Supply & Command

Encoding Logistics, Labor, and the Mediation of Making—A Conference on the Critical Study of the Supply Chain.

Supply & Command

Hosted by New York University’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, April 19th-20th, 2018.

“Man is born free, and everywhere he is in (supply) chains.”

If the supply chain is only a metaphor, it is remarkably effective one. Since the moment that 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, the “supply chain” has become the paramount means of mediating production, power, and politics in modern manufacture. But this totalizing entity was not the only conceptual structure that came to take command of supply. This conference explores the moments of movement, of transition, of mediation, as the forms and patterns of production became distributed and digitized, analyzed and automated, coming together into what sometimes seems to be the sole medium for managing the logistics of life and labor—the singular and total object of the global supply chain.

Organizers: Matthew Hockenberry, Colette Perold, Nicole Starosielski, Tim Wood

Presenters: Neta Alexander, Nicholas Anderman, Patrick Brodie, Ingrid Burrington, Niccolò Cuppini, Andrew deWaard, Kay Dickinson, Guillermo León Gómez, Cindy Lin, Silvia Lindtner, Juan Llamas-Rodriguez, Dara Orenstein, Miriam Posner, Sheena Raja, Yair Rubinstein, Rory Solomon, Jing Wang, Martabel Wasserman, Emily Yen, Liam Cole Young, Shannon Mattern, Fred Moten, Carolina Bank Muñoz, Deborah Cowen

Video Archive


Thursday, April 19th (2:00-6:30pm at 239 Greene St., 8th Floor)

Screening (2:00-3:15pm)

Cast in India (2014), followed by discussion with filmmaker Natasha Raheja and respondent Radha Hegde (please note that this event takes place at 238 Thompson St., Room C95)

Opening Roundtable (3:30-4:45pm)

  • Fred Moten (New York University), Shannon Mattern (New School), Dara Orenstein (George Washington), Kay Dickinson (Concordia), Liam Cole Young (Carleton)
  • Moderators: Susan Zieger (University of California, Riverside), Nicole Starosielski (New York University), Matthew Hockenberry (New York University)

Logistics: Seeing the Supply Chain (5:00-6:30pm)

  • Liam Cole Young (Carleton University), “Salt: A Media History.”
  • Dara Orenstein (George Washington University), “The Electric Eye Stands Guard”: A History of the Labors and Logistics of Surveillance at U.S. Foreign-Trade Zones.”
  • Ingrid Burrington (Data & Society Research Institute), “Notes on Supply Chain Pedagogy.”
  • Miriam Posner (University of California, Los Angeles), “Seeing Like a Supply Chain: Understanding Data in Logistics”

Friday, April 20th (9:00am-6:00pm at 239 Greene St., 8th Floor)

Supply Chain Cities (9:30-11:00am)

  • Yair Rubinstein (Duke University), “The Uberization of Everything: Life and Labor in the Logistical City.”
  • Niccolò Cuppini (University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland), “Infrastructural media and labour conflict in Northern Italy.”
  • Silvia Lindtner (University of Michigan), “Pleasures of the Hack: Machines, Markets, Supply Chains, China.”
  • Guillermo León Gómez (Parsons School of Design), “Logistical Paradise: Zones of exclusion in Panama’s first port city.”

Democracies of Distribution (11:00am-12:30pm)

  • Sheena Raja (Rutgers University), “Strategic-storytelling and the aesthetics of Unilever’s supply chain transparency.”
  • Rory Solomon (New York University), “Delivering Politics: Truck Drivers, Citizens’ Band Radio, and Wireless Mesh Networks.”
  • Nicholas Anderman (University of California, Berkeley), “‘The ship is a time machine’: the speed of everyday life at sea.”
  • Emily Yen (University of California, Los Angeles), “Redistributing the Goods: Effective Tactics for Blue Collar Port Communities in Southern California.”

Friday morning’s panels were co-sponsored by NYU’s Urban Democracy Lab.

Capital Operations (1:30-3:00pm)

  • Andrew deWaard (University of California, Los Angeles), “The Role of Finance in the Supply Chain of the Cultural Industries.”
  • Jing Wang (Rutgers University), “From platform to re-platformization: How Alibaba converts and converges users to extend its outreach, power, and profits.”
  • Cindy Lin (University of Michigan), “Defer and Pass on: Anticipating Accuracy for Carbon.”
  • Kay Dickinson (Concordia University), “The Global Studio: Logistics, Labour and Financialized Landscapes.”

Unseen Ecologies (3:00-4:30pm)

  • Patrick Brodie (Concordia University), “Climate Extraction and the Supply Chains of Data: Decoding the Irish Data Center Phenomenon.”
  • Martabel Wasserman (University of California, Santa Cruz), “Beneath the Asphalt, The Beach: Mapping the Port and Alternative Futures.”
  • Neta Alexander (New York University), “From Dust till Drone: Roomba, the Military-Industrial Complex, and ‘the Necropolitics of Dust.’”
  • Juan Llamas-Rodriguez (University of Texas, Dallas), “Border Ecologies and the Illicit Supply Chain.”

Keynote: Deborah Cowen (University of Toronto) and Carolina Bank Muñoz (The Graduate Center, CUNY) (5:00pm)