Cabinet Issue 47: Logistics
Cabinet Magazine, 2012
Paperback, 112 pages
I've seen Cabinet magazine in bookstores a number of times, but it wasn't until issue 47 that I went ahead and bought one. It's partly the cover that lured me into it—a photograph by Christoph Morlinghaus "of a plant outside Los Angeles that manufactures metal beverage cans." Strongly linked to the issue's theme of "Logistics," the peek into hidden yet crucial spaces in our consumer culture is very appealing to me. Fortunately, the issue is not limited to visually revealing the spaces for the storage and transport of goods, as in the cover; it explains how these spaces work and their crucial roles in the global economy.
The editors do not attempt to encapsulate the essays with an introduction, instead letting each author or interviewee add their voice to the mix. While logistics can be defined as "the detailed coordination of a complex operation involving many people, facilities, or supplies," the eight contributors hone in on storage, shipping, and retail. The companies one might expect in these terms are well represented: UPS, FedEX, USPS, Amazon.com, but so are things like the Traveling Salesman Problem, cold storage for food, and the Universal Product Code, or UPC, what might be the key to all of today's logistical possibilities.
As a "magazine of art and culture," I'm glad to see Cabinet tackle a theme that has the potential to be great, zonk-yourself-out-at-bedtime reading. But the authors skillfully illustrate the complexity of logistics, as well as how the polar scales of it all—the enormity of warehouses, networks, and infrastructure versus the individual items that we buy at the store or arrive at our door. It gives me a greater understanding of just what happens when I buy something (and makes me questions just such an act), but it also leaves me wondering what the theme for Issue 48 might be.