This is a preprint of an article that appeared in Amodern 9: Techniques and Technologies.
Cultural techniques, as Bernhard Siegert conceives them, are the “operative chains that precede the media concepts they generate.” Media may determine our situation, Friedrich Kittler once suggested, but they do so under circumstances already existing, encoded in them long in the past. Moving from the emphasis of early German media studies on technology towards an elaboration of the technical, the study of “cultural techniques” continues a Kittlerian interest in the examination of “elementary acculturation techniques” by enrolling not only “inconspicuous technologies of knowledge” like index cards, but the “discourse operators” and “disciplining techniques” like quotation marks and alphabetization they require.
A similar sort of development has taken place in the critical study of logistics. Early attachments to technologies of logistical operation like the cargo container or assembly line have developed into questions about the operative formation of logistical concepts, perhaps the most salient of which is the supply chain itself. So, while the contemporary incarnation of the supply chain may be most present in media technologies like the logistical software systems that organize the infrastructures of global logistical operation, scholars such as Deborah Cowen, Stefano Harney, and Fred Moten have been drawn to its more ideological origins amid the battlefield of Waterloo or the movements of the Middle Passage.
The chaîne opératoire is an archaeological model introduced by André Leroi-Gourhan to acknowledge that “technique is both motion and tool,” forming a “chain” that gives operations “their rigidity and their adaptability.” Catherine Perlès has elaborated on this idea, articulating the approach as a “succession of mental operations and technical gestures,” a definition which Frédéric Sellet frames as “aim[ing] to describe and understand all cultural transformations that a specific raw material had to go through.”
Media archaeology should not be taken as archaeology, but this hasn’t kept it from finding a kind of eponymic inspiration there. And what is logistics if not a history of precisely this sort of bodily instillation? Its origin, either in the division of Africans by the chains of slavery or the multiplication of the soldier for grist in the mills of the Napoleonic wars, reveals a practice uniquely invested in techniques for the ordering and operationalization of the human body. The strictures of scientific management may have brought a renewed sense of rigor to the study of the worker’s bodily movements, both subtle and gross, but it was only because the “elementary acculturation techniques” responsible for the assembly of bodies in the factory had already made them so accessible. It is along the supply chaîne opératoire where we will find the links between the chains of slavery and of supply, where we find the hands of workers – of men, yes, but especially of women – their fingers and feet, as they are assembled in new configurations alongside newly constituted objects. In a media archaeology of logistical media, we must begin by following those operations that will precede the logistical concepts they will produce. And we will find here not only the “technical actions that transform raw materials,” but the “social and ideological concepts” that have enabled their fabrication.
With this in mind, this article examines the origins not only of the media that underlie logistical operation, but the techniques that have shaped and structured them. To do so, I focus on the logistical technique of assembly. Not just of parts, but of places and people. Assembly, here, becomes an ur-mediative technique, one produced both before and beside the attendant media functions of storage and transmission. Long before its instantiation in the operations of contemporary software systems, I examine how this logistical technique emerged in the confines of sites like the ancient storehouse. As I do, I consider how the abstract forms of mediation developed there made warehouses accessible as a new kind of virtual assembly, precipitating the instrumental order critical to the operation of the global supply chain.
Meanings of Media
Modern media are the product of global supply chains, as are the images they encode and the sounds they compress. Even the simplest media forms are complex logistical productions. Phonograph records, Lisa Gitelman writes, “depended on a worldwide trade in materials” that gathered materials like “German chemicals and Indian lac,” just as they did oversized objects like “recording artists, recording studios, and phonograph and gramophone deals.”
Media are assemblies. But, Jonathan Sterne warns, they “are not like suitcases,” and “images, sounds, and moving pictures are not like clothes…they have no existence apart from their containers and from their movements – or the possibility thereof.”
This provocation has prefigured much of the contemporary concern with the materiality of media, just as it has driven us to questions about the nature of the mediative operation. In their consideration of media that “arrange people and property into time and space,” scholars such as John Durham Peters, Judd Case, and Ned Rossiter have returned to those media that, like McLuhan’s best examples, do not seem to have “content.” These “logistical media,” are the media of “orientation,” devices of cognitive, social, and political coordination (and control) like “lighthouses, clocks, global positioning systems, temples, maps, calendars, telescopes, and highways.”
The basic function of all media, I suggest, is this assembly. Media exist “to store and to expedite information,” and “to store,” McLuhan explains “is to expedite, since what is stored is also more accessible than what has to be gathered.”
