The Digital Cloud and the Micropolitics of Energy
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.