This essay considers a wide range of materials—journalism, fiction, corporate white papers, advertisements, and infographics—to examine an emerging cultural image of green networks. The author puts pressure on the quasi-ecological rhetoric of the cloud by considering the material infrastructure that lurks behind every stroke of a keyboard and swipe of a touch screen. Developing a framework for “cyberenvironmentalism,” she shows that the cloud’s footprint extends beyond corporate-owned data centers and high-speed networks to include small-scale, personal habits driven by values of connectivity and speed. The essay concludes with two case studies: first, Jennifer Egan’s 2011 novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, whose PowerPoint chapter works to visualize the energy demands of a rapidly growing social media culture, and, second, the so-called high-frequency traders who today are making use of individual tweets, status updates, and other forms of everyday online communication to refine their market prediction algorithms and in turn profit enormously from the digital cloud.
The Digital Cloud and the Micropolitics of Energy
Allison Carruth is an assistant professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she is affiliated with the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, the Institute for Society and Genetics, and the Center for the Study of Women. Her recent publications include Global Appetites: American Power and the Literature of Food (2013); “Culturing Food: Bioart and In Vitro Meat” (Parallax, 2013); “The City Refigured,” in the edited volume Environmental Criticism for the Twenty-First Century (2011); and “War Rations and the Food Politics of Late Modernism” (Modernism/Modernity, 2009). She is media editor for Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities.
Allison Carruth; The Digital Cloud and the Micropolitics of Energy. Public Culture 1 May 2014; 26 (2 (73)): 339–364. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-2392093
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