Designing Geopolitics 2. Saturday, June 2, 2012. UC San Diego

Designing Geopolitics 2

An intimate interdisciplinary symposium on policy and projects visualizing a recomposed global landscape of sovereignties, infrastructures and identities.

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Convened by

D:GP, The Center for Design and Geopolitics
University of California, San Diego
Benjamin H. Bratton, Director
See www.designgeopolitics.org

Contact: benjamin@bratton.info

Twitter: @desgeopolitics (to follow D:GP)
and #dgp2012 (to follow the conference live)

Saturday, June 2, 2012.
Calit2/ Atkinson Hall Black Box Theater
La Jolla, CA

Map and Directions

Sponsored by:
Calit2: California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology
The UCSD Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination
UCSD Center for the Humanities
UCSD Department of Visual Arts
UCSD Division of Arts and Humanities
UCSD School of International Relations and Pacific Studies
Parsons/New School Center for Transformative Media, New York

Program Theme
D:GP is a think-tank focused on how planetary scale computation transforms political geography and models of sovereignty, as seen through the lens of speculative art and design.  D:GP collaborates directly with scientists, engineers and researchers in a wide range of disciplines, and is supported by the research of its founding Director, Benjamin H. Bratton.

Designing Geopolitics 2 will extend our core critical questions. What is the  territory of the Cloud Polis? What alien models of sovereignty require invention, revitalization or redesign? What does it mean to “see like a State” in an age of ubiquitous networked optics? What is the role of speculative design thinking in prototyping real alternatives? What are the driving and determinant patterns of data-centric society for which we have an inadequate theoretical language? What are the boundaries of biopolitcs, and what comes next?

The first event in June 2011 featured 25 speakers from 19 different disciplines, including Astrophysics, Geology, Architecture, Graphic Design, Information Visualization, Sociology, Earth Sciences, Political Science, Medicine, Art, Science Fiction, and Critical Theory, etc. Designing Geopolitics 2 will be a invitation-only symposium (streamed live online) in which a select group of technologists, policy makers, and designers will share their ideas and work in intensive presentations and discussion.

June 2: Symposium

9:30 Cloud Polis

Larry Smarr and Peter Cowhey (Benjamin H. Bratton and Ed Keller, respondents)

Planetary-scale computation presents critical challenges to global political institutions and how they inscribe and defend monopolies of jurisdiction. Is the Cloud a new territory and, if so, what is the role of the State to govern it? Should we anticipate a new kind of geopolitical relationship between physical and virtual territories, and what kinds of protocols of individual and collective citizenship, linking data to identity across borders or within them, should ensue? In what ways does the geopolitics of big data clarify and amplify familiar tensions across the Pacific and in what ways does it suggest as yet unforeseen realignments?

Links  Smarr.  Cowhey.. BrattonKeller

11:00 Data Sovereignty

Usman Haque and John Wilbanks (Lev Manovich, respondent)

The geopolitics of data transparency is paradoxical. The production (overproduction?) of data is transforming the world in its image, turning artists into designers of environmental sensors and doctors into data scientists. In this, the open programmability of data is seen (perhaps naively) as the key to a vibrant digital civil society. But the data deluge exists in volatile political and economic contexts, determining what counts as open or closed data, and for whom. While Big Data should allow for revolutionary forms of pattern recognition, our informations commons are partitioned by private walled gardens. What should be the terms of participation in social systems based on exabyte accumulations? What constitutional logics of individuation and collective identity? Which guarantees of what data sovereignty.

Links  Haque Wilbanks Manovich



1:30 Postscripting Alterglobalization

Metahaven and Jeffrey Inaba (Molly Steenson, Natalie Jeremijenko,  Tim Durfee, respondents)


From the map, to the atlas, to the cosmogram, to the satellite image, the world is that which we can diagram and design. The global is a visual formula, an affective response to the comprehension of planetary space. As such the world-image is as mutable images themselves, and design works to reformulate the global as a political and cultural domain. Infrastructures and institutions of sovereignty, territory, and jurisdiction are re-opened to a graphical imaginary, and in the redrawing of lines and vectors, new maps and alternative worlds take shape. The convergence of architecture, geography, graphic design may provide the pre-emptive atlas of the territories we must realize. In this, design representation becomes an active mode of experimental political science, synthesizing the complexity of the global and modeling otherwise inexpressible alternatives.