Sites of Storage
The world is bound up in the supply chain. It moves from mines to factories to storefronts. But there are more dedicated sorts of gatherings. These are the fulfillment centers, depots, and warehouses, the assembliatoric grid which encases the Earth and which constitutes the storehouse of the supply chain. Things have no parliament – we are loath to let them assemble freely. So it is here they are gathered in preparation for their purpose, where their parts and pieces stand at the ready. This is where they will sit on the shelves that hold them for their allotted time. It is where they assemble, and it is where – opened and unassembled – they will return.
The storehouse is the first storage medium. It is present at the beginning of recorded history as it is the modern moment. The logic it orders was recognizable in the organization of Gutenberg’s workshop at Hof Humbrecht just as it would be for Amazon’s first warehouse in Seattle. And while books have given way to bits, the expansion of the storehouse to encompass video streams and cloud data has not altered its fundamental operation. It reflects only that storage has become increasingly complicated by successive media technologies that permit a virtual, rather than material, aggregation. As Wolfgang Ernst explains, even memory itself is no longer “derived from individual or social recollection,” but “from storage located in distributed computer farms.”
If recognizing compression schemes, electric signals, and film reels as sites of assembly proves disconcerting, it is hardly so to acknowledge the mundane mediation of warehouses filled with linen rags and insect secretions. While stacks of servers may abstractly hold shows and songs in the cloud, and while laptops, tablets, and phones are stocked with things we still think of as films and photographs, the more familiar image of assembly is of a vast space lined with shelves. But the architectural form, and indeed the overriding logic of the structure, has always seemed more than a little mysterious. This is something that its rare representation in other media forms has borne out. The staggering scale of shelves stretching to a shrouded sky in the film Idiocracy offers a shorthand for a society where all the materials of existence have been already produced, compiled in preparation for their inevitable consumption. The shadowy site at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark is available only to the viewer, when the eponymous object is wheeled down endless aisles of artifacts – to be preserved, Dr. Jones is told, under the direction of “top men.”
Though the terms are used interchangeably, a storehouse is not necessarily a warehouse. The former says nothing about the permanence of possessions, their economic expression, or purpose. As a place where commodities are kept, a warehouse is a specialized site of storage. It is the place for wares, for commodities and commerce, where shelves stand as way station between workshop and marketplace. The storehouse is less well defined. Documents as ancient as the Code of Hammurabi set standards for storage – outlining prices, regulations for deposit, and instructions for restitution if goods were damaged or destroyed.
In his ambitious “History of the Warehouse Since 2200 B.C.,” H. H. Manchester reads Joseph’s supernatural semiotics in the context of a broader Egyptian cultural practice of “conservation.” Conservation, indeed, keenly captures the role of the storehouse in the ancient world. Storage was not the first stop on the supply chain, but an environmental response to the reliable, but irregular, flooding of the Nile. The media historian Harold Innis saw the material implications of this demand. With an “irregularity of overflow” came a “coordination of effort,” as “people, implements, and goods had to be gathered into the cities and towns.” The storage of supplies became a necessity; assembly a constant condition. The floods carried with them a “principle of order and centralization.” It found its enactment not only in the early storehouse, but in the records and regulations that mediated its operation. It is in the records of a governor of Egypt’s 6th Dynasty that we find the first reference to the construction of storehouses for grain, but certainly, Manchester suggests, others were already – or soon to be – in existence. While supply chains for Egyptian artisans did not yet require materials like tantalum or tungsten, by the time of Mentuhotep in the 12th Dynasty the technique had spread to encompass not only those particularly human interests of gold and silver, but depots and storehouses for metals like copper, iron, lead, and tin, or alloys like solder, bronze, and brass.
While the chain of operation that leads back to the shores of the Nile may seem to be a reasonable one to follow, this is not Manchester’s only suggestion for the origins of assembly’s early practice. Indeed, perhaps these origins cannot be found in the gathering of goods for life, but in the preservation of the body once that life was over. Burial practices like mummification, Manchester writes, may be the first cultural technique of assembly, and objects like sarcophagi may be their first technology. Like the cargo container, they too are a “time capsule.”
The association of storage with ritual practice is echoed in John Durham Peters’ identification of towers, clocks, and calendars as logistical media forms. While all serve ritual functions, it is the humble calendar, Peters notes, that is the “oldest and most important of all religious media.” They too are administered by a priestly class. As “media that store time,” calendars are assembled to gather “the movements of planets [and] stars” alongside “human observation of them.” This proves critical to the account of Tycho Brahe that Bruno Latour and Elizabeth Eisenstein examine, as they consider the moment when Brahe will have before him “for the first time in history, all the predictions of the planetary movements.” As Eisenstein explains, he is not the first to look at the sky, “but [the first] to look simultaneously to all the former predictions and his own, written down together in the same form.”
