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The Auditory Age: Logistical Lamentation in the Time of the Telephone

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 at 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm

The Bark Room, Room M104, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center 2 West 13th Street, New York, NY 10011

Drawing from his work on the media of global production, Matthew Hockenberry examines the audit as the principal form of knowledge for the logistical systems of the Anthropocene. Beginning with the discourse surrounding the disclosure of the images of factory workers and sites of extraction in the manufacture of the mobile phone, Hockenberry considers the failure of modern mechanisms in providing consumer understanding of global supply chains. Arguing that their result has been an epistemology of production that is primarily imagined—felt, rather than known—he examine their origins in the auditory practices of Western Electric, the manufacturer of the telephone for the Bell System. 

Through archival research from the AT&T Archives, Hockenberry demonstrates how the structures of everything from early trade networks to the intrepid operations of the first telegraph expeditions came to be encapsulated in the abstract assembly of the telephone. From this radical collapse came a new form for understanding, more catalogue than accounting. Its origins reveal the contemporary supplier audit not as a form investigating the system of global production, but the product of it—arguing for its fundamental limitations in addressing the problems and perils of contemporary production.

Matthew Hockenberry (PhD, New York University) is a media historian and technologist whose work examines critical developments in the epistemology of assembly to speak to the conditions of the world apparatus of production. As a visiting scientist with the MIT Center for Civic Media and Tangible Media Group he developed Sourcemap, a collaborative platform for mapping supply chains and sharing “where things come from.” He writes regularly on the state of global supply through the lens of its most emblematic objects.

Sponsored by the Department of Culture and Media, Eugene Lang College.

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