Links Metahaven Inaba Steenson

3:00 Biopolitical Architectures

Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and Alisa Andrasek (Sheldon Brown, Natalie Jeremijenko, Benjamin H. Bratton, respondents)



It can be said that all politics –from ecologies to bodies to microbes– is biopolitics. But with synthetic biology the building blocks of life are available to design imagination in weird and unsettling ways. The very boundaries of the human are perforated and the conceit of human-centered design is made quaint. Well-beyond mere biomimicry, genetic algorithms are put to work assembling architecture. Biology becomes a speculative discourse, less the description of slow evolution, than the conception and exploration of alternative forms of embodiment. For this, life is abstracted to genetic codes that can applied to inorganic and computational processes, like the conception of virtual forms, which in turn are substantialized at the scale of cities. If the domain of the political has been defined by what does and does not count as “human,” then in the age of digital biology, this precondition is due for revision. Biodesign coneives the biopolitics we might wish to inhabit.

Links Ginsberg Andrasek Brown


June 3: Tour of Tijuana Urbanism
With Tijuana-based architect and urbanist, Rena Peralta


Larry Smarr is the founding Director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), a UC San Diego/UC Irvine partnership, and holds the Harry E. Gruber professorship in Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at UCSD’s Jacobs School. At Calit2, Smarr has continued to drive major developments in information infrastructure— including the Internet, Web, scientific visualization, virtual reality, and global telepresence—begun during his previous 15 years as founding Director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Smarr served as principal investigator on NSF’s OptIPuter project and currently is principal investigator of the Moore Foundation’s CAMERA project and co-principal investigator on NSF’s GreenLight project. In October 2008 he was the Leadership Dialog Scholar in Australia.

Peter F. Cowhey is the Dean and Qualcomm Professor of Communications and Technology Policy at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at UC San Diego. In 2009, he served as Senior Counselor to Ambassador Kirk in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative where he advised on the agenda for trade policy while supervising multiple USTR offices. In the Clinton Administration he served as Senior Counselor and then Chief of the International Bureau of the Federal Communications Commission during its overhaul of its global competition policies and forging of a WTO agreement on telecommunications services. Cowhey is former Director of the UC system’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation and head of policy studies for the California Institute on Telecommunications and Information Technology. Cowhey serves on the bi-­‐national experts group appointed by the U.S. and Chinese Governments on innovation policy and is the Chief Policy Officer for the Aspen Institute’s International Digital Economy Accords project. He is also the chairman of the CONNECT Innovation Institute and Vice Chair of the California Council on Science and Technology. He serves on the boards of the Grameen Foundation and the Institute of the Americas. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Cowhey holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. His newest book is Transforming Global Information and Communications Markets: The Political Economy of Change (MIT Press, 2009)

Benjamin H. Bratton is a sociological, media, and design theorist. He is Associate Professor of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego, and Director of the Center for Design and Geopolitics. His work sits at the intersections of contemporary social and political theory, computational media & infrastructure, and architectural & urban design problems and methodologies. Current research interests include: the philosophical problematics of the interfaciality, digital urbanism & media architecture, contemporary continental philosophy & aesthetic theory, the history and future of political geography, models of computational ecological governance, organizational theory, and speculative interaction, interface, and systems design.

Ed Keller is a designer, professor, writer, musician and multimedia artist. He is also Associate Dean of Distributed Learning and Technology at Parsons The New School for Design, and Associate Professor in the Parsons School of Design Strategies, in NYC. Keller’s professional accomplishments include co-founding with Carla Leitao AUM Studio, an award winning architecture and new media firm that has produced residential projects, competitions, and new media installations in Europe and the US. They have participated in urban design and architecture competitions including MAK Vertical Garden; Turku Finland; UIA Celebration of Cities (National Award); House for Andrei Tarkovsky (first prize) and Museum for Nam June Paik. In academia, he has taught graduate design studios and seminars studying the connections between cinema, architecture, locative media, and digital game design.Taught at the Columbia University GSAPP from 1998-2010. In 2000-01, he was acting director of the GSAPPs Advanced Architectural Design MS degree. Has also taught at SCIArc, as founder/coordinator of the MediaSCAPES MDesR program and fulltime faculty 2007-09; FIU Miami (Cejas Eminent Scholars Endowed Chair); and at UPenn, Pratt, RPI, and Bennington.  His work and writing has appeared in Praxis, ANY, AD, Arquine, Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Architecture, Parpaings, Precis, Wired, Metropolis, Assemblage, Ottagono, and Progressive Architecture.

