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Shipping Container


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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Packaging Stuff 2. 20 x 40 x 8 feet: Design and Development of a Global Object 3. Twist Lock: Global Object of Capitalism 4. Breaking the Seal: Illicit Lives of the Container 5. Four Walls: Container Afterlives: 6. Conclusion: Global Object to Come Index

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A unique exploration of the design, material history and hidden lives of an object that is central to the development of our consumer society.

About the Author

Craig Martin is Senior Lecturer in Design Cultures at The University of Edinburgh, UK. He is the co-editor, with J. Rugg, of Spatialities: The Geographies of Art & Architecture (2011).


Craig Martin has brought real love and insight to the logistical life of the shipping container. He reveals its role in the distributive space of extensive global networks and other dark places and their knotty politics, without ever losing track of our personal attachment and alienation to this box of ubiquity, this vessel of choreographed capitalism. Shipping Container is an efficient little package, calculating, brisk, economical, and yet, it is anything but a standardized account; it just sings. * Peter Adey, Professor of Human Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK *
Object Lessons' describes themselves as 'short, beautiful books,' and to that, I'll say, amen. ... [I]t is in this simplicity that we find insight and even beauty. Shipping Container by Craig Martin asks us to contemplate an object on which we depend to move 90 percent of what goes from point A to points B through Z on the globe, but also with which very few of us have had direct contact. If you read enough 'Object Lessons' books, you'll fill your head with plenty of trivia to amaze and annoy your friends and loved ones - caution recommended on pontificating on the objects surrounding you. More importantly, though, in the tradition of McPhee's Oranges, they inspire us to take a second look at parts of the everyday that we've taken for granted. These are not so much lessons about the objects themselves, but opportunities for self-reflection and storytelling. They remind us that we are surrounded by a wondrous world, as long as we care to look. * Chicago Tribune *
Shipping Container discusses in detail the mechanics of this object. It broadens this out to reflect on the significance of design and the efficiencies of standardization. Verdict: Borrow. Shipping Container is impressive in the way it manages to spin an apparently dull object into intelligent and interesting explanations of design and commerce. * Book Riot *

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