How to make a point

It has been a preoccupation of mine in imagining the supermarket as a locus for political assembly. Clearly, it has already overtaken religious assembly. In the UK the big brand Supermarkets like TESCO and SAINSBURY are principle organizers of daily life. The ritualized relationship between customer and supermarket have been carefully constructed and maintained to a degree that compares to the construction of religious faith.

Church and Supermarket have long been rivals for share of Sunday morning customer with the Church losing out considerably to the out-of-town Supermarket. The Church has conceded that Goods and God will be worshiped in the appropriate modern temple.

Its a privatized relation between customer and supermarket with no mass communion as such. The introduction of loyalty cards facilitates a simple exchange - personal data for points. The indexical reference to individual shopping habits means that customers are now assembled next to each other on a database, highly categorized and searchable.

Since the BSE fiasco and wide criticism of the food industry, the UK public is losing its faith in the Supermarket but dependency is entrenched. The Supermarket is starting to emerge as a highly politicized force for social engineering, particularly as the UK Government is now collaborating with Supermarkets to analyze their loyalty card databases in tracking Genetically Modified food consumption.  'Information on GM foods would be made available "in a form that can be analyzed on a product by product basis at postcode level." Using health databases the information would be used to find out whether eating GM foods is linked to illness.' (Friends Of The Earth Jan 99)

The Clubcard project ( raised the possibility of political incursions into the relationship with the supermarket as defined by the loyalty card and accompanying database. The next stage for the project lies in mobilising the integrated database/internet/postal strategy to synthesise communications about GM foods.