As the online giant devotes vast resources to instantly gratify our shopping desires, it becomes increasingly hard to resist
“Libidinal” is just about the last word that comes to mind when gazing upon Amazon’s rather anonymous warehouse in Bromley-by-Bow. If you want to understand why a significant fraction of all the things bought and sold in greater London in the course of any given day flows through this one building, though, libido is a particularly useful concept to have at hand.
The idea, as developed by a line of psychoanalytical thinkers going all the way back to Freud, refers to the rhythms of desire, its frustration and release. Nothing else quite captures what’s going on in the circuit that runs straight through this building, fusing Amazon’s familiar, consumer-facing website to factories on the other side of the world. This is because, like some giant analogue of our response to desire, the entire sprawling apparatus is dedicated to nothing other than the elimination of friction.
Adam Greenfield is author of Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life