Note — May 17, 2020

It’s Only Going to Get Weirder

From the intriguing newsletter Inhabit: Territories, an interview with Ingrid Burrington. On labor organizing at Amazon, the dominance of the company, how they lower standards for everybody else, the link between surveillance capitalism and supply chain capitalism, as well as the surprising malleability and flexibility of the deeper layers of the supply chain, and finally on the pandemic and wanting to do something when really all most of us can do is stay home.

Burrington references mushroom pickers from The Mushroom at the End of the World in relation to supply chains (both also mentioned in the next piece on fungi), and you might think of the whole piece in the context of brittleness, as in Cascio’s framework above.

The warehouses are a really legible focal point for the public, but also AWS [Amazon Web Services] is the biggest cloud services provider on the planet. The majority of the means by which “business as usual” is allowed to continue remotely happens because of their infrastructure. […]

One of the things that’s interesting in watching certain supply chains break down in this moment is looking at where there is actually flexibility and where there isn’t, where things are adaptable and where they aren’t. […]

Part of the work of trying to restructure these really complex systems you’re talking about, that currently feel quite intractable and recalcitrant, is finding the wherewithal to think on that longer time horizon. Which feels very out of reach for a lot of people right now. […]

One of the things that Jenny Odell gets across very well is that doing nothing is not about actually just stopping, or being useless or being lazy. It’s about being really clear about what you actually want and doing that thing instead of the thing you think you’re supposed to do, or the thing that meets someone else’s expectations.