ON BROWN BOXES: HIDDEN INTERDEPENDENCE IN UNBOXING VIDEOS
Keywords:unboxing videos, labor, infrastructure, brown-boxing, logistics
This paper sheds light on the hidden interdependence in unboxing videos by examining brown cardboard boxes and the mechanism of “brown-boxing” through one extravagant unboxing video by makeup influencer Roxette Arisa on YouTube. I use brown boxes to illustrate the entanglement between digital influencer media and supply chain. Brown boxes are integral sites to explore the operating mechanisms and aesthetics of digital capitalism. Similar to how black-boxing signals the practice of hiding information/labor, and masking operation in technology, brown-boxing points to the mechanisms of concealment across capitalist sectors along the supply chain. Although supply chain is rarely discussed, logistical labor and/as infrastructure do unexpectedly show up in influencer media. These linkages sometimes unintentionally seep into audiovisual media. Perhaps the most unexpected scene takes place when Arisa’s filming of the unboxing video is interrupted by a doorbell ring with the delivery of more boxes by a UPS worker. From the off-frame interaction captured and remain visible briefly in this unboxing video, we feel the presence of the delivery worker. Examining brown boxes and the process of brown-boxing is to think through the containerization of supply chain capitalism. Brown boxes and black boxes are typically discussed in separate spaces, with the former attracting scholars of logistics/supply chains whereas the latter appealing to scholars of digital media/communication. My analysis of the materialities of unboxing video adds to the conversation around the overlapping of infrastructures and the labor that sustain the operation of these infrastructures.