Metahaven is a studio for design and research based in Amsterdam, founded in 2006 by Daniel van der Velden and Vinca Kruk. Much of Metahaven‘s early visual work and writing is combined in the book Uncorporate Identity (Lars Müller Publishers, 2010), featuring contributions from Boris Groys, China Miéville, Keller Easterling, David Grewal, and others. Metahaven‘s solo exhibitions include Affiche Frontiére (CAPC musée d‘art contemporain de Bordeaux, 2008) and Stadtstaat (Künstlerhaus Stuttgart and Casco Utrecht, 2009). They have exhibited at Forms of Inquiry (Architectural Association, London, 2007, cat.), On Purpose—Design Concepts (Arnolfini, Bristol, 2008), Manifesta8—The European Biennial for Contemporary Art (Murcia, Spain, 2010, cat.), and Graphic Design Worlds (Triennale Design Museum, Milan, 2011, cat.). Daniel van der Velden is a senior critic in graphic design at Yale University, New Haven, and he teaches at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam. Vinca Kruk is a tutor of editorial design at ArtEZ Academy in Arnhem, and she teaches design at Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles.

Jeffrey Inaba is also the founding director of C-Lab, a think tank at Columbia University‘s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation which studies urban and architecture issues of public consequence. The lab’s ideas are broadcast through Volume Magazine, where Inaba is the Features Editor, and numerous publications including the recent book, World of Giving. Previously, Rem Koolhaas and he co-directed the Harvard Project on the City, a research program investigating contemporary urban development worldwide. Before starting INABA, he was a principal of AMO, the research firm founded by Koolhaas’ Office for Metropolitan Architecture. In addition to being a faculty member at Columbia, Inaba has taught at UCLA, Harvard and SCI-Arc. Inaba received Master of Architecture with Distinction, MA in Philosophy of Architecture and Master in Design Studies degrees from Harvard University, and an AB from University of California, Berkeley.

Usman Haque, director Haque Design + Research Ltd, founder of Pachube.com and CEO of Connected Environments Ltd has created responsive environments, interactive installations, digital interface devices and mass-participation performances. His skills include the design and engineering of both physical spaces and the software and systems that bring them to life. He has been an invited researcher at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, Italy, artist-in-residence at the International Academy of Media Arts and Sciences, Japan and has also worked in USA, UK and Malaysia. As well as directing the work of Haque Design + Research he was until 2005 a teacher in the Interactive Architecture Workshop at the Bartlett School of Architecture, London. He received the 2008 Design of the Year Award (interactive) from the Design Museum, UK, a 2009 World Technology Award (art), a Wellcome Trust Sciart Award, a grant from the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology, the Swiss Creation Prize, Belluard Bollwerk International, the Japan Media Arts Festival Excellence prize and the Asia Digital Art AwardGrand Prize. His work has been exhibited widely throughout the world, including the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London), Ars Electronica, Transmediale, Hillside Gallery (Tokyo), The National Maritime Museum Greenwich, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Itau Cultural, Sao Paulo, NTT Inter-Communication Centre, Tokyo, the Singapore Biennale, the Dubai World Cup 2009, and the National Art Museum, Beijing, China.

