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Supply Chain Stories: Logistical Media, Fake Goods, and NFTs

Susan Zieger will give a talk on the growth of the Fake Goods Economy and the values created by the supply chain.

Event, Research Seminar

This seminar is jointly organized by the Center for the Sociology of Organizations (CSO) and the médialab.


"Two strange new breeds of twenty-first century goods offer insight into our global economic ecology. The fake or counterfeit good is a putatively inferior product that infringes intellectual property rights, such as the ersatz Louis Vuitton handbag. The rise of online and social media shopping has multiplied fakes, some of which are even made in the same factories as the authentic brands they imitate. Likewise, the NFT or “nonfungible token,” a block of code on a chain in a distributed ledger that corresponds to a digital image, similarly provokes and confounds authenticity. Though they promise unique, verifiable, and irrevocable ownership, they too can be faked, and even their legitimate forms are approached with suspicion.

My talk investigates these phenomena through the supply chain stories that logistical media tells about them. Logistics is the efficient movement of goods, people, and information to optimize profit; logistical media are all the technical modes of coordination that support it, from paper bills of lading to supply chain software, from electronic seals and contact chips to QR codes and RFID scans, from Blockchain-based authentication to social media posts and feeds. Aiming to make a good’s journey transparent, they quickly become more complex and open to interpretation. Fake goods’ stories are often told by the customs and border patrol that seek to eliminate them; NFTs, which are themselves the documentation of the digital supply chain that produces them, give turbulent accounts of their ontology and value.

By precisely situating these phenomena in terms of logistics, I aim to better describe the headways of global consumerism, aesthetics, and culture. Economic thought, which persists in categorizing goods as either “real” or “intangible,” is not nimble enough to parse the values within the discourses’ paired binary oppositions between physical and digital, authentic and fake, objective and fictional, grounded and virtual, valuable and valueless. A more careful analysis reveals surprising shifts: supply chain authentication increases the flow of fake goods; goods take on the characteristics of money; and though authenticity persists, its storytellers shift from elite institutions to ordinary media consumers."


Susan Zieger is Professor of English Literature at the University of California, Riverside. She received her BA in English Literature from Dartmouth College in 1995, her MSc in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology from Imperial College, UK in 2000, and her PhD in English Literature from the University of California, Berkeley in 2002. She is the author of Inventing the Addict: Drugs, Race, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century British and American Literature (2008), The Mediated Mind: Affect, Ephemera, and Consumerism in the Nineteenth Century (2018), and numerous articles investigating the intersections of consumption, identity, and mass culture.

Practical information

The seminar will be held on the Sciences Po campus, 1 place Saint Thomas d'Aquin (Room K. 011), 75007 Paris. A virtual meeting room will also be available.

Mandatory registration.