019 :: #TTW16 abstract

PHEW. So for the second time in 2 years I just submitted my extract/talk proposal to the theorizingtheweb conference that takes place in April in New York . The Abstract is reproduced in full below. Even if I am unsuccessful, the same as I said 2 years ago I think the piece is a useful early 2016 ‘flag in the ground’ to orient my self around this year. This is the direction a lot of my thinking and speaking will headed this year. If you have any comments or the subject interests you please do get in touch on twitter, leave a comment on here, or mail me via the contact form on my homepage:

It really should be seen as a continuation from my previous talk at #TTW14 and a continuation of my thinking on/in this space – I’m quite open about it building on my previous talk in my abstract. The title alone should be a hint LOL.

Colonising the Clouds Pt2

Citizenship of the stack (or the art of 21st C Prussian Forestry ) 

In my previous TTW presentation I explored the notion of ‘Infrastructure Territory’ and the way institutions, corporations and nationstates approach digital dualism. I ended by pointing to the emerging condition of a new geopolitics that can only exist by presupposing a digital dualism where geopolitical actor’s territory can exist in informational space. One which ignores the reality of discrete and distinct sheds of computers distributed across multiple global jurisdictions in physical space, owned by entities incorporated under existing national law:

“The geopolitics of the Cloud, as an example, it is partially defined by the ‘accidental’ de-lamination of traditional Westphalian geographies of sovereignty through the realization of other topologies” – Benjamin Bratton UCSD

This talk will build on my former argument and recap with sightings of this delamination in progress: the ‘Ghost in a Shell Corporation’ how “Uber filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit…claiming it exists only in cyberspace”, how ISIS’s approach to sovereignty and geographic borders mirrors the concept of super jurisdiction, Facebook’s neo-colonial efforts to roll out internet.org, Estonia’s e-residency program. These new networks of trust are causing friction between existing geographies of sovereignty at the geospatial level and potentially giving rise to the notion of a ‘Citizen User’ at the individual level.

In the time provided I will attempt to take the audience through a fast paced argument that reframes the ‘Algorithmic Society’ – the dominant ‘modus ponens’ in recent artistic and academic discourse – towards the idea of a ‘Database Society’ and the very broken reality of database bureaucracy and information brokerage in complex institutions.

In order to explore the condition of user-citizenship we will need to examine how institutions ‘see’ with a brief overview of the different types of institutional identity: EG: Physical body, Bureaucratic Record, Sets of attributes or score, Identity is a username/password or proof of memory, and Potential identities.

A commonality between Stacks and States (or any complex institution) not mentioned previously in pt1 is the idea of ‘value’ or ‘productivity metrics. The connection between citizen, user and value are closely related. Resulting in the idea of a ‘productivity potential’ : At the Nation State level it manifests as GDP or GDP Per capita. In the organisation as key performance indicators (KPI’s) and are hangovers of 20th century scientific management.

This kind of identity assignment comes from very early nation state concepts of the surname as well as 19C ideas of productivity and scientific land management. The famous failures of Prussian forestry are very real. We should consider a way of updating this story and read the impact of German Forestry as a shift to the rack-mounted landscape. In this database society we should place ourselves in the midst of  this slow motion forest die off. Increasingly citizens, employees and users don’t want to behave in ways that companies vision of them requires – these motivations, behaviors and desires are illegible to an institution. I will also be talking about Ents…


Anyway, thats it. If i’m unsuccessful then thats totally ok, I’m going to be be writing on this at some point anyway, and as a bonus means i have a talk in my back pocket which is useful. If you want me to talk about this at a thing you’re doing let me know.



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