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Accepted Paper:

Farming data, anticipating the cloud  
Asta Vonderau (Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany)

Paper short abstract:

My paper investigates practices of prognostics related to the management and governance of the cloud. It focuses on technological visions of a connected society and strategies of scale-making, which serve as tools for anticipatory knowledge production within this context.

Paper long abstract:

My paper investigates practices and strategies of prognostics related to the management and governance of the cloud and data centers as its material form.

Data centers (or "server farms") are industry-scale organizations offering the storage and delivery of data via the Internet. They represent the infrastructure of the cloud and the fastest growing industry world wide, consuming 3% of all global electricity.

Rapidly growing global information streams, their industrial complexities, and the peculiar (i-)materiality of this industry's product, data, make the prediction for data centers' energy needs and storage space requirements particularly important. Development of this industry is just as much dependent on persuasive predictions of the cloud's "positive" social effects which are mostly envisioned in popular images of a connected society (e.g. Internet of Things) as an inevitable future scenario and as a solution for all sorts of social problems.

Based on my current ethnographic research on the data center industry and its implementation in Northern Sweden, this paper investigates how prognostic practices are deployed within this context. It focuses in particular on the strategies of scale-making in between different places and expert groups that are involved in the cloud's industrial processes. The paper demonstrates how supposedly "global" industry trends (visualized in big numbers and abstract graphs) are instrumentalized for fostering decisions and organizational forms at local industrial sites, and how "local" knowledge is integrated into "global" prediction making.

Panel P110
Anticipatory knowledge: prognostics and prophecy in management and governance
  Session 1