John Wilbanks is a Senior Fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and runs the Consent to Research Project. John worked at Science Commons and Creative Commons from October 2004 to September 2011.As vice president of science he ran the Science Commons project for its five year lifetime and continued to work on science after he joined the core Creative Commons orginzation.  Scientific American in 2011 featured Wilbanks in The Machine That Would Predict The Future.  Seed magazine named Wilbanks among their Revolutionary Minds of 2008, as a “Game Changer” and the Utne Reader named him in 2009 as one of “50 visionaries who are changing your world”. He frequently campaigns for wider adoption of open access publishing in science and the increased sharing of data by scientists

Rajesh Gupta is a professor and holder of the QUALCOMM endowed chair in Embedded Microsystems in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at UC San Diego, California. He received his B. Tech. in Electrical Engineering from IIT Kanpur, India in 1984, MS in EECS from UC Berkeley in 1986 and a Ph. D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1994. Earlier he worked as a circuit designer at Intel Corporation, Santa Clara, California as a member of three successful processor design teams; and on the Computer Science faculty at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and UC Irvine. His current research is focused on energy efficient and mobile computing issues in embedded systems. He is author/co-author of over 150 articles on various aspects of embedded systems and design automation and four patents on PLL design, data-path synthesis and system-on-chip modeling. Gupta is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Fellow at UC Irvine, UCI Chancellor’s Award for excellence in undergraduate research, National Science Foundation CAREER Award, two Departmental Achievement Awards and a Components Research Team Award at Intel.

Molly Wright Steenson is an Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Steenson is completing a dissertation about intelligence, interactivity, information and computing in architecture, with a specific focus on Nicholas Negroponte and Cedric Price, at Princeton University. She’s also a design researcher and strategist who studies how technology and infrastructure fit into our lives. Steenson is also was a professor at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea in Italy, an adjunct faculty member at Art Center College of Design in the Graduate Media Program

Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg is an artist, designer and writer, interrogating science, technology and new roles for design in a biotech future. As Design Fellow onSynthetic Aesthetics, an NSF/EPSRC-funded project at Stanford University and the University of Edinburgh, she is curating an international programme researching synthetic biology, art and design, investigating how we might ‘design nature’. Other works include The Synthetic Kingdom, a proposal for a new branch of the Tree of Life; E. chromi, a collaboration with James King and Cambridge University’s grand-prize-winning team at the 2009 International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) and a science fiction short story - The Well-Oiled Machine, co-written with Oron Catts while resident at SymbioticA, the art and science laboratory at the University of Western Australia in 2009. Daisy taught both theArtsScienceBangalore and Cambridge University iGEM teams in 2009. Most recently, Daisy designed ‘Synthesis’, a one-week intensive synthetic biology lab workshop for artists, designers, scientists and others, in collaboration with The Arts Catalyst, UCL, SymbioticA, and Synthetic Aesthetics, funded by The Wellcome Trust. Daisy studied Architecture at Cambridge University, Design at Harvard University, and MA Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art. Her work has been exhibited at MoMA NY, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Wellcome Trust, London’s Design Museum, the Israel Museum and the National Museum of China. Daisy publishes, teaches and lectures internationally: recent talks include TEDglobal and PopTech. Her work was nominated for the Brit Insurance Designs of The Year 2011, the Index Award 2011 and she received the World Technology Award (Design) 2011.

Alisa Andrasek is an experimental practitioner and research based educator of architecture and computational processes in design. In 2001 she founded biothing, a cross-disciplinary laboratory that focuses on the generative potential of computational systems for design. In 2005 she initiated CONTINUUM, an interdisciplinary research collective focusing on advanced computational geometry and software development. Andrasek graduated from the University of Zagreb, and holds a Masters in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University.  She teaches architecture studios and theory seminars at the Architectural Association in London (AA DRL) and has taught at Columbia University, Pratt Institute, the University of Pennsylvania, RMIT Melbourne and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and has lectured at architecture schools worldwide.  Andrasek was co-winner of the Metropolis Next Generation Design Competition, 2005 and received the FEIDAD Design Merit Award, 2004. Recent exhibitions of biothing’s work include: Permanent Collection Centre Pompidou Paris 2009; FRAC Collection in Orleans 2009; Transitory Objects TB-A21 in Vienna 2009; Synathroisis in Athens Greece 2008; Scripted by Purpose at the F.U.E.L. gallery in Philadelphia 2007; Seroussi pavilion at the Maison Rouge gallery in Paris 2007; Ars Mathematica in Paris 2007; the 2003 Prague Biennale; the 2004 Sydney Biennial; Architectural Biennial Beijing 2004, 2006 and 2008; and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, 2005. She curated the East Coast section for the “Emergent Talent Emergent Technologies” exhibition for the Beijing Biennial 2006 and for the “(Im)material Processes: New Digital Techniques for Architecture” for the Beijing Biennial 2008.

