PanOptimum: New Global Platform

PanOptimum, The New Global Platform

Medium: Mapbox Real-Time Satellite Engine, Vuplex VR live web-browser, Unity 3D

Sound Collaboration with Reece Anderson

Fall 2020

PanOptimum is a video in guise of a trade show advertisement promoting a new world order within network platform. This imaginary architecture replicates network addressing systems into a visual spatial structure that viewers can experience in embodied ways and discover how the global population is mapped into network structures.

Users are imagined to exist in the cells of a supercomputer hard-drive. They are identified by their cell number and are geographically locatable at all times. People become retrievable and interchangeable objects, as data stored in containers. From each cell, the online activities of the cell-occupants can be extracted. Their private searches and interests are sold off in a bid war. The mysterious Bidders who are computer agents themselves, each represent a group of enterprises. The highest bidder gets to implant their advertisements back into the user’s cell. People unknowingly become the content-creators or laborers of the addressing platform that capitalize on the data generated by its addressed-subjects. Reversibly, users are situated as the consumers of this market through the ads that return to their cells. People become the potential property of larger capitalistic systems working within network platforms. The piece speculates a future in which computation has extracted everything in the world into the calculable, manipulable, and monetizable paradigm of network addressing systems. Viewers experience how addresses create a controllable ontological condition for the bodies they contain.

Today we exist in a world where a multiplicity of grids mediate our world through their spatialization and socio-political effectuation. This is especially apparent through platforms like Google that are mapping the world population into its social, topographical, commercial, material, and speculative grids. Pan-Optimum imagines our global society deeply entrenched within multiple grids of Cloud platforms and investigates platform architecture as a total-operationalization of the grid. (Siegert p.98)

As a social grid, the platform turns humans into retrievable objects. Users are imagined to exist as data in the cells of a hard-drive. People become defined by their memorial location in the hard-drive. The placement in a cell comes to determine their identity and their existential situation as substitutable content in a database.

As a topographic grid, each cell stores the geo-locations of its occupant. Viewers experience this through a zoom-in that moves into a cell, into a satellite-view over the earth, over a specific country, a city, a neighbourhood, a housing unit, and into the room of the user. Through this perspectival movement, a hierarchical relation is established between the observer and the observed. Using the “God’s eye” aerial-view, omniscient sight is empowered to the observer while constant visibility is encumbered on the observed. Using the “Scalable view” of satellites, mobile viewing is empowered to the observer while trackability is encumbered on the observed. These perspectives render the power of topographic grids to “enable us to head for any point in space”. (Siegert p103)

As an economic grid, online activities of the cell-occupants are extracted from the cell. Their private searches and interests are auctioned off in a bid war. Mysterious Bidders who are computer agents themselves, each represent a group of enterprises. The highest bidder gets to implant their advertisements back into the cell-occupant’s device. The cell-occupant (or user of the platform) becomes the content creators and asset-producing labourers for the platform’s secret market. They are simultaneously situated as the consumers of this market through the advertisements that return to them.

As a result of being situated on the grid, the user has not only become a source of income but mobilized as a labor-resource. Such a functioning of the grid was also seen in the distribution of land in colonial America, where land allocated on the US federal grid was auctioned off in standardized plots and assigned a master who owns them. In turn, the land became an income-generating worker for its master who farmed and harvested it year after year. (Siegert, p. 115) Here, the grid commodifies the object that it maps. In a similar way, Pan-Optimum charts people into its cells to monetize their activities and behaviours. The cells operate as more than a spatial survey of users, but an economic scheme of the platform.

Pan-Optimum comes to occupy physical space in the real world through its material constituents- whether that be a human, a phone, a computer etc. Through a network of these physical objects, the platform becomes a material grid that occupies real space. The computer in the user’s room acts as a spatializing object that can survey its surroundings, identify its longitude and latitude, and locate other objects around itself. It is a spatializing mechanism that is materialized in the real world- to frame, delineate, and occupy the area which it plans to dominate. The user’s space which it circumscribes becomes accessible, plannable, and manipulatable by the platform. Through the mass production and global dissemination of such computer products, the material grid of the platform can be expanded.

The diagrammatic nature of a grid allows for an infinite multiplication of its dimensions. (Siegert, p. 103) Its parameters can be boundlessly extended to even spatialize empty spaces. This empowers the grid with an imagination; it can plan, build, and distribute space in anticipation of a particularly envisioned future. Whether that is a growth in population, market peak or crash, civic and industrial development, a grid can orient itself to accommodate whatever it forecasts. (Siegert, p. 107)

In Pan-Optimum, the cells precede the data that they store. A cell can exist even without an occupant, as a container can exist without having anything in it. This means that the cells can be reorganized, reissued, multiplied, divided in infinite iterations regardless of what is stored inside. Their structuring and restructuring remain open to the imagination of the platform’s designers. Whoever has control over its design is therefore in control over its social, topographic, economic, and material grids. Through the design and usage of these grids, specific social ontologies can be set in place by the platform designer.


  • Bratton, Benjamin. The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2015. Print. pp 3- 18.

  • Mirzoeff, Nicholas. “Panoptic Mondernity.” An Introduction to Visual Culture. Routledge. 1999, pp 94- 107.

  • Siegert, Bernhard. “(Not) in Place: The Grid, or Cultural Techniques of Ruling Spaces.” Cultural Techniques, Grids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real. Fordham University Press, 2015, pp 97 – 120.