The conflicting origins of assembly that Manchester offers are not as contradictory as they appear. Indeed, as late as the Medieval period travelers mistook the tombs of the Egyptian pyramids as evidence of “Joseph’s Granaries.”
Each storehouse was itself divided, split “into rooms or chambers which were reserved for their own particular kinds of goods.” Separate spots for linens and jewels, chambers for fruit, wine, beer, and bread. But assembly is not just about storage. Techniques of transmission like carrying, pulling, and dragging were critical to the ancient storehouse. Hanging goods on poles had long been a means of moving materials, as had animals (the Egyptians made use of the ass) and carts (pulled on solid wheels). Manchester describes the presence of yokes as early as the Old Kingdom. But the heaviest goods were dragged. While this may not seem a particularly sophisticated means of transmission, drags required complex infrastructures. Smoothed paths were prepared in advance, and the work was facilitated “by pouring oils on the road.” On the “question of containers,” Manchester is more succinct. With limited trees for chests, stone and clay formed vessels for both the storage and transmission of goods. Because Manchester’s account is drawn largely from diagrams – as Latour notes, their own sort of assembly – one of the difficulties in reading inscriptions of these “container technologies,” the bundles, bolts, chests, pots, and jars common to the walls of tombs and other murals, is his uncertainty in knowing if they represented filled vessels or objects in their own right. With a storehouse for jars, or a storehouse for chests, we may find a literal assembly of assemblies.
Jonathan Sterne has recalled Lewis Mumford’s suggestion that a propensity to emphasize the importance of “tools over containers” – even in media studies – overlooks the latter’s “equally vital role.” Containers, after all, are “useful” without calling much attention to their use.
To argue that assembly is some sort of ur-mediative technique is to place it in an often contradictory genealogy of mediative operation. The means and modes of assembly are varied and various, with different intents and outcomes. Sometimes things are brought together to take them apart, an operation that informs Joseph’s preparation as it does the industrial extraction of contemporary recycling centers. Other times they are gathered to be pressed into more enduring forms, an act that will describe everything from the production of black bodies as vehicles of American capitalist labor to the stamping of shellac into platters suitable for recording their melancholy melodies. In some cases, assembly will stand in recognition of geography, as regional distribution centers carve up continents. In others, it is presented in defiance of them, abstracting digital storage solutions that exist only in the cloud. But what is true of all cultural techniques is true here. What had been a simple demand became a complex one. The storehouse, I have said, is not the modern warehouse, but we already see the skeleton of this later structure. The slippage between storage and transmission had already begun. Logistical media like names, maps, archives, and astrolabes don’t just store identities, geographies, artifacts, and astronomies, they reconstitute them and make them transmittable. That they index and orient is inevitable, because indexing and orienting is the result of any media operation – that is, of any assembly. The storehouse, as a logistical medium, transformed the contents within it, orienting them to new ways of working.
Workings of the Warehouse
The interior of the modern warehouse seems to have little resemblance to its ancient ancestor. Though the idea of assembly is as present in Amazon’s fulfillment centers as it is Joseph’s granaries, along with the architectural divisions of space and sorting, forms of administration (with programs rather than papyrus), and even the same personnel (or their robotic replacements), the warehouse is not interested in conservation. It is an endpoint for supply, and our global supply chains are thick with the possibilities of its promises. It offers to prepare, not preserve, materials that will be required elsewhere. As such it proscribes a fundamentally different kind of cultural technique. This practice overloaded the former functions of the storehouse at the beginning of the early modern era, with the appearance of a new kind of assembly known as the factory—and with the lines of the ships that circulated between them.
Warehouses and trading posts have always been a fixture of exchange.
In his writing on the methods of maritime expansion, John Law suggests that the form of the feitoria spread primarily through the introduction of new techniques of navigation, mechanisms of movement that were “assembled,” as he puts it, “by the Portuguese system-builders.” From meditative manuals like the Regimento do Astrolabio et do Quadrante, the Portuguese were able to “operate at a distance,” Law explains, by gathering three distinct sorts of “emissaries”—documents, devices, and “drilled people.” Media forms like astronomical charts and the tables of solar declination, along with new technologies like astrolabes and quadrants, were encased within the envelope of a new site of storage – a vessel both “mobile [and] durable.” Along with the introduction of the carrack and its expansive cargo hold, this meant that the ship, itself, had become a sort of mobile warehouse. And as astronomers like Brahe soon saw, within these waterlogged walls were carried a multitude of other assemblies – arranging new points of orientation by compiling “thousands and thousands of calculations [and] correspondence.”
Not only does this suggest the ship as a technology of assembly, it places it in a line of technical development that affords objects like the containership their own grand Biblical origin – in Noah’s Ark, which shares in Latin, though not in Hebrew, an etymology tying it to another famous container – the one now in care, we’re assured, of the government’s “top men.” But in the early modern era at least, there was little sacred in this sort of assembly. As suited to transporting the wealth of distant lands as it was human bodies bound in servitude, we find here the moment to which Fred Moten and Stefano Harney trace the birth of modern logistics. It stands to reason we will find logistical media here. And indeed, while techniques of navigation were sufficient for managing the movement of ships, they were not enough to prepare the materials within them. As Simone Browne notes, as a means for “accounting for a particular ship’s cargo,” tools like the branding iron became a logistical media technology. They too served to “mark out a point.” But this mark, she suggests, is one that will track the black body, orient observers to its diminished subjectivity, and limit its movement in space and time. As the means for constituting “a new category of subject,” it altered the distinction between subject and object, a “massifying” practice that had the effect of transforming humans into commodities.
The architecture designed to assemble these newly ordered objects was precise, intended for contents “stowed on shelves” with, for example, “a height of 2 feet 7 inches between the beams.” As the operation of slavery was thus “reduced to geometric units,” the ship’s hold became a grid where a new kind of “stowing process” could be drawn. It inscribed a new form of rationalized assembly, ordered, the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson wrote, in “perfect barbarism.”
The grid was not unique to the slave ship, though it found a dreadful articulation there. Nor was it confined to logistics’ human subjects. Bernhard Siegert describes how Le Corbusier’s cellular architectures would, hundreds of years later, propose extending this logic to the entirety of existence, compressing it down to “human scale” – not 2 feet 7 inches, but a comparatively spacious 15 square meters. These “new forms of standardization” were addressed to humans and nonhumans alike, reconfiguring the “dwelling, the office, the workshop, the factory” in the extruded structures of the skyscraper. So too would the geodesic matrix of latitudes and longitudes charted here – as techniques of address and ordering – make possible the production of equally encompassing logistical technologies like global positioning systems. That these same techniques had been responsible for the “checkerboard topographies” of colonial settlements was only a minor legacy of rasterization. That the “floorplan” was a name for organizing the sections of the slave ship as well as the designs of the integrated circuit, mere coincidence.
What had begun in the slave ship carried over to the work of the warehouse. And in the development of a geometry premised on the security of its supply, we find the operative medium that would forge the links of the global supply chain. It was the grid itself which promised a future of rationalized assembly, affecting an efficiency of precision and scale as it extended the object-functions of the ancient sites of storage. The grid, as Siegert writes, is the “medium that operationalizes deixis.” In extending the operations of assembly, it encoded its own logistical technique, one that allowed the warehouse to more precisely link “dietic procedures with chains of symbolic operations that have effects in the real.”
As Braudel recalls, “the warehouse, an improved instrument of exchange, had existed of necessity for a long time under different forms, sometimes modest or hybrid, because it answered needs that had always been there.” It was “necessary because of the length of the production and trade cycle, because of the slow pace of travel and communications, the risks of distant markets, the irregularities of production and the treachery of the seasons.”
Through the work of the warehouse, the old constraints of time and space that had governed ancient assemblies gave way to regular reserves of a newly operationalizable ontological object. It was the consequence of an age, as Heidegger wrote, where “everywhere everything is ordered to stand by, to be immediately at hand, indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for a further ordering.” This ordering had, he suggested, its own standing. “We call it the standing-reserve.” In setting nature to “exhibit itself as a coherence of forces calculable in advance,” the world was ordered to report as “storehouse.” He should have taken this literally. After all, the objects these new sites contained expressed “something more, and something more essential, than mere ‘stock.’” Assembled as supply, they became a way of ordering for the very possibility of future action.
Many of the materials critical to the supply chains of modern media trace their lineage to this moment, where the world was first assembled as the storehouse of the standing reserve. Before the mass of media on the assembly line, before the floors of factories were prepared for the march of the industrial revolution, vast geographies of varied materials were discovered, gathered, and readied. Dutch and British factories in Indonesia organized the tin crucial to the circuits that would define telecommunication and computation.
