Saturday, November 13, 2010

Benjamin Bratton: Surviving the Interface: the Envelopes, Membranes and Borders of Deep Cosmopolitics

Text and Remarks from Bratton's recent lecture at the University of Michigan and Parson's New School. 

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 pavillion 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. 

    There are many research programs driven by the historical shifts in sovereignty and geography that the emergence of urban and transurban information networks provide, Saskia Sassen's perhaps most centrally. Mine is more speculative because for me the relationship between theory and design is different. I am interested in theory, or what we now again call philosophy, as not only a concept-machine that might inform design by specifying the terms of engagement for making things, but which is itself, as that machine, as policy and as projection, as a critical genre of design (of what we call design strategy, yes, but indeed of the designation of the real, of the plasticity of the world). At the think-tank I direct. Center for Design and Geopolitics we are interested in design at a geopolitical scale, but more importantly with the proposition that the geopolitical architectures we have inherited from our overlapping modernities require overhaul, and as an architecture of governance, that this represents the critical common design problem. To design geopolitically, but also to design the geopolitical. 

    As for existential risk, my remarks should be seen as part the discussion that ensues when the critical left discovers that we are without a viable political definition of a planet, and that one must be invented, and when speculative cybernetics -a relative of speculative realism-- embarks headlong into the banality of the universal so as to find the possibility of its eclipse, and the recognition that the end of this world does not mean the end of worlds, but rather of us, which may be the only means of survival. In this my remarks are dedicated to the day when we wake up and don't know where we are, who we are or how we go there, and hopefully never figure it out. 

In the Nursery
    What, if anything, does cosmopolitanism do for us? In the geographic contexts provided by intercontinential fiberoptics, quasi-sovereign cloud computing, post-humanist ubiquitous computing, general purpose augmented reality and the oscillations between  non-polar and hyperpolar geopolitics, what is the cosmos and what is the polis that might comprise any cosmopolitanism? (and here I re-ask this question in concert with Isabelle Stengers and Bruno Latour more than with Ulrich Beck and Anthony Appiah, that is, "which cosmos and whose polis?") 

    Considered in the terminologies of autopoetic emergent networks more than Kantian architectonics, doesn't the potential of this question depend on what the base unit, the intelligent agent, of that cosmopolitanism would be, what we used to call the citizen? In the worldliness of migrancy: migrant labor, migrant capital, migrant information, migrant cultures, migrant languages, modern standards of national citizenship (jus sanguinis "right of blood", and jus soil "right of soil") cannot carry the same guarantee of determination. So what is to be derived? Civis Romanus Sum ("I am a Roman citizen") was the acclamation of rights of participation and access to trial before Caesar: a demand made, if not met, that the legal mechanism of the city, the physical polis, would address and be addressable to that person with the structure of rights and responsibilities. In light of that epochal statistical revelation that more humans live in cities than do not, that we are now an urban species, and ask if  the model of polis citizenship --citizen as he or she who resides in the city, uses it and is made use of by it-- might have the more durable purpose? 

    If so is that not because of the residential jurisdiction of any one city, through which any one of us might only be passing for a short time, but of an aggregate "cosmourbanity" that, to a degree, is already both the cosmos and the polis for which a cosmopolitanism might assemble? Not the generic global city, but the heterodoxy of urbanity as globality.  As the platform for the antagonistic claims upon within that territory of territories (which I refer to in other writings as the geoscape) the optical networks of light/ information exchange and energy grids of electron/ information that link the macro- and microeconomies of those cities into a plural, proliferation of geographical configurations and hierarchies, are as physical and material as any concrete city is virtual.  What is the juris-diction from which another kind of polis citizenship is traceable? What are the  possible subject-effects of this infrastructure that might be designated into form?

In The Pavilion
    Black Wandering around the Shanghai Expo into the Urbanium pavilion, we encounter one incomplete answer.  The take-away from the sensurround propaganda is that citizenship in the world community is based in the quantitative comparability and interoperability between persons and lives, across the only apparent differences in appearance and lifestyle, upon a shared platform/ mode of production: that each of us consumes energy and produces things that others consume (and in this consume one another, we might add). The condition of the populist  cosmopolitanism suggested there is that of a quantifiable metabolism, the shared platform is of a commonwealth of urbanized electrons and the political ethics of their comparable informatization and measurement. These are The Reids from Phoenix. The Hagens from Ghana. In the pavilion, we walk through vignettes of their lives, learning about what each of them in turn does, what they consume, who they love, what they produce, how much of the platform city of information, energy and atoms they use and are used by. All the while these accounts of their lives are overlaid with alpha-numeric dashboards of familial consumption/production data and other performance data. charles ray What makes their lives comparable, if not also interchangeable, are standard metrics for evaluating performance, I assume in both senses of that term . Similarly this protocological standardization of life metrics --biopolitics always entwined with the statistical imaginary-- purports to posit a autobiographic post-politics of the user, and is open to any activity it might acquire or which make use of it. The world itself as a semantic web framework. As an universal platform, this particular cosmourbanity of information, energy and architecture is as generous as it is omnivorous. (SAP says that 22% water is managed by its software on a daily basis). 