Sheldon Brown is Director of the UCSD Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination. His work combines computer science research with vanguard cultural production. He was the long-time Director of the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA) at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) where he is Professor of Visual Arts and a co-founder of the California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technologies (Calit2). He is also the UCSD Site Director of the NSF supported Industry-University Collaborative Research Center for Hybrid Multicore Computing Research. He has shown his work at: The Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai, The Exploratorium in San Francisco, Ars Electronica in Linz Austria, The Kitchen in NYC, Zacheta Gallery in Warsaw, Centro Nacional in Mexico City, Oi Futuro in Rio de Janeiro, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, and others. THe has also been featured at leading edge techno-culture conferences such as Supercomputing, SIGGRAPH, TedX GDC and other conferences of leading edge techno-culture. He has been commissioned for public artworks in Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego and Mexico City, and has received grants from the NSF, AT&T New Experiments in Art and Technology, the NEA, IBM, Intel, Sun Microsystems, SEGA SAMMY, Sony, Vicon and others.

Rena Peralta is the Director of the Landscape Urbanism program at Woodbury University in San Diego. Based in Tijuana, Mexico, he was educated at the New School of Architecture in San Diego and at the Architectural Association in London. A native of Tijuana, has taught architecture and urban design at Universidad Iberoamericana in Tijuana, was visiting faculty at UCLA in 2005, visiting critic at University of Colorado, Denver and Boulder campus in 2006. He is currently visiting professor at Washington University, St. Louis summer abroad program and a full time faculty member at Woodbury University School of Architecture in San Diego. Rene’s work in the last few years has been directed toward the research of social and cultural forms of the urban border between the cities of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California. Projects range from online web reports and texts, publishing books and writing collaborations, as well as participating in museum exhibitions and leading an architecture design practice in Tijuana. He has published texts in the US, Mexico, Cuba and Italy and France and lectured at UCLA, USC, North Carolina State University, Harvard University among others. His research work includes World View: a web based report on architecture and urbanism for The Architectural League of New York and is co-author of the book Here is Tijuana, Black Dog Publishing, London 2006. His work has been exhibited in the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Monica Museum of Art, Casa Mexico in the Mexican Embassy in Washington DC and in the Schenzhen Architecture and Urbanism Biennale 2007 in China. His work with Washington University won a 2009 Smart Growth Award from the Urban Land Institute. Was international guest lecturer at Arquitectos Latinos 09 in Managua, Nicaragua.

Benjamin H. Bratton
Associate Professor of Visual Arts
Director, Center for Design and Geopolitics
University of California, San Diego
skype: benjaminbratton

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The Persistence of the Grid

I just downloaded the Minimalist Augmented Reality iPad app, Configuration Space, by D:GP researcher and UCSD VisArts MFA candidate, Sam Kronick. Get it here.

It superimposes a denuded grid over the perceptual environment, giving the impression that one is in the Holodeck and can wield a magic  lense for seeing through the simulation to the Cartesian grid beneath. It works great walking around, and even better in a moving car as Sam’s promo video demonstrates. (In a pun on theological empircism, the Star Trek Next Generation writers named one Holodeck addict, Lt. Berkeley, after Bishop George Berkeley, a contemporary of Newton, who argued that reality is only the what God wants us to see.)

Over the weekend, I read Apollo’s Eye, A Cartographic Genealogy of the Earth in the Western Imagination by Denis Cosgrove. This dense history is coloring everything I’m looking at today, and so, for Configuration Space, I’m taken by the (real) persistence of longitudinal grids in the construction of virtual space. I don’t take this as a persistence of Cartesian subject models, per se,  but of an interest in instruments that would transport and fold the totality of space into the local habitat of the interface: to map that globality into the Deep Here of the instance.

