Accepted Paper:

Imagining the Swedish cloud  


Asta Vonderau (Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyzes technological imaginations related to IT infrastructures, and it asks how the immaterial cloud materializes.

Paper long abstract:

In the metaphoric imagery commonly used to describe and explain the internet, the world wide web has been pictured as being immaterial and fluid, like an ocean to be navigated. The complex infrastructure and heavy industry securing the functionality of web services 'backstage' are seldomly part of popular imagination and remain, as technical infrastructure generally, part of an invisible deeper ecology. This paper presents preliminary findings of a research project on the environmental impact and cultural production of information infrastructure. It is based on empirical research conducted in Luleå, Northern Sweden, 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. This paper aims to analyze these technological visions related to current infrastructural transformation in the city of Luleå, a place where the materiality and immateriality of the internet meet.

Panel P028
Infrastructure and imagination: Anthropocene landscapes, urban deep-ecology, cybernetic dreams and future-archaeologies