We get about our day in a seemingly individualistic effort, checking our devices for e-mails or entertainment, buying groceries for dinner, sitting on the couch or chair to eat it. Yet the items at hand, the laptop or mobile; the vegetables, fruits, meat and bread for food; and the couch or chair, are part of complex and increasingly invisible supply chains in order to reach you in one piece, ready for use. They are both items and parts of an infrastructure that assembles and connects materials, individuals, and societies in a global closed economy.
This score can be done for a couple of minutes, an hour, or you can spend a lifetime understanding how you connect in networks.
All you need is a pencil or pen and a paper.
Begin with a depiction of yourself, it can be a dot, a person, a square, your name; anything to identify you. Then write down or draw three things, with each item fitting one of the categories below:
- Something you use (furniture, electronics, appliances, etc…)
- Something you consume (food, water, medicine, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, etc…)
- Something you produce (garbage, waste, produce and plants, sweat, pee, shit, etc…)
Be as specific as possible, for food pick a specific vegetable, meat, or fruit. Mention the brand if it has one as this will be helpful later on.
Connect your body to these three items with arrows depending on the direction they are produced or consumed.
After connecting the arrows go one step further. Write or draw where you got them or where the items went.
Repeat this process further. Keep tracking these three items, attempt to track them backwards or forwards to find their sources or where they will rest.
For example, if you are tracking the lettuce you ate, you can go backwards to the grocer, then backwards to the shipping truck, then backwards to the temporary storage, then all the way back until it reaches the farm. Maybe even to the seed supplier, and maybe further than that!
You can add more items and track them. Track items you use daily, your phone, your clothes, even the tiles of your floor.
Track the material changes. Do they become something else? Will your piss eventually become rain? Does your phone lead you to a lithium mine in Argentina?
You can add energy as well. The light in your house, the air you breathe. And track where they come from and where they go.
List people you know whenever you can. The grocer’s name, the butcher’s name, etc…
While you might never close a full circle, you will better understand what your daily life hinges on, the invisible labor, and resources that allow the supply chains to function.
You can find shortcuts, arrows that might disrupt the flow of energy and that matter in ways you did not expect. Maybe you can create arrows to redirect things in a way you see fit. Do you find new material changes that can be implemented? Does the infrastructure account for such changes? Will it cause the system to malfunction or be adopted into it?