Distopic Futures present
The appearance of ‘cyber Monday’ on the digital advent calendar brings to the fore the way in which our consumerist digital culture has real, tangible spacial manifestations. As reported by several prominent and differently positioned media outlets (the Guardian, Daily mail and Panorama (programme still to be aired); the working conditions of the temporary seasonal staff is nothing short of Orwelian (with particular focus on Amazon’s Peterborough and Jersey Marine (Wales) “fulfillment centres”). The machinery consistently judging performance of staff with no contractual rights in purely numerical terms, counting items ‘picked’ and the pace at which this occurs as we feed our ever insatiable appetite for objects. The firm hierarchy embodied in the hue of badge attached to the operator emphasising the type of employment and therefore social hierarchy. That there are a silent but growing minority of unrepresented workers dragging on the coattails of the seasonal, cyclic commercial market offering temporary opportunities for paltry monetary reward becomes just another story in the milieu of life.
But beyond this depressing tale of contemporary socio-economic polarisation, there is also the realisation that this practice, the creation of virtual superstores require large built warehouses of monstrous scale that dwarf the supermarket (with the Peterborough site being at over 500,000sqm), creating spaces too vast for their interiors to be caught on camera. So often the physical spaces that the virtual world requires are displaced in foreign territories, it is to some irony that the spacelessness of the Amazon software requires such distopic hardware.
This article was written in 2015 and as such is written in the context of the social and political conditions of the time