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.
Benjamin H. Bratton
The MIT Press
The MIT Press
The MIT Press
The MIT Press
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Has definitely enriched my sex life
Nobody designed the Stack.
It had no name, not until this book.
Whether it exists is in question.
But the oversized role the Stack plays in our lives is plain to see, and the consequences of this ongoing accident is at once inspiring and hair-raising.
If that sounds compelling, then Ben Bratton’s highly entertaining, densely packed tour de force of design thinking, social theory, architectural criticism, software studies, historiography might be for you.
But what exactly is the Stack? How did it get here? And what do we do with it now that we know about it?
The Stack is our planetary system of systems, fleshy and rocky, sleek and ethereal, which permits us to think and build.
It's an “accidental megastructure” that cultivates equilibrium and emergence.
Its multi-layered cybernetic landscape is every bit as powerful and consequential as other planetary systems such as climate...
I have only read half of the first chapter. The subject matter is very important, but the book is quite dense and difficult reading. I will update as I get further in.
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