The logistical city is a city of peripheries. These peripheries are occupied by intermodal transport terminals, warehouses, IT infrastructure, container parks and shipping ports.1 The interconnection of peripheries on a transnational scale comprises a special kind of globality, one in which the complex network of distribution systems – roads, rail, shipping, aviation – makes concrete […]
Tag Archives: labour
By and large the digital humanities has been notable for its adherence to traditional research objects and rehashing of old methods. There is a concept-free zeal about the capacity for digital methods to verify some kind of hitherto unobtainable empirical truth. Historical literary texts are digitized to revise assumed economic patterns and social forces. Geographers scan topographic maps to produce information layers and digital elevations that reveal new frontiers for research. Google earth is traversed to uncover obscure archaeological curiosities in a dirt free manner. Even cutting edge research in the field of digital media cultures tends to transpose established humanities and social science methods to conduct ethnographies of Facebook, complex visualisations of networks and content analyses of the Twittersphere.
Boarding Gate C10, Suvarnabhumi Airport: midnight approaches at the end of the concourse, beyond the malls and gates collecting passengers for Singapore and Hong Kong. A long line of young Indian men wait to weigh their hand luggage before boarding the Kolkata flight. These are kuruvis, low-level ‘hand-carriers’ employed by shadowy bosses to transport consumer goods like electronics and garments between Thailand and India. Not surprisingly their pre-weighed luggage comes in exactly at the maximum weight allowance. But it is also carefully apportioned according to value, each carrier transporting just enough to stay under the Rs 5 Lakh limit that attracts prosecution for smuggling electronic goods into India. When the laden flight docks in Kolkata, the baggage hall is resplendent with commodities: plasma televisions, hi-fi systems, musical keyboards, not to mention the iPods, mobile phones, digital cameras and computer circuit boards stowed in makeshift bundles of shabby cloth. This is a full-scale logistical operation – a single link in the many networks of formal and informal labour that distribute consumer goods manufactured in China to markets around the globe.
With the rise of ubiquitous computing and the informatization of labour and life, it’s clear that the current conjuncture is defined by the networked condition. No matter what social milieu, geocultural situation or mode of production the individual today is always connected to circuits of capital. This is no more evident than in the banality of users logged-on to the Internet with their mobile phones and laptops. Always clicking, moving from one site to the next, the distracted mind of the user multiplies the money for the monopoly providers of idle curiosity. Google, Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, Tudou, YouTube, Twitter. Such engines of entry into the ‘experience economy’ of social networks can certainly be diagnosed with a political economy of data-mining and the aggregation of taste. But one wonders what the implications are here for the production of knowledge when users engage in the social production of value and network corporations devise new business models for the extraction of rent from the work of the common. What sort of effects does this networked condition have on institutional settings associated with knowledge production? And what kind of social-technical relations emerge to comprise new diagrams of the political? This essay addresses these questions with reference to the global logistics industries that govern the movement of people, finance and things.
In his book Nice Work If You Can Get It, Andrew Ross opens the final chapter on ‘The Rise of the Global University’ with the following assessment: ‘Higher education has not been immune to the impact of economic globalization. Indeed, its institutions are now on the brink of channeling some of the most dynamic, and […]