March 4, 2006

Feral Trade


Having fallen off the wagon over the past few weeks, we're reentering the fray with Kate Rich's Feral Trade project. Kate's a good friend of Natalie's and via Feral Trade, has established a remarkable series of informal, alternative distribution networks of otherwise locally produced goods - coffee from El Salvador, Sweets from Iran and St. John's Wort from Bulgaria. Shipments are rigorously catalogued, providing visual documentation of people and places along the way and informational packaging that together create an informative narrative of socially driven commodity chains. States Rich:

"Feral Trade is an initiative to develop new trade relations along social networks. The use of the word 'feral' denotes a process which is wilfully wild (as in pigeon) as opposed to romantically or nature-wild (wolf). The passage of goods can open up wormholes between diverse social settings, routes along which other information, techniques or individuals can potentially travel.

The first registered feral trade was initiated in 2003, with the import of 30kg of coffee from Sociedad Cooperative de Cafecultores Nonualcos R.L. in San Pedro Nonualco El Salvador, to the Cube Microplex cinema co-op in Bristol UK. The coffee is now traded on through the UK and Europe over social, cultural, familial and occupational networks.

Design and production of documentary product packaging is an integral part of the feral trade process, with a view to rendering diverse currents in global shipping, international relations & network mobility from the extreme local point of view of the feral trade product."

Feral Trade

February 5, 2006

2D Barcodes: Shop with your Cell Phone


The day when shoppers will be able to walk into a store and use their cell phone to decide which products they want to buy is not far off. Semacode, a Canadian telecommunications company has developed opensource technology linking 2D barcodes with cell phone cameras and urls - in other words, scanning the barcode with your phone camera automatically links your display to the encoded website (2D barcodes can store much more information than their linear predecessors - the above barcode contains HSIM's mission statement and url).

Dara O'Rourke, assistant professor of Environmental and Labor Policy at Berkeley, has proposed applying this technology to product traceability - in theory, empowering consumers to make choices on the basis of back-end production information (i.e. how something was made) that could provide a competetive advantage to best-practice manufacturers. So, the next time you're at the supermarket wondering what 'free-range' really means, you might be able to see for yourself.


January 30, 2006

Timberland and the information politics of "Nutritional" Footprint


Check it out!!
Seems like this is a call for HSIM to do exactly that, CHECK IT OUT, aka provide imagistic verification in a populist visual form to show what these numbers actually look like on the ground. It does set a great industry standard that we can promote, and help ground in multiple forms of evidence rather than it becoming another abstraction around which tweeks are made. And as the venerable Michael Dorsey suggests, we could incorporate this format and help along its propogation to other companies interested in exploring the transparency. Here is *the* article on it: