Logistics and/of Communication

radar1A few years ago, I picked up a paper at a conference poster session written Judd Case, from Manchester College. He was making an argument for radar as a branch of communication theory.  One of his observations really resonated with me – the attention to the concept of logistics.  Drawing on the work of earlier social scientists such as Harold Innis, Lewis Mumford, and Marshall McCluhan and the concept of technic as well as Virilio’s observation of the camera ensuring “logistics of perception,” Case argues that radar is a logistic because it first orders and then represents.  Thus, he argues, there is also a politics of logistics.

If logistics is about ordering and coordinating first, then there is a clear connection to what I call configuration, or the ordering of what exists into something new. Such as a mashup. Logistics seems to go beyond just coordinating or configuring.  It implies an ordering, a perception of relations or how thing (should) relate. Therefore, meaning is strategically built into the structure.  Which then itself structures further action.

Logistics may indeed be different than structuring and ordering by offering a stronger connection to materiality.  In the event of logistical failure some part of the system — some material mechanism — literally breaks. Logistics imply terms such as system capacity, throughput, movement. So failure creates a standstill until the part is fixed or a work around is built.

Case argues there is a politics of logistics. And I think, certainly, interesting potential for new ways of theorizing the politics of systems and of technology.

For an abstract of the dissertation that was the source of this paper, see http://ir.uiowa.edu/etd/474/

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