Operations on Objects
Not all media operate in the same way. As Harold Innis wrote, some forms of media, like stone or marble, are “heavy and durable.” The ancient sites of storage carved out geographies, creating points of orientation by providing infrastructures that persisted. Other media, like papyrus, are by contrast, “light and easily transported.”
The techniques these forms instantiate are only possible, however, when assembly itself has become virtual – inscribed in such a way to be combinable, superimposable, and translatable beyond its material inhabitance.
Long translates Zeugbücher as “ordnance books,” which is accurate enough given the purpose they were put to. More literally, they might translate simply as “stuff books.” To suggest that they are catalogues is to contend with the ways in which they are not nearly the same sort of thing as the commercial form later offered up by the retail empires of firms like Sears and Roebuck. The ordnance is much more an index for artifacts than it is a collection of commodities. In line with other early collections which listed manuscripts, works of art, and similarly individual objects, each arm gathered in this virtual armory has its own circumstances, being, and history. But the name is evocative. While zeug can be translated as “stuff,” it has also – notably by Heidegger – been used to connote a purposeful thing. In Heidegger’s description, this “readiness-to-hand” (Zuhandenheit) is different from merely being present-at-hand (Vorhandensein). A hammer may be a mere thing (ding), present (but not encountered) as the raw substance of its materiality. Zeug, however, recalls the hammer in hand – the object, not the thing.
These operations seem to have coalesced into a particular kind of commercial form by the end of the nineteenth century, built up from refinements of logistical technologies like lists, addresses, and (eventually) phone numbers, with hand-drawn illustrations soon to be exchanged for halftone prints. In the United States, mail-order companies proliferated, and all manner of catalogues and order blanks found their way into the ready hands of a consumptive country.
In operationalizing the warehouse’s reserves, the catalogue allowed users to operate with the warehouse, rather than within it. For the world to become knowable, Latour explains, it must be assembled in a new way. The catalogue anchored the material world to a new source of knowledge, offering only the end of the chain of translation that, it claimed, could be followed back to its source. But indeed, it will do more than merely resemble the original situation, it will replace it. So much so that the objects in the catalogue need not yet be real. The diectic circulation of the reference is all that is required for the catalogue’s authors to be able to “bring back” these objects – to affect, other words, their assembly in the real world. It is they alone who can see the “chain of evidence” to be operationalized on the other end of this virtual assembly.
This transformation was evident even in the earliest days of the modern catalogue. Alain Pottage and Brad Sherman have argued that early industrial productions “were never technically or materially identical.” While the “ideology” of modern manufacture – with its reliance on measures, machines, and predefined parts – may have predisposed consumers to recognize what they saw as a replica of some unknown and unseen “original,” the aura of that original passed to the copy, they suggest, primarily “by means of pictures.” The ideology of modern media was in this mimetic movement. After all, it was in the pages of catalogues, more than in the factory, where these goods were now assembled. As the first genre which presupposed that products could be repeated exactly, an object’s appearance in a catalogue – its assembly there – was itself enough to signify a construction through the means of modern manufacture. “In its very form,” they suggest, “a mechanically-reproduced drawing expressed the principle that qualified mechanical manufactures as replicas: ‘machine-drawn, steel-engraved lines expunged all traces of handwork and celebrated mechanical processes.’” This was not without consequence. Commercial figures have long served as a means of “(mis)representing the provenance” of products, as well as the conditions under which they were produced.
Supply Chaîne Opératoire
It should be no surprise that I have in mind the supply chain as a medium like the catalogue. No longer confined even to the comparatively light pages of papyrus or print, it is a metaphorical rather than material medium. Though the term (and the related idea of the “commodity chain”) had already been in use before the Second World War, it received its most durable form in 1982, when the business consultant Keith Oliver proposed, in a meeting with the Dutch consumer electronics manufacturer Philips, the idea of managing the previously separate systems of production, marketing, distribution, sales, and finance “as though” they were a single entity. Indeed, Oliver argued that firms should now manage their “total supply chain,” to assemble, in other words, all their previously disparate assemblies.
The assembly of stuff in the storehouse may have been limited to the movement of materials, but the products pictured in the catalogue suggest something more of the logistical thought crucial to Oliver’s imagination of the supply chain. In this “logistics of perception,” to steal a phrase, things are assembled not in body, but in mind. In coining this term, Paul Virilio had set out to argue that the difference between cinema and photography was in mobility and distribution, that in cinema “the viewpoint can be mobile, can get away from the static focus and share the speed of moving objects.” The camera, he explained, served to reproduce (and replace) the function of the human eye, while features like the artificiality of cinematic lighting coincided with the production of space through an illusion of “distance, depth, and three-dimensionality.” But it is in the assembly of the images themselves – the assembly line of photographs – where the mediative meaning of cinema becomes most resonant. It is here that images are rendered “fragments,” assembled in “non-sensory order,” and joined together in cinematic montage broken from the “spatio-temporal continuity” of physical space. Modern assembly, itself, is predicated on precisely this “instability of dimensions,” the repetition and distribution of images “exiled” from their natural place. In 1848 John Stuart Mill had written that “to produce is to move.” Virilio’s argument updates this to suggest that, after 1914, mediated images became powerful because, now, “to move was to produce.”