    The exhibition pedagogy, seemingly fair and strict, democratic and exacting, is that we, the planet of persona and use cases,  are all one because we are all agents of the urban commonwealth of the digitally articulated electron. Now design knows a thing or two about the interpolation of humans (and non-humans) in to persona and use-cases, and in this the politics of the user, labor-as-entertainment (as was so considered at Trebor Sholz event), the paradoxical civic and economic value of privacy and transparency (code reprogrammability (FLOSS) has emerged. The designed environment, from industrial objects to megacities, interpolates produces subjects in the image, form and format of how they function: the individuation of the human as a physical entity.. as a political entity. And indeed, we can imagine this determining designed environment as both the specific forms we encounter --architecture, software, language, dispositions-- as well as, perhaps more importantly, the aggregation of connections between such forms what Foucault called the dispositif: "the apparatus itself is the network that is established between these elements."  (emphases mine).

      The discussion then, especially for designers whose work constitutes policy of worldy plasticity, regards how these systems construct and conduct different kinds of users. How systems, those as physicalizing as an architectural partition and as virtualizing as a GPS geography interpolate not the one universal user (as in Shanghai) but different kinds of users, and in these constitute themselves as different kinds of cosmourbanisms, not only in how they allow for the city to be used, but how the city-as-platform and platform-as-city uses, and through this constructs both well-known and alien sorts of political lifeforms. 

In The Stack
    In recognition that infrastructure  --in this case an aggregate "city" that is at once informational, energistic and architectural modeled as a platform, and the platform modeled in return urbanistically-- produces through hard and soft interpolation, both hard and soft subject effects, for humans and non-humans alike, rendered as that broken cosmopolitan called the user, let us specify further what is the infra and what is the structure. In the limited time afforded by one talk I want to do so through the inverted realism provided by looking at our contemporary moment from the vantage of a hypothetical infrastructure that is in essence the exaggerated present more than or as much as the emergent future. Or in the parlance of another time, base and superstructure; or of our times, the stack. 

    We could model the aggregate city that I have described in terms of a kind of hardware/software stack, as a territorial hierarchy that links geometries, geographies and interpolated user-effects across multiple scales. 

    The most foundational layer, one supposes is that convergent stratum where the Turing Machine and Deleuze's plane of immanence oscillate between the physical and virtual and the physics of computation/ computational physics churns as worldly matter. 

    Above this, operating at the planetary scale as an effective ubiquity of the computational mechanicosphere, where primitive human "supercomputing" is arranged in provisional and incomplete networks of datacenters and fiberoptics. This is the proto-soveregin network geography we call cloud computing/ the global internet(s). And it is at this level of the stack that the Modern sovereignty of the State (which would produce one sort of public) and the aggregate info-energy-urban city, the network sovereignty that would produce another come into direct conflict, overlapping and overlayering one another without universal jurisdiction or resolution. 

    Above this at the level of the city, the building, the car, the habitat, the supply-chain are the sets of technologies, personas and use-cases demanded and implied by the transition from computer as a generic typology of objects ("that is is a computer and that is not") to a mechanicosphere for which designed-artificial computation (as opposed to natural computation of the plane of immanence) is understood (and designed) as a general property of things in the world. This Internet of Things, or ubiquitous computing,  causes the things of the world to become animated in likely startling and animistic ways, and makes our own attempts to address them, be addressed by them, an overwhelmed and overshadowed "small language problem" among the chatterspace of the object legions. Ubicomp is dependent as well upon the address space that would provide an ontologically bewildering granularity to computational indexicality and inventory. 

