Cargo Cult

The BBC has just begun a facinating on-going feature: they’ve ‘adopted’ a cargo shipping container and will follow it on its travels around the world, and through the arteries of globalization, for the next year. The container has a big BBC logo on it, and is equipped with a GPS tracking device, but is otherwise just a standard container and will be used normally in the global shipping business.

A webpage on the BBC site features a real-time map of the container’s  location and its recent movements, and will also tell you what its cargo is at any given time.

I’m really excited about this project, and I hope it gets the attention it deserves. In particular, it seems to me that it would be a great way of introducing school kids to globalization. It builds on the work of a number of recent books in exposing some of the issues around globalization, trade and capitalism, such as

The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade by Pietra Rivoli
Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System by Raj Patel

but provides a compelling visual narrative to tell a complex tale.

Given how rapidly cargo moves in these containers – before their introduction, a typical cargo ship might take two or three weeks to unload, whereas now it takes no more than a day or two – I plan to tune into “The Box” everyday and see where it is and what it’s carrying.


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