It may seem – in the grand scale set by this newly operative epistemology – that the clear order once present in the storehouse has become markedly less apparent. After all, as Shannon Mattern writes, sites like Amazon’s fulfillment centers now operate in accordance with a new law of logistics, one that means books, “originally Amazon’s bread and butter, might be shelved next to, well, bread.” But while media forms like books may seem ever more dematerialized and disassembled, the reality is that they are assembling still, just in more opaque and inscrutable configurations. They still rest on metal shelves, Mattern writes, but “on server racks” in “data centers.”
The chaîne opératoire draws us to the differences in these techniques that make a difference, both in the new operations they enable and the new technologies that are required to render them durable. Ancient assemblies like the Library of Alexandria may have radiated enormous power to their associated civilizations, but once disassembled this power would dissipate and dissolve. Indeed, media archaeology is perhaps uniquely attuned to the impossibility of reassembly – what comes back is, after all, rarely the same. The shuttering of supply chains for the manufacture of vintage video games, or the chemical components of Polaroid film, speaks to logistical legacies that are difficult to reconstruct. But digital designs, even assembled only once, may replicate with promiscuous abandon. Less stable, but more supple, they propagate the forms of their assembly with sometimes calamitous effect. Techniques of bodily inscription have given way to techniques that inscribe with bodies, with dynamic displays of economic offers, racialized regimes of facial recognition, and even the algorithmic assembly of movie posters – distorted both in space and time. While analog assembly had been marked, literally, by the material change wrought by reproduction, the versioning capabilities of digital assemblies remain resistant to these imperfections. Promising their stewards malleable and memorious recollections, they suggest, in effect, a storehouse of all that’s ever been stored.
This is not the end of the chaîne opératoire. We end with cables and connections yet unlaid, digital databases yet to be designed – with pivotal techniques and technologies like assembly lines and cargo containers still in the making. But even in the earliest lists of products and prices, in inventories and catalogues, the techniques of assembly were already, it seems, coming together. The new supply house, the Sears catalogue had announced, was present. The globe was now drawn by the grid, and between its lines were the empty spaces that have carved out demands for supply overflowing from warehouses the world over. The supply chain defines the technical sequence of transformations that bring raw materials together in their momentary manifestation as a final assembly. But in following this chain, we may yet see that the techniques of this operation were once, themselves, raw. If media archaeology is the study of the disassembled, the supply chain, not as mere material movement, not as technology, but as technique of imagining the world, must be opened up. After all, it is only when it is “cracked open,” that we may find, as Alberto Toscano and Jeff Kinkle have urged, “an insight into the freight of bodily suffering that the seamlessness of circulation renders invisible.”
- Bernhard Siegert, “Cultural Techniques: Or the End of the Intellectual Postwar Era in German Media Theory,” Theory, Culture, and Society 30, no. 6 (2013): 48-65; and Friedrich Kittler, Discourse Networks 1800 / 1900 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990). See also Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan, “After Kittler: On the Cultural Techniques of Recent German Media Theory,” Theory, Culture & Society 30, no. 6 (2013): 66-82.
- Liam Cole Young, “Cultural Techniques and Logistical Media,” M/C Journal 18, no. 2 (2015).
- Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka, eds., Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011).
- Deborah Cowen, “A Geography of Logistics: Market Authority and the Security of Supply Chains,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 100, no. 3 (2010): 600-620.
- Alexander Klose, The Container Principle (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009).
- John Durham Peters, “Calendar, Clock, Tower” in Jeremy Stolow, ed., Deus in Machina (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013).
- André Leroi-Gourhan, Le Geste et la Parole I: Technique et Language (Paris: Albin Michal, 1964); Catherine Perlès, Les Industries Lithiques Taillees de Franchthi, Argolide (Terre Haute: Indiana University Press, 1987); Frédéric Sellet, “Chaine Operatoire: The Concept and its Applications,” Lithic Technology 18, no. 1/2 (1993): 106-112.
