After the tedious application of heat gun and pliers to loosen the metal cage affixed to the iPhone’s back case, we found a surprising sequence of numbers and letters. Some short, some longer, and all at various angles and orientations. As marks, they were meaningless. But the marking, itself, surely had meaning.
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.
In the chapter “Telephone, Color Chart, Napkin: The “Logistical Legacies of the Bauhaus” in Laura Forlano, Molly Wright Steenson, and Mike Ananny’s Bauhaus Futures, out now with MIT Press: “Hockenberry engages with the logistical legacies of the Bauhaus and their implications for the future of remote production in artistic practice and industrial manufacturing…considering the Bauhaus […]
This is a preprint of an article that appeared in lo Squaderno no. 51 | Logistical Territories. When Western eyes follow the snaking path of the supply chain to its distant ends, they find there surprisingly familiar things. In what should be a diverse and many-faceted site, there is a reliable regularity. It is as […]
This is a preprint of an article that appears in the Spring 2018 issue of Anthropological Quarterly, part of the special collection on Unseen Connections: The Materiality of Cell Phones. Housed in factory dormitories in China, assembled in Mexican maquiladoras, and put to work soldering connections in Vietnam, Thailand, and Taiwan, are the diffuse network […]
This interview originally appeared on Public Seminar. This conversation with Matthew Hockenberry  marks the beginning of a series of dialogues on the subject of logistics. No longer a mere subject of business management schools or an exclusive expertise of the military, logistics has become a significant presence in recent scholarship, particularly in the humanities, and is […]
Supply & Command is a wrap. I wanted to make this post to thank all of the presenters and attendees for joining us to share their wonderful work, and for thinking with us on the relationship between logistics, labor, and media. It was an incredibly motivating and intellectually invigorating two days, full of insightful discussions […]
Amazon is a hybrid company, equal parts Walmart and FedEx. Like all great retailers of the modern moment, it is an outsized presence masking the hundreds–thousands–of individuals using its infrastructure to build business behind house labels and simplified searches. But it is distribution that girds the company’s foundation and prefigures its future. In this respect, […]
Or at least, Assembly Line: The Game… with aliens. Factorio is “a game in which you build and maintain factories.” As the developer puts it: You will be mining resources, researching technologies, building infrastructure, automating production and fighting enemies. Use your imagination to design your factory, combine simple elements into ingenious structures, apply management skills […]
The editors of LIMN were kind enough to let me contribute a small historical overview to the recent Food Infrastructures issue. While I’m no expert in food studies (other than in the eating of it), I think it serves as a reasonable primer (particularly with regard to packaging, production, distribution, and data) for the articles […]