re: why so much contemporary political revolt is oriented towards the infrastructural

The injustice of infrastructure is not only about lack…Sometimes there is too much infrastructure…Infrastructures reach across time, building uneven relations of the past into the future, cementing their persistence. In colonial and settler colonial contexts, infrastructure is often the means of dispossession, and the material force that implants colonial economies and socialities. Infrastructures thus highlight the issue of competing and overlapping jurisdiction — matters of both time and space.

More from Deborah Cowen (associate professor of geography at the University of Toronto),  via Verso Books


re: the logisticalization of contemporary supply chains,

For No. 43 / Shelf Life of Harvard Design Magazine, Clare Lyster (author of ‘Learning from Logistics: How Networks Change Our Cities’) wrote Storage Flows: Logistics as Urban Choreography.

Wherein she argues

To fully comprehend contemporary mechanisms of flow, we need to explore the manner in which logistics shrewdly appropriates other external networks and spaces as a means to enhance its supply chain operations. For example, many logistical networks hijack familiar forms of urban infrastructure to further conquer the spatiotemporal gap between supply and demand. Piggybacking on other systems to optimize flow by collapsing supply and distribution into one seamless system has many implications for the city, changing how distribution typologies appear in the urban landscape and thus the landscape itself.

Note: There are a number of spots where I assume “ow”/”ows” should be read, as a typo, as “flows”…

Also, no surprise that Alan Berger comes up. I immediately thought of his writings on the infrastructural leftover spaces or dross. The spaces/places where “Storage flows” happen. Transit through.

What is different today, in particular is the role of algorithms and digital flows.


China’s “Go global” strategy

A heavy load carrier moored at the terminal of the Chinese shipping company Cosco, carrying five cranes for the expansion of the terminal in Piraeus, Greece (credit: Alkis Konstantinidis/European Pressphoto Agency)

The above image was published along with an editorial essay by Heriberto Araújo and Juan Pablo Cardenal (authors of “China’s Silent Army: The Pioneers, Traders, Fixers and Workers Who Are Remaking The World in Beijing’s Image.”) in a recent Sunday NYT. The piece titled China’s Economic Empire articulates against, the growing soft power, enabled by economic development, in Beijing’s relationship with other developing countries. The authors see this as “a game-changing force in both the developed and developing world, one that threatens to obliterate the competitive edge of Western firms, kill jobs in Europe and America and blunt criticism of human rights abuses in China“.

a new social geography of the global maritime system

Mega-Ports by Olivier Mongin on the new geography of containerization for Eurozine.

Mongin writes of a “multi-speed urbanism”, a “hyper” and “hypo” urbanism, and “exo-urbanism” shaped by connections to globalized flows, nodes, and a littoral quality.  The business slogan of “JIT flow, zero storage” takes advantage of the multimodal character of the container. Specialized ship architectures take on logistical parameters with terms such as Malaccamax or post-Panamax.

Excerpted from a forthcoming book Une mondialisation urbaine à plusieurs vitesses [“Cities under pressure: Urban globalization at several speeds”].

via @subtopes

A ‘second geography’ of logistical spaces, scientific management and the ‘age of anxiety’

Three recent essays published by Mute explored the connections between surveillance, national security and logistics-driven production.

In the first Logistics and Opposition, Alberto Toscano examines the anti-urbanist presuppositions of insurrectionary anarchism.

For my purposes however, what is paramount is what this logistical view of post-Fordism tells us about the character of antagonism, and specifically of class struggle. Narcissistically mesmerised by hackers, interns and precarious academics, radical theorists of post-Fordism have ignored what Bologna calls ‘the multitude of globalisation’, that is all of those who work across the supply chain, in the manual and intellectual labour that makes highly complex integrated transnational systems of warehousing, transport and control possible. In this ‘second geography’ of logistical spaces, we also encounter the greatest ‘criticality’ of the system – though not, as in the proclamations of The Coming Insurrection , in the isolated and ephemeral act of sabotage, but in a working class which retains the residual power of interrupting the productive cycle – a power that offshoring, outsourcing, and downsising has in many respects stripped from the majority of ‘productive’ workers themselves.”

Further he argues that the inherent urban character of logistics as a mode of production suggests that anti-urbanist visions of post revolutionary space/time are in fact counter-productive. Drawing from a 2010 essay by Mike Davis, Toscano believes that our utopian future perhaps lies in cities themselves.

In the second What the RFID is That?, Brian Ashton zooms in on the microscopic technologies surveilling and shaping working lives. Although scientific management was a product of the late 19th century Ashton contends that contemporary capital’s ability to gather, archive and correlate information on the worker/consumer is simply the logical extension of that old idea. Whether at the human scale a la RFID chips, employer provided workplace badges, drug test, computer monitoring or at the larger scale a la Echelon or other government projects for data-mining all he concludes:

As the welfare state model of social control is being dismantled, the need for other forms of control increases. The hegemonic structures are there to encourage us to interiorise the control mechanisms – the prison, the factory, the asylum and the school, for example. As sketched out in this article, capital and the state are using technologies like GPS and RFID to back up the already existing mechanisms of control”

Finally, in the third Anxious Resilience, Mark Neocleous explores how the neoliberal state’s production of generalised anxiety…produces subjects that fit perfectly with the needs of capital. Provactively, Mark wonders:

I want to suggest that the management of anxiety has become a way of mediating the demands of security. It has done so within a broader logic of endless war. We have been told time and again that the War on Terror is a war like no other: this is a war without end, a permanent state of emergency, a peace which is also war. Because of this, the ideas of war and peace have been increasingly subsumed under the logic of police and security. Might we not think of the age of anxiety as a form of police power deployed for the security crisis of endless war?

Even more interesting he goes on to make the arguement that the spread of the concept of resilience or  resiliency is “Central to this process“. Implying then that all the talk amongst design professionals in recent years of the need for resilient urbanism et al., may perhaps be a less progressive (politically at least) notion than as generally articulated.

The complex ecologies of diversion

Overseers of the eastern route, which is being built alongside an ancient waterway for barges called the Grand Canal, have found that the drinking water to be brought to Tianjin from the Yangtze is so polluted that 426 sewage treatment plants have to be built; water pollution control on the route takes up 44 percent of the $5 billion investment, according to Xinhua, the official news agency. The source water from the Han River on the middle route is cleaner. But the main channel will cross 205 rivers and streams in the industrial heartland of China before reaching Beijing.

The above factoid comes from a great NYT article on the South-North Water Diversion Project. It is interesting to note that such a huge percentage of the costs are the result of environmental degradation. One wonders whether more soft approaches (engineered wetlands or other forms of environmental engineering) could reduce cost or at least create additional values-added. Particularly when one considers that the 5$ presumably is the capital costs associated with building the treatment plants and doesn’t include the longer term costs (energy, capital etc) in running them over the life-time of the project. Moreover, it seems it makes the argument for the financial benefits of regulation clear. Especially, in such a “planned economy” as China.

The complexity of the project is then highlighted. In order to faciliatate certain aspects of the plan additional projects have to be launched. The result a series of diversions, each one creating it’s own network of dependent ecologies and failure points.

The diversion from the Han is necessitating more complex projects to raise water levels. One side diversion brings water from the Yangtze to the Han. Another would bring water from the Three Gorges reservoir to the Danjiangkou reservoir.