    Above this at the level of the perceiving phenomenologial subject, in this stack the smallest unit of agency, are the various interfacial technologies that would blend the direct or machine perception of the world with the GUI layers of annotation, indexing, instrumental icons, subtitling, and ideological narration that would more directly specify the symbolic territories into which the user is installed and which are available to him or her according to the cybernetic programmability of the stack. These are known as augmented reality, and for our purposes, while I will argue that any point of contact which governs the conditions of exchange between two complex systems is an interface, here the modern genre of the interface, the cybernetic iconic button, the GUI becomes a direct worldy surficial object of design, work, instrumentality, even theology. Black We might even say, after Friedrich Kittler's association of film with the imaginary, the typewriter with the symbolic and the grammophone with the real, that this Lacanian "stack" would be found in A.R. as a condition in which the imaginary is directly inscribed into the symbolic vocabularies of the instrumental interface in such a way that the real is made irredeemably occult. Kitchen The integral accident of AR is, I fear, not only a deep pervasive advertising by which the direct embodied perceptions and movements of each of us generate the exchange value of the profile, but of a differential sacrality whereby the theological annotation of the world, the division of clean and unclean, friend and enemy, ork and not-ork, red team and blue team unleashes a new wave of AR religious fundamentalism, as we saw to an extent in Mumbai and perhaps in Creationist video games for the home schooling economy. ("The Latin term dispositio, from which the French term dispositif, or apparatus. derives. comes therefore to take on the complex seman tic sphere of the theological oikonomia. The "dispositifs" about which Foucault speaks are somehow linked to this theological legacy.")

The Constitutional Violence of Interfaciality: Dispositif of Cosmourbanism.
    city debris Consideration of the polis that arrives under the guise of the cosmourbanism entailed within the stack outlined above is a challenge to the project of a critical political history. If it constitutes, is constitutional of a regime, in Foucault's sense it may be analyzed in the terms of Walter Benjamin's critique of violence. That is, is the violence of interfacial emergence, constitutional, constituted, or even in some way a "pure" violence, and if so of what? Of not of human history then another angelic object history (certainly allowed for in Benjamin's theology) that may be, if not messianic, then as mined around the sometimes coherent margins of speculative realism, another revenge of the objective: one which has the effect of both a more deeply material political economics and fundamentalist theology plus supercomputing amplification. 

    Before examining some instances of this history as our present, I want to introduce another qualification through  Agamben's short essay on Foucault's idea of dispositif, apparatus. This will differentiate the subjectivization we're discussing for this cosmourbanism from a straight technological determinism by locating the procedurality of subjectivization not in any technology-as-such --architecture, software, grid-- but, as Foucault defines it, in the "network that can be established between these elements." That network-between describes governance not in the image of its self-idealizations and abstraction, i.e. "sovereignty" per se, but in the actual processes of world-formation. Agamben: The term "apparatus" designates that in which. and through which, one realizes a pure activity of governance devoid of any foundation in being. This is the reason why apparatuses must always imply a process of subjectification. that is to say, they must produce their subject." He goes on to " an apparatus literally anything that has in some way the capacity to capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, control, or secure the gestures, behaviors, opinions. or discourses of living beings." And as we shall see, we call subject that which is has some capacity to be captured, oriented, determined, intercepted, etc..., and in fact is only that which is configured in these ways. black Agamben goes on to propose a thought experiment to explain what he shows to be the theology of this distinction,  whereby the world is divided into beings on the one side and technologies on the other. "On one side, then, to return to the terminology of the theologians, lies the ontology of creatures, and on the other side, the oikonomia (economy) of apparatuses that seek to govern and guide them toward the good." And what is critical then not only for our own autobiographic recognition wihtin this economy, but also for the designation of a non-universalist cosmourbanism, that these subectifications are as limitless as the conditions of capacity at work: "the substances and the subjects. as in ancient metaphysics. seem to overlap.but not completely. In this sense, for example, the same individual the same substance can be the place of multiple processes of subjectification: the user of cellular phones, the web surfer. the writer of stories."

