When you buy something online, how does it get to you? How do retailers make a profit? Who does the work required to get you that item? Kyle's research investigates these questions and interrogates retailer profit and labor strategies in the restructuring of 'last-mile' logistics. 

Faculty of Arts
Geraldine Pratt
Yuba City
United States of America
Research Description

For retailers, the 'last mile' of the supply chain is the distance between their warehouses and a consumer's home. With the development of online shopping, this section of the supply chain has received increasing attention from retailer and supply chain managers. Everyone in the industry is looking for cheaper and faster ways to ship goods directly to consumers. My research investigates the profit strategies driving retailers to restructure their last mile logistics, and how such strategies affect warehouse and delivery workers: essential employees who subsidize retailers' speculative development of the supply chain.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

When thinking about public scholarship I think an essential question to ask is - which public? I'm from the United States where current social movements like the Black Lives Matter movement have demonstrated again and again that there is no single American 'public' with a coherent set of desires, interests, or opportunities. From this premise that any 'public' or community is always already multiple, I think all scholarship should begin by grappling with which public researchers are wanting to be relevant for.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

Academic work is very individual and it is primarily through individual competition that resources are allocated among graduate students and faculty. In this environment, the public scholars initiative is really important as a funding opportunity for grad students that values and prioritizes the collective and alternative aspects of PhD research. However, it seems like the limit this initiative will constantly push up against is the degree to which a re-imagined PhD is valued on the job market. In this sense PSI is a critical and important intervention, but its impact will likely be affected by how imaginative students can be and still get hired.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

Like I said, there are many different community and labor groups that are becoming interested in the logistics industry. It would be great if my PhD work could open up some opportunities in those avenues.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

In the research that the Public Scholarship Initiative is supporting, I am engaging a larger community through collaboration with a worker's center in New Brunswick New Jersey called New Labor. Worker's Centers tend to adopt a different organizational model to unions, and work in sectors that unions have historically left alone, however, they are based on the same premise: that collective worker organization can improve working conditions for those most exploited in the current economic system. New Labor has worked with warehouse and temp agency workers for a long time and our collaboration seeks to use qualitative research methods to tell the stories of the workers that have become critical in making online shopping possible. Once we have completed this research we will be holding a public art exhibit featuring these stories with the goal reaching to other workers in the area to see if they connect with these experiences.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

I primarily hope my work can contribute to the public good by being relevant and productive for community and labor organizers to engage with. For me, the goal is less to have some major breakthrough of definable contribution than to work towards creating another layer of information and analysis in an area that many are finding significant to their organizing efforts.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I believe that a collective project of social science is of political paramountcy, worth fighting for, and worth trying to contribute to. In addition, I really like research and talking with the other people about ideas. I was inspired to pursue a graduate degree out of an awareness of the importance of critical research, and because of the promise of institutional support.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

When deciding where to do my PhD, the geography department seemed to be a really good fit for my research interests. In addition, the work coming out of this department was really exciting. When it came time to decide, I chose UBC based on my fit in this department and the available funding.


I believe that a collective project of social science is of political paramountcy, worth fighting for, and worth trying to contribute to.