If all interfaces are diagrams of the machinic networks they present to us, I  think there’s an interest in exploding that diagram to its theoretical maximum, something like the mathematical substrate of the Earth’s surface. The absolute interface.

And the app is fun.

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Jurisdictional Tabula Rasa: Charter Cities

That utopian thinking prefers tabula rasa is well known. The impulse for something utterly alternative to present options demands messianic opportunities: empty zones and continents, New Europes, desert islands, new clearings, natural preserves, revolutionary purification, year zero. Fredric Jameson offers perhaps the most useful perspective on this spatio-political tendency in his Archaeologies of the Future and “Utopia as Enclave.” The technique of leveraging an exceptional constitution as a way of hitting the reset button on what is seen as a system (or a public) to broke to fix is also the logic behind charter schools and home-schooling, and of course, in many cases, Special Economic Zones and Science Cities located deliberately out of reach of business as usual.

Paul Romer, an Economist at NYU, has been championing the Charter City movement which seeks, in a way, to extend the logic of the SEZ to that of a whole jurisdiction. The city of Trujillo in Honduras is on deck as a likely candidate for this effort, and The Economist recently published a piece on the project. Read it here. Far from being based on a libertarian ideal of spontaneous, self-organization, the city will be run, at least initially, by a kind of Council of Experts who will, at least initially, make all the big policy decisions. Interestingly, Honduran courts will not judge the city, Mauritius, “as part of its push to become a global provider of legal services,” will hear cases.

The Economist article: here

See Romer’s TED talk: here

A Charter Cities site: here

In some important ways, this effort is far more interesting than the many obnoxious, fanatical and misanthropic versions of libertarianism with fantasies of big floating cruise ship cities, sailing away from the meddlesome tyranny of healthcare mandates, town planners, meat inspectors and/or opponents of child porn. If anything, Trujillo is a more centralized, authoritarian framework. Much closer to Singapore than Texas.

It could be seen as more an an extended “camp” (if the weird legal status  of a closed Guantanamo were used to turn it into luxury cyberjaya, like J. G. Ballard’s Super-Cannes.)

What is of lasting interest is that the city would, in principal be open to persons from other countries, certainly not just Honduras. It’s unclear if Trujillo is really open and to whom. It could become a city-sized private town (think Disney’s Celebration, Florida) complete with securitization measures far more draconian than those recognized by contemporary issuers and honorees of national passports, even post-9/11.

But the idea of dis-recognizing autochthonous citizenship as the primary receiver of state border protection, and of allowing anyone to become a full citizen of whichever city they may choose continues to be a concept worth exploration and critique.  As megacities supersede to their national hosts, and as transnational migration only accelerates, we can imagine how a geopolitical matrix of “charter cities,” each with different but mutually interoperable government models “competing” for citizens could be seen as a bulwark against the new provincialism and the rise of Nativism.

As I’ve argued elsewhere we need to look for models where “citizenship” is directly derived from our common use of an expanded, networked urban infrastructure.

From Charter Cities, new dystopias are easy to imagine: a new (or renewed) global hierarchy of luxury cities perched on top vast continents of labor-camps (think Mad Max at the Wal-Mart in Lagos.) Cloud-based medievalism redux. But that shouldn’t prevent us from examining what models “elective sovereignty” derived from urban systems would lead in other, more strongly cosmopolitan directions.

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Territories Without Borders by Stewart Elden

Stewart Elden, Geographer, and author of Terror and Territory: The Spatial Extent of Sovereignty, recently posted the essay Territories Without Borders as part of symposia at the Harvard International Review. The piece touches on many of the same issues we’re working on at D:GP and so it is recommended reading. The full post is here.

Elden argues that the eventual construction of the Modern State border in the image of a a particular modality of space (Cartesian, rational, mathematical) itself derived from cartographic instruments that made the measurement of territory in this manner possible, precedes in essence the formalization of State boundaries in the image of that modality.

