Farming Data, Forming the Cloud: The Environmental Impact and Cultural Production of Information Technology

Project leader

Funding source

Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ)

Project Details

Start date: 01/01/2014
End date: 31/12/2016
Funding: 2227000 SEK


Facebook currently builds its first European data center in Luleå, in order to provide server cooling and storage facilities for user data from Europe, Africa, and the Near East. Based on empirical research at Facebook's Luleå location, this project addresses the environmental impact, social articulation, and cultural production of information technology. While the Internet often is pictured as being immaterial and fluid, and the IT industry promoted as a cheap and green 21st century antidote to a toxic past centuries' factory work, research is needed to shed light on the Internet's complex, energy-consuming infrastructure and on the heavy industry securing the functionality of web services, as well as on this industry's social effects. Most recently, cloud computing (i.e. the online storage of and real-time remote access to data) has greatly contributed to the idea of a free and immaterial web, with Facebook seen as pioneering location-independent access to privately stored photos and videos. Conversely, this project aims to better understand the Internets materiality, and to address the risk of an energy crisis of information. Using qualitative social research methods, it provides answers to three questions: 1) How is the 'cloud' imagined? (cultural meanings); 2) how does the 'cloud' materialize in terms of environmental change? (in both ecological and industrial life-worlds); 3) how is the 'cloud' socially negotiated? (in terms of social relations and the labor market).

Last updated on 2017-24-03 at 13:00