What has planetary-scale computation done to our geopolitical realities? In The Stack, Benjamin Bratton proposes that smart grids, cloud computing, mobile software and smart cities, universal addressing systems, ubiquitous computing, and other types of apparently unrelated planetary-scale computation can be viewed as forming a coherent whole — an accidental megastructure called The Stack that is both a computational apparatus and a new geopolitical architecture.
This model, informed by the logic of the multilayered structure of software protocol “stacks,” in which network technologies operate within a modular and vertical order, offers a platform for the design of complex systems — including current and future political geographies that may supersede that of the increasingly “de-bordered” nation-state. In an account that is both theoretical and technical, drawing on political philosophy, architectural theory, and software studies, Bratton offers a design brief for a geopolitics with and for planetary-scale computation.
Bratton examines six interdependent layers of The Stack: Earth, Cloud, City, Address, Interface, User. Each is considered on its own terms and as a layer within a larger architecture. The Stack is made from hard and soft systems intermingling — not only computational forms but also social, human, and concrete forces. The Stack offers a way to view the entire digital world, at once, enabling us to engage its challenges directly.