My own comments: I am interested in the absence of Carl Schmitt’s histories of jurisdiction in this narrative. As in Schmitt’s history the mathematization of space under Roman (and later Germanic) jurisprudence, can be contrasted with the maritime complexities of British (and Chinese) territorializations of the spatial limits of sovereignty. Math made the writing of the zero width line possible. Today the drawings of space by satellite in the service of  a diverse range of mapping purposes, can said to accelerate that mathematization (indeed computability) of political space, and while it pulverizes some Westphalian borders it allows for the exponential multiplication of sovereign lines and limits. Zero times infinity.

Some selected quotes from Elden’s essay:

On the pre-modern fungibility of geographic border zones:
“Only rarely were these borders seen as fixed and static. It is often claimed that the first boundary in a modern sense, as a defined line of zero width, was the one through the Pyrenees which separated France and Spain following the 1659 Treaty of the Pyrenees. That boundary was only made possible because of the legal practices and technical ability that were available at that time.”

The optical and mathematics necessary first to conceive of political territory as a type of Cartesian space:
“The geometric basis of surveying and cartography was simply not present before. It is the understanding of political space that is fundamental, and the idea of boundaries a secondary aspect, dependent on the first.”

That construed space is written as a border:
“As the French writer Paul Alliès suggests in his book L’invention du territoire, ‘To define territory, we are told, one delimits borders. Or to think the border, must we not already have an idea of homogeneous territory?’ To put this more forcefully, since Alliès’ doubt is well-judged: borders only become possible in their modern sense, as boundaries, through a notion of space, rather than the other way round. Focusing on the determination of space that makes boundaries possible, and in particular the role of calculation in determining space opens up the idea of seeing boundaries not as a primary distinction that separates ‘territory’ from other ways of understanding political control of land; but as a second-order problem founded upon a particular sense of calculation and its consequent grasp of space. Space, in this modern understanding, is often something bounded and exclusive, but more crucially is something calculable, extended in three dimensions.

The space of bordering precedes the constitution of the Modern border, or rather makes it possible:
“Challenging the still prevailing myth that the origin of the modern concept of territory is with the modern state system in the Peace of Westphalia, this more historically nuanced understanding of the emergence of this concept helps to shed light on more than simply Europe’s history. Understanding territory in this broader sense, as the political control of a calculative space, as a political technology, allows us to account for a range of modern phenomena.”

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Grandpa, the Wandering Morlock of The Cloud

Beneath Cloudy mists toil a legion of temporary logistics laborers, making the smooth surfaces of supply chains gleam. Wal-Mart and Amazon deterritorialize the factory through a network of subcontractors. See WSJ on Amazon and HuffPo on Wal-Mart

“A spokeswoman for Amazon, which has 51,000 staffers excluding seasonal workers world-wide, said it hires “thousands” of temporary workers for the holidays, but declined to disclose specific numbers. It said it quadrupled its staff at its warehouse in Phoenix to 1,200 to handle the end-of-year rush.

Many of these employees belong to the community of “workampers,” a sort of modern-day migrant worker. Many of them are retirees who spend all or part of the year living in RVs and taking odd seasonal jobs around the country. While some workers really need the money, others said they take the gigs to help fund their adventures or just for fun.

Many current and former seasonal workers said Amazon pays decent wages—about $12 an hour plus overtime in Fernley, which is about 50% better than minimum wage here. But that is in exchange for long hours and tedious labor.”

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Hyperbolic Cosmograms are Go

CAIDA is the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis based at UCSD, and for many years a tremendous resource in the deeply fascinating world of internet cartography. We recently attended a lecture by CAIDA’s Dmitri Krioukov whose paper, “Sustaining the Future of the Internet with Hyperbolic Mapping” has been influential well outside presumed disciplinary partitions.

The abstract captures some of what is at stake in this novel approach to conceiving internet territoriality.

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Adaptation on the Roof of the World

At 11,500 ft, between the Himalayas and the Karakoram, the city of Leh is Ladakhʼs commercial and government hub and home to more than 30,000 people (about a quarter of the regionʼs total) who trace their ancestry through the Silk Route. The high-altitude desert landscape is also home to a unique ecosystem, with 13 animal species indigenous to the region including the rare Ladakh Urial and the endangered Snow Leopard. Both human and natural systems are in the front line of rapid environmental and socioeconomic change.
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“Critique of the Free and Open”

The ever-active Geert Lovink’s Institute of Network Cultures in Amsterdam continues to be the key venue for the articulation of a very important, very generous democratic critique of the real and imagined openness of digital media.

