Could you relinquish all material objects that you own as Freyer did?  So what do you own that really has “surplus of meaning” to you? 

Specific instructions:

  1. In a document which you will submit to the course site (“INITIAL ASSIGNMENT SUBMIT HERE”), describe this OBJECT (What color is it? How much does it weigh? What is it made of?).
  2. Include information about its origin (Who made it? Who gave it to you or did you buy it? How long have you had it?).
  3. Now, explain why this object is significant to you. (What does this object represent about you?  Why did you choose this object above all others that you have?  What would you do if you lost or broke this object?  Is it replaceable?  Would you consider giving it to someone else?). 
  4. Insert one ORIGINAL (YOU made it.) photograph of your object into the document.  The image should be low resolution, inserted via digital, scanning, or CD made from a photo development center.  Of course an image you made with your iPhone would be fine.****
  5. Submit your document where indicated on the course site.  DO NOT send it as anattachment TO AN EMAIL MESSAGE!  I will deduct points if assignment isn’t submitted where indicated on course site. 

I hope to use some of your images to stimulate further discussion about cultural studies.  This assignment is 10% of your final grade.

****This photograph requirement exists, in part, because you will have to include two original photographs in the document of your final exam project.  I want those of you unfamiliar with this process to get practice at the beginning of the course so that you won’t panic or be penalized when you submit your final exam project.

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