- Sharon Steadman, Archaeology of Domestic Architecture and the Human Use of Space (London: Routledge, 2015), 47-50.
- Carrie Fulton, “Agents of Appropriation: Shipwrecks, Cargoes, and Entangled Networks in the Late Republic,” in Matthew Loar, Carolyn MacDonald, and Dan-el Padilla Peralta, eds., Rome, Empire of Plunder: The Dynamics of Cultural Appropriation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 197.
- Lisa Gitelman, Always Already New: Media History and the Data of Culture (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006), 16.
- Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994 ).
- Bruno Latour, Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999). See also: Jane Bennett, “In Parliament with Things,” in Lars Tonder and Lasse Thomassen, eds., Radical Democracy: Politics Between Abundance and Lack (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005).
- Jonathan Sterne, “Compression: A Loose History,” in Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski, eds., Signal Traffic (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015): 31-52.
- Friedrich Kittler, Optical Media (New York: Polity Press, 2009).
- In reference to descriptions of container technologies made by Lewis Mumford and Zoë Sofia. Jonathan Sterne, “The MP3 as Cultural Artifact,” New Media & Society 8, no. 5 (2006), 827-828 and the description of “dispositif” in Michel Foucault, Power/Knowledge (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 194.
- “…This fact, characteristic of all media, means that the ‘content’ of any medium is always another medium. The content of writing is speech, just as the written word is the content of print, and print is the content of the telegraph…” McLuhan, Understanding Media, 8.
- Judd Case, “Logistical Media: Fragments from Radar’s Prehistory,” Canadian Journal of Communication 38 (2013): 379-395 and Ned Rossiter, “Locative Media as Logistical Media: Situating Infrastructure and the Governance of Labor in Supply-Chain Capitalism,” in Gerard Goggin & Rowan Wilken, eds., Locative Media (New York: Routledge, 2014).
- Peters, “Calendar, Clock, Tower” and Case, “Logistical Media,” 379-395.
- For further details, see Matthew Hockenberry, Nicole Starosielski, and Susan Zieger, eds., Assembly Codes: The Logistics of Media (Durham: Duke University Press, forthcoming).
- McLuhan, Understanding Media, 58.
- Peters, “Calendar, Clock, Tower.”
- Gitelman, Always Already New.
- Erinnerung, as Hegel would put it. Wolfgang Ernst, “Tracing Tempor(e)alities in the Age of Media Mobility,” Media Theory 2, no. 1 (2018).
- Mike Judge, Idiocracy (Los Angeles: Ternion/20th Century Fox, 2006) and Steven Spielberg, Raiders of the Lost Ark (Los Angeles: Lucasfilm, 1981). I remain ever grateful to Jason LaRiviere’s thoughtful reflections on these films.
- For more on the history of this form, see the excellent account offered in Dara Orenstein’s Out of Stock: The Warehouse in the History of Capitalism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019).
- Robert Harper, Code of Hammurabi, King of Babylon, about 2250 B.C. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1904).
- American Warehousemen’s Association, Traveling the Road of Logistics: The Evolution of Warehousing and Distribution (Chicago: American Warehousemen’s Association, 1991).
- Harold Innis, Empire and Communications (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950) and H.H. Manchester, “History of the Warehouse Since 2200 B.C.,” Distribution and Warehousing 21 (1922).
- Klose, The Container Principle, 18-19.
- While this association is well-documented among the ancient Egyptians, it was not unique to them. The Greek etymology (ἀποθήκη) also suggests burial-place. Manchester, “History of the Warehouse.”
- Michel Callon, “Struggles and Negotiations to Define What is Problematic and What is Not: The Socio-logic of Translation,” in K. Knorr, R. Krohn & R. Whitley, eds., The Social Process of Scientific Investigation (Dordecht, Holland: D.Reidel, 1981) and John Law, “Notes on the Theory of the Actor-Network: Ordering, Strategy, and Heterogeneity,” Systems Practice 5, no. 4 (1992), 385.
- Bruno Latour, “Visualization and Cognition: Thinking with Eyes and Hands,” Knowledge and Society: Studies in the Sociology of Culture Past and Present 6 (1986), 18; Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 624-625.
- John Durham Peters, “Calendar, Clock, Tower.”
- Ronald H. Fritze, Egyptomania (London: Reaktion, 2016), 124-125.
- Manchester, “History of the Warehouse.” See David Berg, “The 29th Dynasty Storehouse at Karnak,” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 24 (1987): 47-52 for another example.
