Logistics looks like a well-oiled machine. It appears to be efficient enough from a distance but that’s in part because many of the components in the logistical chain are invisible and often also invisibilised. Especially the human ones. One of the 2 groups from the Logistical Noir workshop decided to go and meet the ones who are visible, yet overlooked: the delivery drivers, the owners of shops and cafés who keep our parcels until we are ready to collect them…
It soon appeared that you and I are also playing a role in the e-commerce organisation because each of us, willingly or unwillingly, are part of the last mile delivery team. We sign for the absent neighbour, we cram the plastic bubble wraps inside trash bags (while feeling guilty about all that plastic), we flatten the cardboard boxes, we can’t park in our street because the delivery van has taken our favourite spot again, we write down notes with instructions for the delivery when we know we might not be home when they ring the bell, we have to deal with more inner-city traffic (and thus pollution), etc. The alternative to some of that hassle might one day be in-home delivery but are we ready for that kind of hassle?
Most drivers typically have to deliver some 200 parcels per day. Hence, the urge to be ultra fast and parasite public space, park where they shouldn’t and drop parcels in the middle of the street…
Part One: Photo Evidence
An urban landscape of wild parking and forlorn parcels
Photos on Logistic Vehicles jamming the streets/neighbourhoods. DHL: Illegal parking as part of the business model? and Car-centric city.
Articles about how next-day delivery is transforming urban experience:
Amazon’s Next-Day Delivery Has Brought Chaos And Carnage To America’s Streets — But The World’s Biggest Retailer Has A System To Escape The Blame.
15 million packages a day: The internet brings chaos to the city streets.
The everything town in the middle of nowhere. How the tiny town of Roundup, Montana, became a hub in Amazon’s supply chain.
Daily domestic annoyances:
Customers fight back
Part Two: The Interviews
What are the general physical, intellectual and moral conditions of life of the working men and women employed in your trade? (Works of Karl Marx 1880 A Workers’ Inquiry)
We tracked down some of the actors involved in next-day delivery:
Extracts from interviews with delivery drivers by Tanja Krone:
“I have zero minutes.”
“No one gives you tips anymore” (Hermes delivery driver)
DHL delivery driver describing how, since the pandemic, he works one extra hour because he needs to wait for customers to come down the stairs and pick up the parcel. He can’t bring the parcel directly to their flats anymore
Transcript: Before I would have said it is climbing the stairs when you must go up on the last floor and maybe with heavy packages. But at this moment I don’t find the work very exhausting. The advantage is that you don’t have to climb stairs. The disadvantage is that the clients are not as fast as the deliverers, which means until they are downstairs or get dress, put on shoes… And if you count this together throughout the whole day – it takes an hour. so, you need one hour more, definitely.
Experiences of delivery drivers on Youtube
My Hermes Courier Diary Hell – The life of a courier for Hermes.
Inside Edition Producer Goes Undercover to Deliver Amazon Packages
Kevin livreur pour Amazon pendant la pandémie (Kevin delivers for Amazon during lockdown)
“It’s the worst job in the world!” (in french.)
Une journée dans l’enfer d’un livreur Chronopost (A day in the inferno of a Chronopost delivery driver): The driver explains how he is expected to work 6 days per week, for up to 70 hours per week (when he is paid for only 35 h x week, which means that he gets 4,50 euros x hour), he has 200 parcels to deliver every day and no time to eat.
The Amazon section from labournet.tv, an online archive for films from the workers’ movement – old and new – from all over the world. The focus is on the situation of wage workers, their self-organization, historical and current labor disputes and alternative social models.
How I Get By: A Week in the Life of an Amazon Delivery Driver. What it’s really like to deliver hundreds of packages a day to Prime customers.
Interview with a delivery driver: Ein Paketfahrer packt aus.
Part Three: Logistics of Solidarity
Taking protest movements that emerged and intensified since the Covid-19 pandemic as a point of departure, particularly the Belarus Protests and Black Lives Matter, our group explored the speculative concept “Logistics of Solidarity”. So instead of approaching the notion of “Logistical Noir” from the dark side, we turned to the life sustaining characteristics of logistics as an organisational form. We did so through self inquiry, by testing various online communication interfaces and open association.
logistics /ləˈdʒɪstɪks/ – the detailed organization and implementation of a complex operation
As we have learned, the container has been crucial in the evolution of logistics. The container, in its standardised shape and form, enables the transfer of resources from one place to another with little friction and without the need for local adaptation to receive or send those resources across operational entities. Conventional logistics and workshops are just-in-time operations, depriving workers of their own time. Translating this concept to solidarity, we faced a variety of feelings, actions and interfaces that would allow some and inhibit other forms of organisation.
solidarity /ˌsɒlɪˈdarɪti/ – unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.
To make our discussions accessible to others, we developed a framework (see GIF) that guides through this form of organisation by raising a set of subsequent questions. These address amongst others new relations, new materiality, resources as well as new media and interfaces needed for Logistics of Solidarity to emerge. These ponderings and reflections invite for self inquiry as well as to contribute to these speculations in your own time. A driving idea was the desire for “our own logistics”, as it surfaced after the presidential election in Belarus since August 2020. While the Logistics of Solidarity continue operating sensibly in both modes, hidden from sight and in plain sight, a glimpse that surfaced during the 3-day SILENT WORKS event can be found below.
What is our local situation?
How distant is this local situation?
What are my supply chains?
What is the materiality of Logistics of Solidarity?
What are the resources that circulate within it?
What are the interfaces we use to synchronise time with others?
How to draw layers and relations between logistics and Logistics of Solidarity?
What are the practices that maintain Logistics of Solidarity?
What constitutes time that is our own time?
Part Four: Bibliography and Resources
The Cost of Free Shipping. Amazon in the Global Economy, edited by Jake Alimahomed-Wilson and Ellen Reese, 2020
Uberworked and Underpaid: How Workers Are Disrupting the Digital Economy, by Trebor Scholz, 2016 (free download)
Artistic and cultural works
Sebastian Schmieg, Gallery. Delivery
!Mediengruppe Bitnik, Delivery for Mr. Assange
Ken Loach, Sorry We Missed You – Film, 2019
CloudPunk, “a game where you play a delivery driver who works shady jobs in a massive cyberpunk city”
Workshop moderators: Niccolò Cuppini and Ela Kagel.
Participants: Juliane Rettschlag, Katharina Höne, Mathana, Oliver Lerone Schultz, Régine Debatty and Tanja Krone.