logistical notes between fulfillment and discontent

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If affect now also moves as a series of interconnected nodes in a inextricably capitalist infrastructure, does the ‘romance’ of a hand-to-hand remain only a complicit minor, or is it also possible to ‘ethically’ lay (larger societal) effects aside, become more aware of unintentionally superimposing growth or impact expectations on things where value might rather be found in subjective-collective experience, and functioning as an experiment? Is it still possible to discuss experience?


Disjunctures between ideology, affect, behaviour (or, ethics between singular and collective):

“It was Nike for a little while. It’s been Nestle, then Coca-Cola,” said Tim Hunt, an editor of the British nonprofit magazine Ethical Consumer. “We can add Amazon to the list of corporate boogeymen, and I don’t mean that flippantly,” he said. Most abstainers don’t suffer any illusions about what they’re doing; Amazon clearly hasn’t suffered from their absence, and their numbers aren’t large enough to make demands — many more people are currently turning to Amazon than are turning away. Instead, for some, opting out of an increasingly ubiquitous and assertive Amazon offers a sense of control and agency, however slight.

The sheer scope of Amazon’s business interests — including surveillance devices (Ring), government contracts (through Amazon Web Services), and a work force that includes both low-wage gig workers and the actual richest person in the world — makes finding a reason to opt out of Amazon nearly as easy as finding something to buy on it. But plenty of Amazon abstainers aren’t merely coping with guilt, reclaiming a lost sense of control, or fighting the thought that “ethical consumption” sounds oxymoronic.


Amazon’s ubiquity, and the millions of habits its customers have formed, put Mr. Smalls in a strange and exhausting position: appealing for empathy for a largely invisible work force laboring through a pandemic, while also sympathizing with Amazon customers accustomed to a relatively new convenience.


Reached by phone, Dr. Pollack said his critiques of Amazon had both widened and deepened, but that he’s also now a frequent customer. “It’s chastening,” he said, when asked to revisit his stance. “I do use Amazon more in my life than I’m entirely comfortable about. It’s part of the infrastructure of my life in the same way it is the infrastructure of others’ lives, during Covid especially.”

Dr. Pollack then offered a fresh analysis, one that attempted to incorporate, or at least acknowledge, his ambivalence. “I think my own trajectory is emblematic of why there need to be public policy solutions to this,” he said, mentioning concerns about antitrust, Amazon’s broader place in the economy, and, as was his focus in 2012, the welfare of the company’s work force. Amazon, he said, presents an “enormous collective action problem.”

— excerpts taken from “Life Without Amazon (Well, Almost)”, by John Herrman


Domesticated/Connected vs. Mobile/Disposable:

Emerging as a refrain to the domesticated/connected subject, the mobile/disposable subject moves at ever greater speeds and at ever greater risk so no one else has to. The interruption of public life is overrun by the feverishly accelerated mobile/disposable subject that is connected and subservient to the same informatic networks that connect domesticated/connected subjects to planetary economies. Commanded by smartphone apps delivering endless streams of pings and alerts that steer them from one gig to the next through nearly vacant streets, migrant workers on electric bikes have never been in higher demand, carrying food boxes from restaurants, bags of groceries from supermarkets, and miscellany from pharmacies, bodegas, and liquor stores to all of the salaried domesticated/connected workers who, now confined at home, create vast deluges of online orders. Amazon truck drivers speed across neighborhoods, always over capacity and behind impossible-to-meet computationally-generated schedules, carrying boxes filled with diapers, batteries, bleach wipes, laptops, and breathing masks. Ambulance drivers are asked to simply never stop driving, while garbage workers haul larger and larger bags of trash filled with larger and larger volumes of domestic refuse. All of these workers are expected to go increasingly fast to keep up with increasing demand, and thus increasingly expose themselves to the contagion and other forms of risk associated with their embodied acceleration. The massive containment and isolation of the domesticated/connected subject has as its twin the mobile/disposable subject that constitutes the system of distribution for a new pandemic economy.

Both the domesticated/connected subjects working from home and the mobile/disposable subjects racing through the streets are ultimately brought together not only by the immense interconnected apparatuses of the digital economy but also by the blanket waves of social abandonment that now affect all life.

— from Ian Alan Paul, “The Corona Reboot


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