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The Problem with Feeding CitiesThe Social Transformation of Infrastructure, Abundance, and Inequality in America$
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Andrew Deener

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226702919

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226702919.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 15 October 2021

The Bar Code

The Bar Code

A Micro-technical Force of Change

(p.95) Four The Bar Code
The Problem with Feeding Cities

Andrew Deener

University of Chicago Press

This chapter explains how digital technologies and information management tools transformed the movements of material objects and reshaped food distribution industries. By the 1970s, manufacturing corporations had already entered the age of automation, but the retailing side of the food system continued to face profitability issues as a high-volume but low-tech sector. Because of the supermarket’s high-volume and low-margin merchandising platform, different arms of the food industry negotiated new shared uses of technical devices, such as bar codes, optical laser scanners, and computer data processors. The new sociotechnical machinery eventually transcended the supermarket by spreading the information management tools into corporate discount retailers and pharmacies. This new age of information and product mobility broke down boundaries between territories, merged the supermarket with the general discount store in the creation of big box stores, and forced supermarkets into another round of profitability constraints.

Keywords:   information economy, bar code, automation, big box stores, Walmart

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