I had an assignment for Anthropology today that I really enjoyed doing, and I want to post the result. (And not just because I can't think of anything else to blog about, although that is part of it.) The assignment was to imagine that I was going to an island where I would meet the native people, but I had no pre-existing information about them at all. I don't know anything about their culture, background, level of technology or language.
I get to bring (along with, like, stuff to survive) exactly five items with which to communicate who I am as a person. They have to be things I can carry, and I am supposed to use them to create a picture of my identity.
These are my choices:
Items 1 and 2: A pocket knife and lighter. These are to demonstrate that I am capable of using tools to interact with and alter my environment, and that I am at least better than completely incompetent when it comes to pursuing my own survival.
Item 3: a publication of some sort, ideally one I'm published in. If they have a written language, I figure there's a good chance they'll recognize the text as a form of written language, even if they don't understand it. If they don't have a written language, reading aloud from it and pointing to where I'm reading from ought to convey that the squiggles represent meaningful noises, at least.
Item 4: A pen or pencil and notebook. (I feel like these should count together as a unit.) These are to demonstrate that I write, not just carry around written things. I have no idea whether they would find that meaningful, because I have no idea what they prioritize about a person's identity, but I live in a culture where what you do for a living is the most important thing about you, so it's not hard for me to identify 'who I am' as a writer. (Besides, my next best core qualities after arts are mental illness, and I feel like a bottle of antidepressants don't have quite the same visibly communicative power.)
Item 5: a current-gen smartphone that gets good signal wherever I'm going to be. Fingers crossed that Google Translate can pick up the language the natives speak from a speech sample, and then I can just google for a phrase book. But if not, well, my relationship to technology is important to me, and the blade and fire are evocative of the most basic form of that but the smartphone represents the most sophisticated manifestation that I use routinely.