    The formation of cosmopolitics in positive and negative resemblance of the templates of subjectivity configured by this multilayered stack infrastructure represent a critical and complex assignment for design (the modal, material governance of the general plasticity of the world) and for governance (the durable codification of design). Here the notion of program (tati) is instructive. In software the design of a program both enables and configures the quality of a user's agency in relation to a particular hardware and set of actions that might be taken with it. By this we mean the manifest, literal care of the self that social network profile management entails and the interpolation of a ideological, generic subject-user of software as critiqued by Wendy Chun and others. For architecture, program entails another but related sort of infrastructural determinism (and yes, the late-70's New York projects of Tshcumi and Koolhaas remain the touchstone here) whereby the possible design of a social organization in space, a possible projective anthropological diagram of work, play, violence, collective embodiment, is modeled as a function of a particular architectural strategy of sorting, partition, enveloping, interfacing; of planning and sectioning. buttons That is, to posit a particular arrangement of activities, of collective access, privation and subjectivity and agency, is to determine in advance the partitional logic that would give rise to and would determine that organizational-behavioral diagram-outcome. Software and hardware, informational network of the stack and the partitional network of architecture, are in this both operations of a particular dispositif. 

In the Envelope
     Having framed the issues in this way, I would like to discuss a few problems and paradoxes that this politics of the envelope and of a cosmourban interfaciality poses for the design of the geopolitical. I mean this in no sense as a comprehensive accounting, but as a sampling sufficient for our conversation. 

     In this discussion of the interfacial stack it should be clarified that its integral processes are in not necessarily computational in substance. Worldly interfaciality, as I model it, is a operation by which the world is sensed and made sense of, and which forms on and as the surfaces of the concrete habitat, which is to say then that no discipline has more expertise in interface design than architecture, and perhaps someday vice versa. Foxconn is this right here? While in the regimes of planetary computation, programs we may have asked architecture to host in the past are now assignments for software, this critical transformation doesn't dissipate architecture's interfaciality (though in some instances it does exactly that). Instead because computation draws our attention to interfaciality as a site of governance, and as architecture performs as collective interface, how it will continue to do so become a more central question for a discipline now as enthralled with the problematics of urban ecology and sustainability as it is with the digital baroque. foxconn nets Architecture's capacity (not requirement) to signify also clarifies what is at work for and as the symbolic within the image-interfacial mechanism. At the same time, there are other ways that an contemporary transformation away from direct political symbolization and toward a renewed focus on material affect is part of how architecture's absorption of the problem of interfacial virtualization by re-seeing its integral politics built into a structure's postural embodiment in location.
    Alejandro Zaera-Polo proposes a political theory the architectural envelope that parallels, in  some ways, what is at stake for a living political theory of the interface. His model seeks to index the political effects of the envelope not in terms of what it might represent ideologically but how it organizes publics as functions of material actor-networks. bench  As he explains, different envelopes both structure and express links between the building and the world and introduce the segmentation, hierarchy, division, compression, massing or adjacency that is, in the last instance, the reality of architectural-spatial micropolitics (which, for Zaera-Polo largely itself exhausts interest in utopian macropolitics for the designer). Through the faciality of buildings, a schema such as Zaera-Polo's directs our attention to operations of the built environment both as a medium of actors, networks and assemblages that it might arrange, and as an direct performing actor within networks and assemblages in which it is itself installed (and which uses us as its medium). walls zig For both our own employment of worldly interfaciality as presented in architectural surfaces and textures allows, through their aggregation and repeated use, access to networks and territories and simultaneously concrete images of those networks and of that access. "...a general theory of the building envelope aims to draw a direct link between spatial typologies and political modalities of forms of political organization through the identification of  a series of concrete domains of architectural performance with attached political potentials.

Zaera-Polo's four envelope types: flat-horizontal, spherical, flat-vertical and vertical

1. The flat-horizontal envelope, such as a very large airport, stadium, big box retail, etc. organizes flow into artificial environments.  (above, grid of solar cells on generic big box warehouse)
2. The spherical, dislodges representation and function and has the most to offer for the presentation of faciality.  (above, OMA's Seattle Public Library)
3. The flat-vertical presents a sectional diagram, organized tessellation and segmentation of public and private at the plinth. (above, MVRDV's Silodam appartments)

4. The Vertical works at a different perceptual scale, tapering, symbolic projection of power. variation. (above, Burj Dubai, S.O.M., under construction

