Bratton 2015

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Bratton, Benjamin. The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2015.

"Sometime from 1995 to 1997 or so, especially in academic design programs, software seemed to displace theory as a tool for thought. “Many students interested in asking essential questions about how things work turned to software, not just to describe those things but also to make them, and not just to make them, but also to think through them. This shift came with trade-offs. Thinking with tools, and in this case, working with the fixed capital of advanced technologies, is a good thing. It is part of the genesis of our species. It is how we mediate the world and are mediated by it; we become what we are by making that which in turn makes us. This is no less true (or less complex) as software becomes a more ubiquitous feature of the whole world: in your hand, in the building, part of every supply chain, every image, every archive, every query. I am of the opinion, however, that as we quickly learn more precise and higher-resolution processes, it becomes correspondingly harder to see the whole at once. Accomplishments of analysis are paid for with a dissipation of synthesis. As such, software may need theory at least as much as theory needs software."

“Going forward, we really do need new and better models, because computation already operates in ways that have surpassed and overflowed the regular cartographies.”

“This book starts with the technologies themselves, abstracting from them a formal model that is general and comprehensive, but not complete or fixed. The model does not put technology “inside” a “society,” but sees a technological totality as the armature of the social itself.”

"Computation as governance"

"an accidental megastructure call The Stack that is not only a kind of planetary-scale computing system; it is also a new architecture for how we divide up the world into sovereign spaces"


"“I argue that in order to account for the real effects of planetary-scale computation and to make it accountable as a designable platform, a decentering of some conventional ideas about political geographic norms is necessary.”

Energy and mineral sourcing and grids, cloud infrastructure, urban software, universal addressing systems, etc -- "instead of seeing all of these as a hodgepodge of different species of computing, spinning out on their own at different scales and tempos, we should see them as forming a coherent and interdependent whole. These technologies align, layer by layer, into something like a vast, if also incomplete, pervasive if also irregular, software and hardward Stack." -- and "accidental megastructure"

"Nation-state as the core jurisdiction is a design -- deliberate and otherwise -- of a geopolitical architecture derived from the partitioning of planar geography"

1648 Peace Treaty of Westphalia -- "formalized this particularly flattened political-cartographic diagram"

"“At stake is more than a new way for states to operate or a new set of technologies requiring governance; rather, it is a scale of technology that comes to absorb functions of the state and the work of governance. Toward an answer, The Stack model suggests both the means and ends of a specific kind of platform sovereignty. It demands that we understand the designability of geography in relation to the designability of computation and to see the state (and other sovereign institutions) in relation to both at once.”

Not state machine, or state as machine, or technologies of governance, but machine as the state : "its primary means and interests are not human discourse and human bodies but, rather, the calculation of all the world's information and of the world itself as information. We, the humans, while included in this mix, are not necessarily its essential agents, and our well-being is not its primary goal. After billions of years of evolution, complicated heaps of carbon-based moleculres (that includes us) have figured out some ways to subcontract intelligence to complicated heaps of silicon-based moleculres (that includes our computers)."