Benjamin H. Bratton

Benjamin H. Bratton is a theorist whose work spans philosophy, computer science, and design. He is Associate Professor of Visual Arts and Director of the Center for Design and Geopolitics at the University of California, San Diego. He is also Visiting Professor of Critical Studies at SCI-Arc (the Southern California Institute of Architecture) and Professor of Digital Design at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.

  • The Stack

    The Stack

    On Software and Sovereignty

    Benjamin H. Bratton

    A comprehensive political and design theory of planetary-scale computation proposing that The Stack—an accidental megastructure—is both a technological apparatus and a model for a new geopolitical architecture.

    What has planetary-scale computation done to our geopolitical realities? It takes different forms at different scales—from energy and mineral sourcing and subterranean cloud infrastructure to urban software and massive universal addressing systems; from interfaces drawn by the augmentation of the hand and eye to users identified by self—quantification and the arrival of legions of sensors, algorithms, and robots. Together, how do these distort and deform modern political geographies and produce new territories in their own image?

    In The Stack, Benjamin Bratton proposes that these different genres of computation—smart grids, cloud platforms, mobile apps, smart cities, the Internet of Things, automation—can be seen not as so many species evolving on their own, but as forming a coherent whole: an accidental megastructure called The Stack that is both a computational apparatus and a new governing architecture. We are inside The Stack and it is inside of us. 

    In an account that is both theoretical and technical, drawing on political philosophy, architectural theory, and software studies, Bratton explores six layers of The Stack: Earth, Cloud, City, Address, Interface, User. Each is mapped on its own terms and understood as a component within the larger whole built from hard and soft systems intermingling—not only computational forms but also social, human, and physical forces. This model, informed by the logic of the multilayered structure of protocol “stacks,” in which network technologies operate within a modular and vertical order, offers a comprehensive image of our emerging infrastructure and a platform for its ongoing reinvention. 

    The Stack is an interdisciplinary design brief for a new geopolitics that works with and for planetary-scale computation. Interweaving the continental, urban, and perceptual scales, it shows how we can better build, dwell within, communicate with, and govern our worlds.

    thestack.org

Contributor

  • The Imaginary App

    The Imaginary App

    Paul D. Miller and Svitlana Matviyenko

    The mobile app as technique and imaginary tool, offering a shortcut to instantaneous connection and entertainment.

    Mobile apps promise to deliver (h)appiness to our devices at the touch of a finger or two. Apps offer gratifyingly immediate access to connection and entertainment. The array of apps downloadable from the app store may come from the cloud, but they attach themselves firmly to our individual movement from location to location on earth. In The Imaginary App, writers, theorists, and artists—including Stephen Wolfram (in conversation with Paul Miller) and Lev Manovich—explore the cultural and technological shifts that have accompanied the emergence of the mobile app. These contributors and interviewees see apps variously as “a machine of transcendence,” “a hulking wound in our nervous system,” or “a promise of new possibilities.” They ask whether the app is an object or a relation, and if it could be a “metamedium” that supersedes all other artistic media. They consider the control and power exercised by software architecture; the app's prosthetic ability to enhance certain human capacities, in reality or in imagination; the app economy, and the divergent possibilities it offers of making a living or making a fortune; and the app as medium and remediator of reality.

    Also included (and documented in color) are selected projects by artists asked to design truly imaginary apps, “icons of the impossible.” These include a female sexual arousal graph using Doppler images; “The Ultimate App,” which accepts a payment and then closes, without providing information or functionality; and “iLuck,” which uses GPS technology and four-leaf-clover icons to mark places where luck might be found.

    Contributors Christian Ulrik Andersen, Thierry Bardini, Nandita Biswas Mellamphy, Benjamin H. Bratton, Drew S. Burk, Patricia Ticineto Clough, Robbie Cormier, Dock Currie, Dal Yong Jin, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Ryan and Hays Holladay, Atle Mikkola Kjøsen, Eric Kluitenberg, Lev Manovich, Vincent Manzerolle, Svitlana Matviyenko, Dan Mellamphy, Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid, Steven Millward, Anna Munster, Søren Bro Pold, Chris Richards, Scott Snibbe, Nick Srnicek, Stephen Wolfram

  • Speed and Politics, New Edition

    Speed and Politics, New Edition

    Paul Virilio

    With this book Paul Virilio inaugurated the new science whose object of study is the "dromocratic" revolution.

    Speed and Politics (first published in France in 1977) is the matrix of Virilio's entire work. Building on the works of Morand, Marinetti, and McLuhan, Virilio presents a vision more radically political than that of any of his French contemporaries: speed as the engine of destruction. Speed and Politics presents a topological account of the entire history of humanity, honing in on the technological advances made possible through the militarization of society. Paralleling Heidegger's account of technology, Virilio's vision sees speed—not class or wealth—as the primary force shaping civilization. In this "technical vitalism," multiple projectiles—inert fortresses and bunkers, the "metabolic bodies" of soldiers, transport vessels, and now information and computer technology—are launched in a permanent assault on the world and on human nature. Written at a lightning-fast pace, Virilio's landmark book is a split-second, overwhelming look at how humanity's motivity has shaped the way we function today, and what might come of it.