The Economies of the Commons 2, held on November 12, 2010 is a case in point. It includes an address by Yann Moulier Boutang, whose Cognitive Capitalism will be translated and published by Polity later next year, and will be touchstone for conversations on how the Googlization of political economy can be properly historicized.

I’m going to keep my eye on Nathaniel Tkacz. His negative enrollment of Karl Popper to critique Open Source is well done here.

Critique of the ‘Free and Open’ from network cultures on Vimeo.

“Content for all, revenues for some.” For this session we explore the theory behind terms and terminologies. What do the terms ‘free’ and ‘open’ mean in their current contexts? How are they used and in what new political condition do they gain resonance? What is open, how open is it, and for whom? Can anything be learned by reconsidering the work of the grand master of openness as a political concept, Karl Popper? Or are there historical examples of open societies and the commons we can draw from to answer these questions? How do we situate unpaid, crowd-sourced content made profitable by companies such as Google in relation to freedom and openness? We should nuance the definition of data or information, asking whether it comes from open archives versus audiovisual material from emerging artists, established reporters or other cultural producers. Is a resource still open if a user’s attention to it is then sold to advertisers? Indeed, is openness an absolute (either/or) concept, is does it make sense to think of openness as a scale? Alternatively, is it possible to develop an ethics of closure? There is no way back to the old intellectual property rights regimes. But how then are cultural producers going to make a living? How can we create sustainable sources of income for the ‘digital natives’? How can we reconcile the now diverging interests of professionals and amateurs?”

See also Masters of Media’s take on Lovink’s opening remarks

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On Geoscapes and the Google Caliphate: Reflections on the Mumbai Attacks

When advanced technologies of globalization that are closely associated with secular cosmopolitics are opportunistically employed by fundamentalist politico-theologies for their own particular purposes, an essential irresolution of territory, jurisdiction and programmatic projection is revealed. Where some may wish to identify an ideal correspondence between a global political sphere into which multiple differences might be adjudicated and the visual, geographic representation of a single planetary space, this conjunction is dubious and highly conditional. Instead multiple territorial projections and competing claims on space are also generative of the very qualities of the spatial as a political medium altogether. For example, the well-publicized use of satellite-based mapping and telecommunications tools, such as Google Earth, by the terrorist group that attacked Mumbai in November 2008, raises several knotty and important questions about how contrary comprehensive images of the world can make use of one another in ways that undermine the ‘unitotality’ of global territory. It is not that Google and Jihad are ‘equivalent’ or even ‘translatable’, but rather because they are not, they are in practice interoperable. Instead links between urbanism, cosmography, and the socialization of planetary software networks demonstrate the centrality of design to the ongoing fashioning of the territory of territories, the geoscape.

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Benjamin H. Bratton “Surviving the Interface” Lecture at Michigan and Parsons/New School

D:GP Director, Benjamin H. Bratton recently gave a lecture entitled “Surviving the Interface” at the Taubman School of Architecture at the University of Michigan and for Ed Keller’s Design and Existential Risk lecture series at Parsons/ The New School in New York, with McKenzie Wark as respondent.

“My remarks tonight are drawn from a book chapter-in-progress on the interfaciality of the city, how it constitutes forms of sovereignty and political geography, and the interpolation of the user of that city as a political, and potentially cosmopolitical subject. My interest is in the qualification of a non-universalist cosmopolitics that can account for and is accounted for by the activation of computational infrastructure at a planetary scale, both inside and outside the processes we call globalization. How does infrastructure, as much as law or discourse or technique, produce the interfacial fragments from which political subjectivity could be identified across scales, intrapersonal to continental. Put another way, I want to tell a story about an exhibition at the Urbanium pavilion at the Shanghai Expo, to take it a bit more seriously as an ideological model than I perhaps should, and to do so as an application of and response to a particular text, Giorgio Agamben’s short essay on Foucault’s term,dispositif, called What is an Apparatus? Put another way still to include in the assignment for the emergent discipline of “design strategy” the requirement to redesign the user him- herself.”

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