5. Favela envelope?. photographic collage by Soo Kim. 

     Envelope is also not only an architectural issue, nor even and urban issue but in these one of political interfaciality and material geography in situ, of one structured micropolity pressed against another linked by the fuzzy membranes that make publics.     
     However, what we have in Zaera-Polo's schema are good descriptions of the status quo, much more a four sided typology of the envelope as it is and as it does what it does now, than a speculation on what it might do (though FOA's built projects offer plenty of experimental data)  Instead he offers by conclusion that we think of the politics of the envelope as a set of possible strategic maneuvers and tactical tricks that can be insinuated into projects as a supplement to a client's plans but which can restructure publics in ways to which he may not be attentive and incapable of perceiving. For him a politics of the envelope is pragmatist within the presumed formats of capital cultures, and that transformations in the envelope might constitute a transformation in the possible enrollment of publics and of the urban-scale diagram of their configuration, and thereby a new political ecology of things and people; but how? Favela, Kim What about the Megacity slums and shanties that are arguably the predominant housing typology of our era? Are their envelope typology something like the flopping door or the envelope of the barriers between official and unofficial tessellation of the urban legal striation? Is the whole favela one shared envelope? Should we assume that its politics can be deduced by analyzing its operations at that scale and in those locations, but where so? To add fifth wall to his square-fold taxonomy, we might nominate the elongated wedge, exemplified by the Israeli security barrier, the USA border fence, or parts of the Berlin Wall as a contemporary mode of the envelope, one for which, like the other four, an actual physicality guarantees its spatial, political performance irrespective of whatever ideological symbolism may accompany it. As the Wedge is solid, this typology represents a pure envelope that only mediates inside and outside without hosting any regular interior program within itself, diluted by no perforation, differentiating it topologically from the bunker (or from the inverse of the bunker, the camp). 

     And why should we presume that design's interest within it is less programmatic and not more: enveloping toward which effect? Are there preferred diagrams and if not what does a particular practice's design agenda calibrate itself against if it does believe in its own political constitutionality? The politics of the envelope as articulated I think clearly shows instead that it is in the envelope that politics is most directly located because it is there that the polity is configured in real time. But again, toward what effects, what diagrams? How might we work the translation in the other direction, from a design intelligence regarding the building envelope to a policy intelligence regarding the configuration of mobile populations? Clearly a theory of the envelope as he proposes it, is valuable to the theory of interfaciality here outlined, but it must be augmented to suit the geographical conditions that include but are not exhausted by architectonic formats, like buildings and cities, but populated as they are by the diverse media of planetary and ubiquitous computation. 
     As said, the interfaciality of software is of particular interest in large part because software is now asked to structure flows of social organization in ways that used to be the assignment of architecture. Therefore we can ask directly cars ... how software itself is an envelope in the manner described by Zaera-Polo: what are the political ecologies it enrolls, and how does it, as an envelope that straddles the material and immaterial, augment or even cooperate with the explicitly architectural envelops he described? Is there also a typology not only of their individual performances but a matrix of the mutual intra-location of physical and virtual envelopes, architectural envelopes and software envelopes, nested one within the other? Here the singular clarity of a sharply defined exterior is less certain and the two modes of interface, hard and soft,  exchange information and purpose across each others surfaces, less as a single skin-armor but as concentric organs (the platform model of the structured, recombinant compatibility of computer hardware and software is thus scaled to the urban machine).     Like the hard envelopes Zaera-Polo describes, software interfaces are sites of convergence between function and representation, across program and figuration. 
     For the GUI, where representations become instrumentalized and functions become a manipulation of signs, envelopes are both an interface that is an image of what is to cohere through it, and, as technology, a structuring of the relative conditions of access to and arrangement within a given space. As many envelopes compose the urban landscape the work they do aggregates into networks of open and closed densities, pathways and clusters, which themselves combine to give form to territorial scales.  For example in the case of the elongated wedge that is the envelope-interface of the USA-Mexico border that membrane is not the tightly packed machine of a customs zone in an international airport that codes every centimeter with the neutralizing authority of the grid, but a wide, thick, smooth liminal expanse where the legal transition and translation from one status to another is fraught, intangible, and dangerously ambiguous (even as the bluntness of the wedge seeks in vain to smother that ambiguity). Bhabha or Black The migrants that it defends against are stranded in a different kind of sea that that covered by maritme conventions, as dry as the other is wet, but equally unmarked and deterritorialized. In activating the designability of the complex transformation of the legal status of the immigrant as he moves across jurisdictions, B.A.N.G. Lab, my colleagues at Calit2 and UCSD, have earned the vitriol of local nativists by developing a cell phone application called Transborder Immigrant Tool, which when installed on cheap and recycled handsets with GPS, is designed to aid those traveling by foot across the treacherous Sonoran and Mojave deserts from Mexico in the United States by directing them to nearby water stations set up by other Samaritan organizations.   

