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.


013 :: #TTW14 abstract

PHEW. yesterday i finally submitted my extract/talk proposal on the ‘geopolitics of the stacks’ for the theorizingtheweb conference that takes place in april in new york . the piece is reproduced in full below. even if i am unsuccessful, i think the piece is a useful early 2014 ‘flag in the ground’ to orient my self around this year. as this is the direction a lot of my thinking and speaking will headed this year.

please note: im not an academic! but 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:


Colonising the Clouds. 

Infrastructure Territory and The Geopolitics of The Stacks

This paper will explore the implications of multinational technology corporations morphing into the entities that Bruce Sterling has named ‘The Stacks’ – companies that are setting out to build vertically integrated feudalisms. Building on and synthesising the work of Benjamin Bratton (UCSD), Tobias Revell (RCA/ARUP/SuperFlux), Paul Graham Raven (University of Sheffield), and Vinay Gupta (UCL ISRS) this paper will seek to explore ideas of infrastructure, corporations and nation states, territory, and the importance of societal understanding of the interrelations of all three.

It is a strange future-present we live in: corporations are people; Dogecoin exists; Google – a corporation whose mission statement to ‘organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’ – recently acquired eight robotics companies and a thermostat manufacturer; and ‘The Stacks’ are emerging as digitally-dualistic geopolitical entities.

‘Institutional Memory’ is the method by which information is inherited and pass on between states, corporations and collective groups of people. Using this notion we can begin to unpack and explore the beliefs, biases, and assumptions of corporations and states towards concepts such as hierarchy, law,  and – most importantly in our case – ontologies of the internet.

The concept of a separate, distinct ‘cyberspace’, the subtle shifting of corporate discourse from ‘The Cloud’ to ‘A Cloud’, and the boastful claims of the Information Security industry all point towards the web as being understood along dualist lines by the Stacks. This stands in contrast to non digital-dualist views held by government cyber commands which sees ‘cyber’ as a theater not a territory, demonstrated in their understandings of servers on sovereign territory and the legality of cyber-espionage.

The Stacks require deep strata of data to do their business, and in order to get that data the userbase must be made legible. Following James Scott’s “Seeing Like A State”, this talk will argue for the need to “see like a stack” in order for us to better understand the approaches of these entities towards data collection, knowledge creation, and territorial definition.

The conceptual shift upwards from owning and controlling spatial territory to owning and controlling ‘informational territory’ is not new. It began with closing of the US frontier in 1893 & introduction of the telegraph interoperability bill a few years after. Today however, as these infrastructural territories are created and claimed, their owners and creators are influencing our political and economic systems at every level, from the geopolitical to the micropolitical, resulting in what Bratton calls “the ‘accidental’ de-lamination of traditional Westphalian geographies of sovereignty through the realization of other topologies”

This talk will pose the questions: Where are the nexuses of political contestation in this new landscape? Has the discourse of digital dualism been overly focussed on the individual, or is it that only now are the implications of dualism at the geopolitical level being recognised? What are the implications for politics, as nation states evaporate into the clouds, and the Stacks continue to build their own private infrastructures and extend sensing/robotic platforms into the physical world?


#TTW14 is a conference run by the crew over on cyborgology blog at society pages. i think the work they are doing is exciting and extremely important in the current moment, and the conference is always great.  I have watched it on live stream for the last few years, and have compiled an image of all the tweeted pictures of the keynote for the last two:

011 : on #stacktivism – my #ILIW13 talk

:: we cannot have a conversation about something whilst it remains unseen ::

‘The stack’The chain of interconnected activities and technologies of current and historical significance that spread far beyond the individual.

Stacktivism Logo

I think there are many people beginning to have/shape a conversation around the stack: From Jo Guldi the author of Roads to Power: Britain Invents the Infrastructure State , Timo Arnall in his No to NoUI piece, Benjamin Bratton and his geopolitics of the cloud and theoretical languge of ‘the stack’, artist/Critical Engineer Julian Oliver (Eyeo2012 talk is very good) & course my good friend Vinay Gupta.

> who owns the means of not dying?

> who controls the stack?

> is infrastructure neutral?

> what are the dilemmas of radical texts on Amazon in relation to capitalist realism while sat under a Tumblr image hosted on Amazon ?

On Sunday I gave a talk at ‘Immaterial Labour Isn’t Working: Digital Culture, Digital Work, Digital Insurrection’ hosted by Autoitaliasoutheast – the panel session was on New Luddism.

I used my time to introduce the concept of #stacktivism a term that i think allows us to form & give shape to the conversation around infrastructure & our relationship we have to it. I do not seek to define it, merely give shape to an idea.

The concept is early days & in its infancy: I hope my talk embedded below is a useful primer/introduction to this enquiry.

Join in the conversation here :: Stacktivism.com

stacktivism.tumblr.com + @stacktivism )

009 : viewer discretion cannot be advised

on thursday i was luckly enough to give a talk at london’s worst artist-run space lima zulu‘s fourth #LZPKBYOBRSVP pecha-kucha night.

topics on the night included bootstrapping, northern ireland prison protests, max stirner, and my talk ‘Cheap Gadgets in the hands of EVERYBODY’. i had a great time, and it was good to see lots of friends i havent seen AFK in too long.

the talk wasn’t recorded. but for posterity before i forget, i just sat down and gave the pecha kucha in one take to my laptop and empty flat. i embedded it at the bottom of this post. a big thanks to huw for inviting me to talk