Matthew Stewart: Amazon Patents and the Uncanny World of Logistics

#Lecture Series
20 Feb 2019
VI PER Gallery, Prague, CZ
Vítkova 2, Prague 8, Czech Republic

Since 2010, Amazon Technologies Inc. has filed 5,860 patents including everything from drone fulfilment centres, mobile robotic warehouses, augmented reality furniture, inflatable data centres, underwater and flying warehouse facilities, infinitely on-demand clothing manufacturing, automated shopping with image recognition systems and the ever-present spectre of drone delivery.
The talk will give context to this world building as an example of platform capitalism where Amazon aim to control a digital and physical infrastructure going far beyond their initial remit of e-commerce to now include shops, home automation, data centres, machine learning technology, shipping and airfreight operations.
Exploring Amazon’s logistics division in the context of the exhibition ‘Logistics Landscapes’ showing at VI PER, the talk will detail the wider network and strategy they employ to deliver goods across Europe. Illustrated through examples of Amazon’s recent logistic patent filings, it will look at the varying spatial scales Amazon now operate at, from the 1km long semi-automated distribution centre to wearable tech used to monitor workers. It will place Amazon’s obsession with organization and productivity within a context of Taylorist management theory, updated towards abstract users, measured in data, and governed by algorithms.
Matthew Stewart is a researcher and designer based in London interested in the spatial manifestations of our unfolding data economy. His work attempts to document both the abstract and everyday spaces defined through data technologies, explored through writing, exhibitions, and design residencies. His latest project ‘The Institute of Patent Infringement’ was commissioned by Het Nieuwe Instituut for the Dutch Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. Matthew is a contributor to the online research collective Failed Architecture and teaches architecture at the University of Westminster. Read Matthew's applied idea from the Call for Ideas 2019.

Find out more about the lecture.

The yearlong program by VI PER will consist of a series of lectures, a workshop and an exhibition, and will include lectures by four selected creatives with follow-up discussion. The presentations will be moderated by local scholars. Another event will consist of a workshop that will be organized with the architecture school in Prague together with local and foreign experts. The workshop will be led by a selected participant from the open call and explore the proposed topic. One or two emerging creatives will be selected for an exhibition or their idea will be picked up and explored by another party. The exhibition will run for 7–8 weeks, with talks and panels held during the course of the exhibition to discuss related issues.