Matthew Hockenberry is a historian and theorist whose work examines the media of global production. As Assistant Professor of Media Industries at Fordham University, his current project develops the history of logistics by tracing how media forms shaped the emergence of logistical production and distribution in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He is particularly concerned with transitional moments of mediation in the histories of paperwork, telecommunication, and computation. As a visiting scientist at the MIT Center for Civic Media he developed one of the first platforms for mapping global supply chains, and he writes regularly on the state of global supply through the lens of its most emblematic objects.

Talk: Digitizing the Supply Chain

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Abstract: The supply chain is not just a metaphor for the production of the modern world, it is the means through which that world is mademodern. Through the careful coordination of bodies and materials, it delivers the necessities of daily life–even as it ties that life to human rights abuses, violent regimes of extraction, and environmental devastation at unprecedented scales. While software has long been part of the supply chain, the supply chain is, increasingly, part of every bit of software. Developers speak of digital production in the language of logistics: writing of distribution networks as frequently as algorithms, talking about just-in-time production like any other kind of software engineering, and packaging tools with illustrations just as suited to shipping companies and factories. The design of data is thought the same as the objects that will access it. This talk examines the emergence of logistical approaches to the production of software and the distribution of data. By reincorporating the political, social, and environmental attachments that these “digital supply chains" attempt to obfuscate, I consider the implications of letting this sort of “supply chain digitization” bleed back into the larger system of supply.