- Manchester, “History of the Warehouse.” For more on these containers in antiquity, see Peter M. Day, Patrick S. Quinn, Jeremy B. Rutter, and Vassilis Kilikoglou. “A World of Goods: Transport Jars and Commodity Exchange at the Late Bronze Age Harbor of Kommos, Crete,” Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens 80, no. 4 (2011): 511-558.
- Sterne, “The MP3 as Cultural Artifact,” 827-828.
- Shannon Mattern, “Before BILLY: A Brief History of the Shelf,” Harvard Design Magazine 43 (Fall/Winter 2016, 48-49.
- Innis, Empire and Communications.
- Foucault, Power/Knowledge, 194.
- Peters, “Calendar, Clock, Tower.”
- Even the ancient Egyptians, Manchester writes, maintained remote warehouses for the sake of commerce. Manchester, “History of the Warehouse.”
- Manchester, “History of the Warehouse.”
- Robert Lopez, Irving Raymond, and Olivia Constable, eds., Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World: Illustrative Documents (New York: Columbia University Press , 2013), 215.
- John Law, “On the Social Explanation of Technical Change: The Case of the Portuguese Maritime Expansion,” Technology and Culture 28, no. 2 (April 1987): 227-252 and “On the Methods of Long Distance Control: Vessels, Navigation, and the Portuguese Route to India,” in John Law, ed., Power, Action and Belief: A New Sociology of Knowledge? (London: Routledge, 1986).
- Simone Browne, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015), 42-47.
- Simone Browne, Dark Matters, 42-47.
- See Stefano Harney’s comments in Niccolo Cuppini and Mattia Frapporti, “Logistics Genealogies. A Dialogue with Stefano Harney,” Social Text 36, no. 3 (September 2018) and “Fantasy in the Hold” in Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (New York: Minor Compositions, 2013).
- Bernhard Siegert, Cultural Techniques: Grids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015). Though, as Markus Krejewski notes, addressability has its own independent history. See: Markus Krejewski, Paper Machines (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011).
- Siegert, Cultural Techniques, 98.
- Jasper Bernes, “Logistics, Counterlogistics, and the Communist Prospect,” Endnotes 3: Gender, Race, Class, and Other Misfortunes (September 2013); James Carey, Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society(New York: Unwin Hyman, 1988).
- Fernand Braudel, The Wheels of Commerce, Civilization & Capitalism II. (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), 97.
- Edward Hatton, The Merchant’s Magazine Or The Trades Man’s Treasury (London: Coningsby, 1719), 223.
- W.E. Britton, “Negotiable Documents of Title” (1953-54) cited in Richard Aikens, Richard Lord, and Michael Bools, Bills of Lading (London, Informa, 2006), 3; See also Reginald D. Marsden, ed., Select Pleas in the Court of Admiralty. Volume 1: The Court of the Admiralty of the West (A.D. 1390-1404) and the High Court of Admiralty (A.D. 1527-1545) (London: Quaritch, 1894), 88-89.
- Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology (New York: Garland, 1977): 3–35.
- Matthew Hockenberry, “Inkonvensional Pathways: Soldered Supply Chains From Indonesia’s Tin Islands,” in Nina Mollers and Bryan Dewalt, eds., Objects In Motion: Globalizing Technology (Washington DC: Smithsonian Press, 2016): 66-78.
- Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (State College, PA: Pennsylvania State University Electronic Publishing, 2005 ), 670.
- Harold Innis, The Bias of Communication (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1951), 33.
- Bruno Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988), 227.
- Ned Rossiter, “Locative Media.”
- Latour, Pandora’s Hope, 63.
- Liam Cole Young, List Cultures (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2017).
- Zeugbüch for the emperor Kaiser Maximilian I., Cod. icon. 222, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich, as detailed in Pamela Long, Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), 117-122.
- Martin Heidegger, Being and Time (London: SCM Press 1962), 97-107.
- See Boris Emmet and John E. Jeuck, Catalogues and Counters (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1950); Orange A. Smalley and Frederick D. Sturdivant, The Credit Merchants (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973); and Lawrence Romain, A Guide to American Trade Catalogs 1744-1900 (New York: Dover, 1960).
- Latour, Pandora’s Hope, 63.
- Alain Pottage and Brad Sherman, Figures of Invention: A History of Modern Patent Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 34-36.
- Arnold Kransdorff, “Interview with Keith Oliver,” Financial Times (June 4, 1982).
- Paul Virilio, War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception (New York: Verso, 1989), 14-20.
- Mattern, “Before BILLY,” 48-49.
- Alberto Toscano and Jeff Kinkle, Cartographies of the Absolute (Winchester UK: Zero Books, 2015).