Miriam Posner is the Digital Humanities program coordinator and a member of the core DH faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles. She teaches in the DH program, advises undergraduate and graduate students, and ensures the smooth development of this new interdisciplinary program. Prior to joining UCLA, Posner was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Emory University Library’s Digital Scholarship Commons. Her book, Depth Perception, on medical filmmaking, is under contract with the University of North Carolina Press. Her Ph.D., in Film Studies and American Studies, is from Yale University.
Getting to Just-in-Time: Understanding Supply Chain Logistics
Supply chains have existed for as long as vendors have brought goods to market. But supply chain management as a field of study is an invention of the 1980s, the product of globalization and near-instant telecommunications. As offshoring has become increasingly ubiquitous, supply chains have become head-spinningly complex, demanding the use, for example, of neural networking models to understand the passage of goods from one purveyor to another. Vendors and subcontractors nest inside each other like Russian dolls, and manufacturers confess that they can’t keep their own supply chains straight.
Nevertheless, just-in-time production and rapid cycles of obsolescence require that commodities be handed through the supply chain with minimal latency. To manage this complexity and mitigate risk, corporations have turned to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) suites, software that identifies and “heals” rifts in the network of suppliers that ensures the rapid delivery of products to market.
We might see these ERP suites as the algorithmic enshrinement of David Harvey’s spatial fix, the notion that capitalism will seek to resolve its inherent tensions by planting itself in ever more distributed geographic locations. Harvey’s spatial fix helps us, first, to understand the phenomenon of global supply chain management, but it also points to a possible site of resistance. Harvey’s fix is a junkie’s fix, temporary and doomed to an ultimate crash-landing.
In this presentation, a multimedia lecture, I aim to offer a capsule history of supply chain logistics as a field as well as a reading (drawing from critical code, platform, and software studies) of ERM suites. Finally, I will show how understanding supply chains as spatial fixes can point us to new potentials and solidarities for global workers.