Becoming-user in the Wake of Planetary-Scale Computation

cultural analysis theory research paper
beyond geopolitics post-anthropocene infrastructure cyberspace the Stack geontopower modernity / coloniality user geodesign

Thesis part 3: Pig Simulator and World-Making in VR

Thesis part 4: Holly Herndon’s Home and Life-making


The current discourse around the Stack remains within the traditional geopolitical frames responsible for its emergence: in its birth, the Stack is already colonized. Albeit accidental and incongruent, Bratton’s geodesign of the Stack permits seeing the formations of planetary-scale computation in concert, as a global infrastructure and immaterial territory that marks the threshold of a new unfolding era of the post-anthropocene. 1 This thesis is dedicated to further developing the project of the Stack for vitalizing a future that is currently lost in social and ecological precarity and crisis. To challenge the continued instillation of modernity/coloniality narratives in current unfoldings and mappings by and for these global infrastructures, I develop the Stack’s spatial, temporal, and material openings and limitations for moving past traditional bio- and geopolitics through its analysis with concepts of modernity/coloniality by Walter Mignolo, anthropogenesis by Kathryn Yusoff, and geontopower by Elizabeth Povinelli. Rather than merely stepping into the position of a user subject in the Stack’s User Layer, I reveal new cultural orientations of becoming-user for this new paradigm through my analysis of two different scenes of user and interface: the virtual reality game Pig Simulator and Holly Herndon’s music video Home.


The Stack is a large intersection between concepts of modernity and globalisation, the anthropocene, the future, and geopolitics. Through its analysis in the two theoretical chapters of my thesis, I draw some of these lines to differently consider its implications as a geodesign proposition and its sites of contestation.

Ideas (from Chapters 1 and 2)

  • Explanation of how the Stack permits the movement from the anthropocene to the post-anthropocene and marks the contemporary moment as a gap in between eras.
  • Proposal of a realm of planetary- scale computation (provisionally referred to as cyberspace) in which the Stack is situated, rather than the Stack as the realm. This emphasizes the distinction of computation as a force, which in its technological capture (as one kind of capture, rather than the only kind) constitutes the Stack. 2
  • Formulation of user to computation, rather than user to technological platforms (as too heavily swimming between nation-states and economic structures).
  • Call to break apart the rhetorical triad of user-to-platforms is to citizen-to-nation state is to consumer/producer to economy.
  • Proposition of alternative terms of life making and world making rather than nomos, and bio-geo-and geontopolitics. 3
  • Conception of an “immaterial turn” to align the birth of this immaterial realm in its scale, reach, and role in critical global power regimes to the presumed end of knowable and relevant material territory; underscoring that this is a different integration of immaterial information with material.
  • Explanation of the realm of planetary-scale computation as an immaterial turn marking a new era and as forming an immaterial site of the future: simultaneously capsized upon us and ahead of us.
  • Argument that the mode enter- ing this site is through itself, a reflection of conquering - entering it is affectively different than a new territory because of this simultaneity - it is something to be organized in our tangles and attempt to conquer it.
  • Consideration that design-as-infrastructure might serve as a relational method for entering it rather than conquering.

Concluding Questions

  1. What are sites of this capsize to glean different ways of being computational?
  2. What methods can be found to keep-complicated the temporal and spatial openings of the Stack?🝏