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sub-stack protocols: digital borders and coloniality

; Rochester Iss. 26,  (Spring 2017).

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Introduction. This paper serves as a sketch for an experimental political cartography of stack-world . A world inscribed by planetary-scale computational infrastructure in which telecommunication network infrastructure is overlaid directly on a neo-colonial meta-infrastructure of an equal scale. This paper explores the notion of borders and borderization through the implications of what Benjamin Bratton describes as the the dramatic re-inscription and reinforcement “of state sovereignty and supervision over information flows” within a globalized computational infrastructure. 1 This idea of state supervision is parsed through an expanded notion of borders, in which zones of control are articulated as a form of representation and informationalization of bodies. This paper looks at the ways in which these data-bodies form a techno-political apparatus of governance which is contiguous and continuous with colonial and racist techniques of control across time and place. Reading this techno-social apparatus through Bratton’s description of the dynamic between the archaic and the emergent, this paper explores correspondence of these protocols to what Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe describes in post-colonial Africa as “[how] social-actors continued to have recourse to those legitimacies and lower-order institutions that they kept reinventing, thus providing these with new significations.” 2 This research also explores the ways in which techno-apparatuses are themselves a means of techno-political resistance.

Borders. It is important to highlight the border as key site in the globalization of computational infrastructure. The border is the both the laboratory and the field, the border is a site of surveillance technologies testing (before wider dissemination) as well the key site of their use. The border is also a complex signifier, a term whose over-articulation across legal, historical, biological, geographic (etc.) modes place it squarely within the scope of what Bratton calls an “accidental megastructure.” 3 The thickening of juridistinctional complexity to account for overlapping systems of supervision....