The Stack still demands to be read—or at least to be owned and thumbed through.
I started reading Benjamin Brattons book The Stack today. It had been lying there in plain sight, looking good on a USM cupboard in the living room – a talisman for the further work it will doubtless inspire.
It took me ages to start reading it due to a massive respect because i want this book to be read thoughtfully and completely. A book „technical“ and „theoretical“ covering art, architecture, design, computer sciene, economics, international relations, literature, media studies, philosophy, and political science.
I stopped digging deeper into Foucaults biography by Didier Eribon for now after having read Lydia Liu being cited by McKenzie Ward: Perhaps it is no longer a time in which to use Foucault and Derrida to explain computing, but rather to see them as side effects of the era of computing itself.
We need to take a step back and view an emerging big picture that is different from what has been predicted, Bratton writes in the Preface: The answers depend on our theories and tools, on our models and codes.
Useful frames of reference
Before getting deeper into the stack, the accidental megastructure and all its accompanying questions humming around (Bogost: is the Stack a new formal structure, or do other global technologies, both present and past, also take on its form? The internal combustion engine is a possible candidate, as is agriculture. And then, are the layers of the Stack natural or analytical? Or even rhetorical?) Bratton makes it clear that neither the official utopia nor the official dystopia are useful frames of reference.
That reminded me of a talk by Russell Davies who very eloquently subdivided general utopias and dystopias and categorized them some years ago. Some sort of useful pre-exercise for coming up with an all-embracing model.
Another thing that strikes me right from the start is the „speculative and projective“ character of Brattons work: it is about sketching things in advance of their arrival . (Can you even do that? To what extent?).
Map it, interpret it, then redesign it.
And: perhaps we are not lacking ideas but a platform to situate, deploy, and enforce them. (xix) Curious to see some of these ideas plotted. Maybe Brattons new students at Strelka come up with promising executions.
Any given moment
As Bratton suggested i started skimming through the glossary for a start. And i directly got caught by the term Ambient Interface – it is the user´s world defined as a field of interfaces, the field of both the physical and virtual interfaces that surround a User at any given moment.
A New Architecture?
We need a new architecture for this new world, more Frank Gehry than formal Greek. Brattons quotes Hillary Clinton for a start, suggesting a dynamic mix of materials and structures and identifying global information systems as the single most important powerful engine of the new world / something fundamental has shifted off-center. / it is time to map a new normal.
Bratton wants to knit different intellectual fabrics together by following their crisscrossing patterns – provisional, prototypical, and provocative.
The Stack is „both and idea and a thing“ / „in turn building us in its own image“ / „also composed of social, human, and concrete forces“
What, really, are to be the national rights of mobile subjects in a cloud-based society. Compare Estonian e-Residency. Whatever technological regime will come after planetary-scale computation (13).
Blur and Accident
We need ways to account for the intersecting complexities of computational globalization … seen on their own terms, not as transgressions of some other system (14). See Lydia Liu.
We realize that only a blur provides for an accurate picture of what is going on now and to come. Our description of a system in advance of its appearance maps what we can see but cannot articulate, on the one hand, versus what we know to articulate but cannot yet see, on the other: real-but-as-yet-unnamed and imagined-but-as-yet-not-real. #lookingfromthefutureatthepresent instead of #thepresentforthefuture. (Today´s official futurism may have little to contribute when all is said and done.)
The critical dependence of the future´s futurity is that we are not yet available for it! Compare unknown unknows cited by Wendy Chun. (Psychoanalytic philosopher Slavoj Žižek says that beyond these three categories there is a fourth, the unknown known, that which we intentionally refuse to acknowledge that we know).
Virilio: Every new technology == new accident. Bratton: Every new accident == new technology.