Infrastructures on-demand: takeaway parcels, delivered restaurants and the production of urban convenience

Authors: Lizzie Richardson*, Durham University, Mike Crang, Durham University
Topics: Economic Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: on-demand economy, logistics, urban infrastructures, production networks
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Galerie 4, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines the role of stopping and buffering in urban infrastructures. It examine two items that are objects of last-mile urban delivery: the parcel and the cooked meal. In the examples used here, both of these are fulfilments of ‘e-commerce’ orders. The parcel is that which contains items ordered online, for example through Amazon.com, and is then delivered to a locker in an urban location. The cooked meal is produced by a restaurant that partners with a delivery platform, for example Deliveroo, which ensures that the food is swiftly provided to a customer’s home nearby in the city through a courier service. These examples illustrate changing retail practices at the end of global supply chains, in which convenience becomes part of the product on sale. Convenience - as the ‘right’ place and time in the city – must be produced in order for a purchase to be made. However, this promise of convenience in the moment of purchase is contingent upon the forward projection of success in the complex orchestration of urban actors that bring the right time into being. A visible manifestation of this emergent infrastructure for the parcel is the collection point, for the cooked meal it is bicycle courier. Therefore, this is infrastructure on-demand in that it is neither clearly in situ or in use all the time. The corollary is that stoppage, storage and buffering – processes of more or less deliberate delay – are vital to the performance of urban convenience.

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