Asta Vonderau, Postdoctoral researcher, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Imagining the Swedish Cloud: Infrastructures, Technological Visions, and Negotiation of Visibility

Asta Vonderau
Asta Vonderau

In the metaphoric imagery commonly used to describe the Internet, the world wide web has been pictured as being immaterial and fluid, like an ocean to be navigated. The complex infrastructures end heavy industry securing the functionality of web services‚ backstage’ are seldomly part of popular imagination and remain, as technical infrastructures generally, part of an invisible deeper ecology.

My presentation is based on empirical research conducted in Luleå where Facebook opened its first and largest European data center in 2013, providing server cooling and storage facilities for user data from Europe, Africa, and the Near East. Spreading rapidly across the globe, data centers are understood to become "factories of the 21st century", signalling the advent of a new industrial era that comes with social and environmental changes. And indeed, it is mostly thanks to Facebook that Luleå has lately been globally in the news as a center of IT competence and data storage introducing the brand name, "The Node Pole". Ever since, the Facebook project has become key to this city's self-image and a generator of collective and individual future visions.

My presentation aims to analyze these technological visions related to the current infrastructural transformation in the city of Luleå, a place where the materiality and immateriality of the Internet meet.

Asta Vonderau is a researcher (postdoc) at the Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University. Her current three years research project Farming Data, Forming the Cloud: The Environmental Impact and Cultural Production of Information Technology investigates the Internet’s materiality, addressing the risk of an energy crisis of information.

All seminars in the series.