Note — Jan 19, 2020

A Tour of Some Logistics Landscapes

Ingrid Burrington going from satellites’ “view from nowhere” to the streets of New York City in a tour of the logistics that surround us. The piece is filled with bits of information bringing some understanding of the scale and complexity of global logistics, as well as multiple insights into the assumptions, values, and goals that shape these overlaid networks. Also includes: Amazon, warehouse workers’ safety, gentrification, destination dispatch elevators (I had no idea about these!), and provides useful context for smart cities.

But just as neoliberalism is more than a set of economic policies, logistics is more than an abstract term for ordering things: It’s a form of management, a security imperative, a world-making process unto itself. Not all systems are logistical, but to assume a logistics lens on the world tends to systematize it — making it mappable, standardized, subject to control, and predicated on perpetual growth almost always in need of optimization. […]

Today, over 2.5 million miles of pipeline run through the United States, and thanks to them, billions of objects exist. From cars and nail polish and sweaters to computers and toothpaste and pavement, petroleum leaches into almost every conceivable industrial product. […]

[T]his is what the logistics lens does: It prioritizes continuous flow, presumes infrastructural necessity, and can’t really imagine anything outside itself rendering it unnecessary. […]

In the world of warehouse logistics, as at the level of the pipeline, it’s the human bodies of organized labor that provide the most friction. […]

The lifestyle brands of gentrification are, at the heart of their cold, dead hearts, logistics brands. […]

This is not to say that all pursuit of orderly or efficient systems is inherently unhealthy or a path toward dehumanization. But within the networks that make up the logistics self/city/nation/planet, that pursuit of order and efficiency is deemed more important than and comes at the expense of the dignity and wellbeing of living things.