The cloud at the horizon of the internet infrastructure
Andreas Baur (University of Tübingen)
Paper short abstract:
The cloud and the trend to cloud computing is changing internet infrastructure and has also effects on data infrastructures. This paper aims at giving answers to the questions that arise thereof, including centralisation and power relations.
Paper long abstract:
The development of the "cloud" has become one of the most important trends of changing IT and data infrastructures and it is still gaining speed. Although most of the developments subsumed under cloud computing are technologically and economically driven, the cloud metaphor and the cloud's inherent changes to the material and technological infrastructures are not neutral. DeNardi's and Musiani's 'governance by infrastructure' assumes purposefully created infrastructure in order to regulate and govern via this technology, i.e. 'frozen governance'. I add to this concept the analysis of diffuse structural and co-constitutive power relations, also engaging with the methodological consequences that this entails. I argue that the trend of cloud computing is characterising a further centralisation of the internet with effects on the control of functionality and data, challenging traditional ideas of government/governance. A core question to be addressed is: how does "the" cloud change power relations with regard to democratic institutions, structures, businesses and society? Trends and changes that can be summarised under the umbrella of increasing cloud usage are related to a "reassortment" of (constitutive) social and power relations between actors, technology and values. Cloud computing leads to the creation of intelligent (data) centres where the computing and storage takes place. Clients such as phones and computers become rather passive displays of the information rendered by the network. This altering of the internet's traditional and emancipatory end-to-end principle is more than a technological change, but creates new dependencies and changes power relations both within and outside of the network.
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