Here the manifest becomes an accounting of injuries. I think this provides a better model for unraveling the global supply chain than transparency. Rather than allow transparency to remain as a form of corporate responsibility, with “mapping the supply chain” an exercise in corporate power, “making out its manifest” might now attempt to account for our value, and our injuries. It records the places where labor has been exploited, where the earth has been plundered, where waste overruns into rivers, and poison bleeds into the air. It is not a proclamation from on high, but an admonition from below. Not an attempt at supply chain resilience, but an opportunity for supply chain reconciliation.
Assembly Codes examines how media and logistics set the conditions for the circulation of information and culture, documenting how logistics—the techniques of organizing and coordinating the movement of materials, bodies, and information—has substantially impacted the production, distribution, and consumption of media. At the same time, physical media, such as paperwork, along with media technologies ranging from phone systems to software are central to the operations of logistics. In charting the specific points of contact, dependence, and friction between media and logistics, Assembly Codes demonstrates that media and logistics cannot be understood apart from each other.
Merging visual representation with textual listing, the mail-order catalogue brought the anticipation of availability to the work of supply. As it did, it crystalized the expectations of capitalism for contemporary consumer culture. This essay surveys some examples of this form around this moment of transformation: as the catalogue form gave way to the catalogue function, and the raw stuff of supply transformed into an operative relation—an ontological object defined not by material presence, but by the potential for supply.
This article interrogates the emergence of the supply chain, and the logistical modes of operation it entails, as metaphor for managing the digital distribution of data – adapting approaches from the critical study of logistics in order to re-incorporate the political, social, and environmental attachments that ‘digital supply chains’ attempt to obfuscate. To this end, it considers discourses around power and cultural politics that mirror critiques of traditional logistical infrastructures. Instead of conflict minerals, for example, conflict domains; in place of security concerns around cargo containers, data containers; rather than workers on the factory floor, labourers in a digital network of ‘sweatshops.’ These comparisons reveal differences between traditional supply chains and their digital counterparts – the most troubling of which is their infrastructural instability. With components that can be replaced while retaining their essential shape, those who depend on digital platforms can find themselves open to all sorts of redirected entanglements.
This article examines the ways of knowing that govern public constructions of knowledge in the manufacture of the mobile phone—its cultural meaning, sociality of labor, and environmental consequences. It does so to consider the “material epistemology” of the mobile phone, the way in which one comes to know these devices, especially through the devices themselves. In modern manufacture, the incorporation of corporate supplier audits and investigative reporting into public discourse reveals an epistemology of production that is primarily imagined, rather than historically and ethnographically realized. Although the public epistemology of the mobile supply chain is built from the model of the telephone and telegraph, these networks were themselves mystified, displaced, and obscured. This is illustrated by examining material and conceptual differences between the historic supply chain of the telephone manufacturer Western Electric, and those imagined for contemporary companies like Apple.
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, […]
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 […]
Interesting to see this speech by MLK, where he seems to be channeling Adam Smith’s famous section in Wealth of Nations on the long land and sea carriage. Smith wrote that “we shall be sensible that, without the assistance and co-operation of many thousands, the very meanest person in a civilized country could not be […]
These are evidence of governance gaps – gaps in our supply chains. Some happen in failed states. Some happen in states that feel like deregulation or lack of regulation is good for trade. But they provide a human rights dilemma for all of us. And most of the companies involved in these supply chains can’t […]