Department of Anthropology

Sound Studies Lecture Series: Shannon Mattern

"The Pulse of Global Passage: Listening to Logistics"

Fri, April 12, 2019 | SAC 5.118

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

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While logistics enlists various media technologies in its operation, it doesn’t readily lend itself to macro-scale mediation. Many have tried: consultants, engineers, and artists have sought to render global capitalism visible by mapping it, flow-charting it, tracking it via satellites and sensors, photographing its indexical landscapes, and capturing its flows on film. Yet ultimately, logistics, as a “deeply incoherent, contradictory, conflicted, and competitive domain,” Alberto Toscano explains, possesses a “fundamental opacity.” That opacity, I’ll argue, presents an opportunity for another mode of logistical representation and investigation: listening. Logistics is a rhythm; it’s an orchestration of infrastructures to facilitate movement, a means of synchronizing disparate temporalities. And sound is well qualified to mark those rhythms, register logistics’ political and cultural dynamics, sound out its environments of operation, and capture its affective dimensions. This talk demonstrates how listening attunes us to dynamics of logistical systems past and present; and it enables us to think anew about what it means to listen in an age of global capitalism and automation.

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