• CLEVELAND, OH
• NIAGARA GORGE
• SCAJAQUADA CREEK
©2006 Julian Montague
last several decades, the stray shopping cart has quietly become
an integral part of the urban and suburban landscapes of the
industrialized world. To the average person, the stray shopping
cart is most often thought of as a signifier of urban blight
or as an indicator of a consumer society gone too far. Unfortunately,
the acceptance of these oversimplified designations has discouraged
any serious examination of the stray shopping cart phenomenon.
Until now, the major obstacle
that has prevented people from thinking critically about stray
shopping carts has been that we have not had any formalized language
to differentiate one shopping cart from another.
In order to encourage a more
nuanced and comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon, I
have worked for the past six years to develop a system of identification
for stray shopping carts. Unlike a Linaean taxonomy, which is
based on the shared physical characteristics of living things,
this system works by defining the various states and situations
in which stray shopping carts can be found. The categories of
classification were arrived at by observing shopping carts in
different situations and considering the conditions and human
motives that have placed carts in specific situations and the
potential for a cart to transition from one situation to another.
The resulting Stray Shopping
Cart Identification System consists of two classes and thirty-three
subtypes that can be used singly or in combination to describe
and thereby “identify” any found cart. One of the
unfortunate difficulties in implementing a situational taxonomy
of this kind is that one is often required to speculate about
where a cart is coming from and where it is going next. While
this uncertainty can at times be vexing, it must be remembered
that this system is the first attempt to categorize and analyze
the transient nature of the shopping cart. The refinement of
this system is an ongoing process.
the Stray Shopping Cart Identification System considers the situation
a stray cart is in and the potential to transition to new situations,
it is often not possible to assign Type designations with complete
certainty. Some Types, B/2 DAMAGED for example, describe the
physical condition the stray cart is in; consequently it is relatively
easy to assign the B/2 Type designation. Types that describe
a cart’s situation in a larger context (A/9 REMOTE FALSE,
B/1 OPEN TRUE, and many others) cannot be assigned with certainty
without actively tracking the cart for days or weeks. With long-term
tracking often being out of the question, the observer should
take into account the context in which he/she finds the cart
and construct a likely hypothesis.
One must keep in mind that a
number of Types have significant overlap in their definitions.
For example, a B/3 FRAGMENT is by definition also a B/2 DAMAGED.
Similarly, B/10 PLOW CRUSH and B/11 TRAIN DAMAGED are also B/2
DAMAGED. The overlap is useful in situations where the specific
cause of the damage cannot be determined. In such cases, the
B/2 Type alone should be assigned. At some level, it would be
correct to think of B/3, B/10, B/11, and B/20 as subtypes of
B/2. However, given that this System is based on the situation
in which a cart is found, these Types must be separate. When
assigning Type designations, it is not necessary to assign redundant
Types. For example, one does not need to assign B/2 DAMAGED as
well as B/10 PLOW CRUSH.
Another aspect of the identification
process is that a cart may hold multiple Type designations. For
example, a B/14 Archaic cart can simultaneously be a B/10 PLOW
CRUSH. Some Type designations, once acquired by a specimen, are
retained (indicated by the R–Arrow icon) throughout all
subsequent transitions, while others are lost when a transition
occurs. For example, if a B/3 FRAGMENT is thrown in the trash,
it will acquire the B/19 IN/AS REFUSE designation, but it will
still retain the B/3 designation. When a B/4 ON/AS PERSONAL PROPERTY
is removed from personal property, the designation is not retained.
A general rule is that physically damaged or modified carts retain
the Types that affected them, while those Types based purely
on the situational context in which they are found are lost when
a transition to a new situation occurs. One Type outside of
this dichotomy is B/14 Archaic, which is always retained since
it is defined by the irreversible event of its SOURCE of origin
CLASS A Types can be subject
to some CLASS B Types. A common example is that when an A/1 CLOSE
FALSE is vandalized at the edge of the SOURCE lot, it acquires
the secondary Type of B/12 SIMPLE VANDALISM. Such situations
are indicated by a green icon with a brown border. A CLASS B
cart can acquire a CLASS A Type only when a B/1 OPEN TRUE is
left at a bus stop, where it becomes A/3 BUS STOP DISCARD.
|Any business that
uses shopping carts in a conventional manner.
A SOURCE that has gone out of business.
Employees or subcontractors of the SOURCE who collect and return stray
A shopping cart that while on the SOURCE lot is diverted from
its primary function, damaged, or otherwise rendered useless.
2. A shopping cart that appears to
be a stray cart but that is ultimately returned to service
in the SOURCE from which it originated.
A cart that will not be returned to the SOURCE from
which it originated.
2. CLASS B:TRUE STRAY TYPES may be used as
secondary designations for CLASS A: FALSE STRAY specimens.
subdivisions of Classes A and B.
(There are currently 11 Class A TYPES
and 22 Class B TYPES included in the System.)
that has been photographically documented and assigned a single
or multiple TYPE designations.
of Classes A and B, abbreviated by using the Class letter alone
with the Type number.
green Class B TYPE icon with a brown border represents a secondary
Class B TYPE designation.
|When an image
contains multiple carts and there is no notation indicating otherwise,
the TYPE designations should be assumed to refer to all carts
in the image.
ditches, spaces between buildings, behind buildings, under bridges
and overpasses, and all manner of vacant gaps between properties,
public or private.
research for the development of the Stray Shopping Cart Identification
System was done in Buffalo, New York, over the course of
six years. The Buffalo area was used as a systemic template
due to its high level of cart activity and the drastic seasonal
changes that allow the presence of snow-related Types. Further
research and experimental applications of the System have
been done at various locations in the Eastern United States
and Southern Canada. While the System appears to work in
most locations in the East, there is the possibility that
some regions may possess conditions and forces not considered
in the present version. The System is not closed and new discoveries
that do not fall under the currently defined Types will demand
the establishment of new Types.
WESTERN NORTH AMERICA
Although the System has not been
tested or widely applied in the Western United States, Canada,
or Mexico, it is probable that the System in its present
form would encompass the majority of Western stray cart activity.
Recent research done on the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and
Maui prove that the System is fully applicable at the most
remote western reaches of the United States.
Travels abroad have confirmed that the System
of Identification functions beyond the North American continent.
FALSE and TRUE strays were found in three Scandinavian capitals:
Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm, and on the Swedish island
of Gotland (See the Observing Carts
in Scandinavia page).
While the stray activity in these cities differs in intensity
from that of an Eastern North American city, the basic Type
designations of the System appear to accurately describe
it. There was, however, one important exception found in
Copenhagen (See the Observing Carts
in Scandinavia page).
Anecdotal reports from elsewhere in Europe suggest that the
System may function across Western Europe. A recent search
for stray shopping carts in Moscow turned up almost no results,
why this is the case is not yet understood.
ASIA, AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AMERICA
The System has not
yet been tested on these continents. I have been sent
photographs of what appear to be stray shopping carts from
both Japan and Australia, but no rigorous investigations
have taken place. I have also heard of wide spread stray
activity in Argentina, but I have not seen any documentation.