     Returining to Agamben's essay briefly, we can begin to ask about the transformation between regimes of the apparatus, between modes of geography, urbanity, and citizenship where one regime emerges is already reticulated and articulated with those that it may come to displace through occupation (for example from Westphalian models of political geography to ones where cartography does not guarantee civil rights in the same way.) This refers also to the shifts and shuttles for which a given program, a given operation of apparatus upon which such a regime depends (for example the organization of interpersonal communication and contact) migrates, in Foucauldian fashion, from one institutional isomorph to another (for example how software now performs functions that used to be assigned to architecture, and perhaps vice versa). Which is to say that the apparatus as a machine of subjectivization is itself always trading forms of governmentlity and capacities of subjectivization from one stratum in the network to another, from one in-between to another, and that in this internal mobility, the same form of subject might move from one media to another, and also in the movement from one to another, iterations, variations and innovations of the relationships between subject, geography, polis appear (both designed and undesigned). Agamben's perspective on this is instructive both for  what it enlightens and is blind to.

      "Apparatus, then, is first of all a machine that produces subjectifications, and only as such is it also a machine of governance." and vice versa, "Indeed, every (Turk) apparatus implies a process of subjectification, without which it cannot function as an apparatus of governance, but is rather reduced to a mere exercise of violence." This violence is neither constituted nor constitutional in the Benjaminian sense, but rather another name for what Agabmen calls a "process of their desubjectification," or of removing the very possibility of subjectivity through a kind of total and de-pluralized capture whereby the contradictions of multiple subjectifications are flattened, and he sees this as the politics of the apparatus we face today. And yet at the same time, "It would probably not be wrong to define the extreme phase of capitalist development in which we live as a massive accumulation and proliferation of apparatuses..... we must also immediately consider the apparatuses that crowd the Open with instruments. objects. gadgets. odds and ends. and various technologies.... This may produce the impression that in our time, the category of subjectivity is wavering and losing its consistency; but what is at stake. to be precise, is not an erasure or an overcoming. but rather a dissemination." (of multiple subjectivities). Now what may be identified as a contradiction in Agamben's argument, that today's computational apparatuses desubjectify on the one hand, and also and multiply subjectivities by their own proliferation, may in fact be the paradox we must map, more of less and less of more, and/or it locates the point where we now depart with the idea of apparatus from Agamben's stewardship because it is already quite plainly doing in the world more than his account can account for. For example, and in in one of the great whoppers of contemporary Italian political philosophy, he writes: "In the untruth of the subject, its own truth is no longer at stake. He who lets he himself be captured by the "cellular telephone" apparatus- whatever the intensity of the desire that has driven him cannot acquire a new subjectivity, but only a number through which he can, eventually, be controlled." (emphasis mine, eyes rolling, head scratched)

     The TBT device neatly unknots several governments of mobility at once: the mobility of the handset enabling a mobility of the person in turn enabling a mobility of his position within economic networks. black (I must say that my reading of this project is deliberately opportunisitic, and that given another forum I would have much to say about its over-reliacne on the performance/ poetric theatrics of a simple, oppositionalist identity politics that I find tiresome. My argument is transforming it into a work of critical speculative design whether it was intended as one or not, or is even successful as one.)  That said, part of why the TBT has drawn such foamy-mouthed anger from nativists is that it, as speculative prototype, it signals a structural shift the agency of the migrant within the regional interface-network-territory, whether or not it is broadly employed to find water or not.  The alegal status of the migrant shifts between two modes of the biopolitical, qua Foucault; between that which left to die on the one hand, and that which can be killed with impunity. The migrant is not only outside the walled protection of human settlement but sentenced the vast unwalled quasi-"camp" of the desert, both inside the law of national cartography and outside the border of the societal. He is cast into a zone of ungovernable nature which supports his animalization by the paramilitaries acting both outside the law and on behalf of the jurisdictional border as if its geographic edge were the true sovereign. black In the nativist view it is not the migrant's right to work that is or is not legal, but that he himself, his very person, is illegal. It is not that he commits the felony of entering the country without permission and is therefore a person who has committed a felony (like tax evasion or mail fraud) but that his very body and its presence on the land is a felony, and so to arrest his mobility is not to stop the movement of a person, rightly or wrongly, to arrest his biological person is to police an explicit crime that is embodied therein (a strange perversion of habeas corpus).    


While I am less interested in the technological interface, Bratton's comments on migration and the state of being human are quite provocative. He seems to hit many of the key ideas my thesis is pushing on: networks, cartography, migration, territory, traces, manipulations, the user and the agent. I look forward to expanding on and working off of his arguments. 

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