Kudzu House Quarterly

Kudzu Scholar (Fall Equinox, 2015)



logo

Volume 5, Issue 3.

Author Biographies


Empty Sky:

Cloud Technologies in the Global Landscape

Ava Tomasula y Garcia


Abstract:

‘Cloud’ is the perfect metaphor for remote computing: like all descriptors of nature, we can stand on both sides of it. On one, we talk about nature as wild and unpredictable; on the other, it’s conquered and mapped. We speak as though we have the ability to control the climate, but if the responsibility gets to be too much, ‘Nature’ is suddenly pushed back into the mysterious realm of the non-human. The uncrossable boundary between the built and the natural worlds—conveniently put aside for the construction of a new highway or oil pipeline—suddenly reappears when questions about who and what causes global warming enter the frame. The Cloud can be as empty or full of meaning as we choose; as ‘natural’ or as high-tech as is convenient. It is both a neutral, inescapable feature of the industrialized world—and a ‘service’ that can be denied and manipulated. The tendency to talk about the Cloud as existing without material form turns it into something as pliably empty as our idea of nature. But data has a material life, and material consequences. This essay chases clouds to follow that life and those consequences.

Keywords: Remote computing, media studies, ecocriticism, internet, the cloud


The weather report begins.

The weatherman stands like a magician in front of a green screen, describing rain flows and high winds with circular, big-handed gestures. Animated graphics of clouds roil up over the state map and take their cues from motion paths described by red arrows. All the uncertainty of a forecast—we’re-looking-at-cloudy-skies-probable-high-of-67—is offset by a visual magic act calculated to give the impression of controlled orchestration; of confidence.

There is a mixed message in the eye of this storm. On one hand, the weatherman offers a report in the blankest sense possible: a description without explanation. Meaning, the weather exists independent of me; I can only guess at what it will do next. But, on the other hand, this distance gets lost in the spectacle of technology surrounding it: we see satellite images of home from space, precisely-mapped depictions of mountain ranges. A barrage of statistics that reduces huge amounts of data to daily precipitation percentages. Labels that center gigantic weather systems around tiny individuals (“chilly in the morning,” “spring-coat weather”). Viewers are given images and words from a God’s-eye view that represent nature as known, graspable, and—as the weatherman’s hand sweeps across a map of the country, seeming to clear dark clouds with one motion—eminently manageable.

Sitting at home watching this, I, too, enjoy the benefits of being on both sides of the weather. We speak as though we have the ability to control the climate, but if the responsibility gets to be too much, the natural world is suddenly pushed back into the mysterious realm of the non-human. Or as Bruno Latour says, we go right on mobilizing nature at every point in the fabrication of our societies, while simultaneously attributing to nature the transcendence of those same societies.1 The uncrossable boundary between the built and the natural worlds—conveniently put aside for the construction of a new highway or oil pipeline—suddenly reappears when questions about who and what causes global warming enter the frame.

On one hand, capital-N Nature is supposed to be too big to get a handle on. It is supposed to exist on a plane so vast and untouchable that it can’t fit within our human, day-to-day scale—it’s a force so big that it becomes inscrutable. But on the other hand, we think of nature as a collection of domesticable parts: controllable, knowable pieces we can isolate and bend. The image of the Hoover Dam is as important as that of Typhoon Haiyan, which was explained away on countless TV talk shows as a ‘natural phenomenon’ instead of the result of man-made climate change. Conquered, subdued and mapped nature must exist in tandem with bottomless, wild, and unpredictable nature.

That is to say that, despite the assurances of our increasingly quantified world, the sky is something that continues to be read, not just measured. The Weather Channel shows more plainly than other scientific displays how much the study of the natural world is a search for narrative order. As Richard Hamblyn writes, “The weather generates language more efficiently than it generates knowledge, for while it is always available and always with us it is equally unclear.”

In 1802, when Luke Howard gave scientific names to the previously shapeless and ungraspable masses called clouds, he was talking a new kind of world order into being, and it caused a sensation.2 Howard lived during the age of science as theater: a time as filled with the thunderstorms of Romanticism as it was by the whirr and click of the Industrial Revolution. His colleagues in rational entertainment gave demonstrations in lecture theaters packed with cheering spectators eager to witness the latest revelation about lightning, or the latest chess-playing machine in a (usually pseudo-) scientific performance full of smoke and drama.

enter image description here

[A nimbus cloud depicted in Luke Howard's 1803 "Essay on the Modification of Clouds," in which he categorized the previously-shapeless masses in the sky. (Indiana University Press / Google Books Scan)]

What we think of now as the cool, ‘hard’ sciences were then inseparable from the spectacle of themselves. Today, ‘science’ usually denotes not passionate speeches about the properties of water delivered to fainting ladies, but instead pristine, supposedly detached and immovable laboratory work. Living in the age of science as application, it is hard for us to imagine just what an uproar was generated by those new cloud names—’cirrus,’ ‘cumulus,’ ‘nimbus’. By now they’ve faded into our shared vocabulary about the weather, taking their place in the Weekday Forecast among other inventions that familiarity has gradually transmuted into fact. Yet Howard’s taxonomy isn’t the only intellectual legacy from his epoch that we still carry today. We continue to live and breathe his society’s double-conception of nature as well: as something both romantically uncontrollable and scientifically controllable.

Today, there’s another type of cloud that is losing its ability to surprise. It’s singular: the Cloud, in fact. Now that remote computing and storage capabilities are built into almost every computer platform and app, they’re becoming a normal part of the digital landscape. ‘Cloud’ is the perfect metaphor for networked computing, because, like other descriptors of nature, we can stand on both sides of it. It can be as empty or full of meaning as we choose; as ‘natural’ or as high-tech as is convenient. The word ‘cloud’ is both permeable and impermeable; both air and substance. It is both a neutral, inescapable feature of the industrialized world—and a ‘service’ that can be denied and manipulated.

If a thing’s politics are apparent in its architecture, then what are the politics of something as diffuse as a cloud?3 What is it made out of? In mathematics, meteorology and physics, the word describes indeterminate structures that only become apparent from a distance—like electrons bouncing around an atom, or points in a coordinate system. In computing, the cloud describes the linkage of a ‘client’ computer, called the ‘front end,’ to the ‘back end,’ made up of a group of computers or other storage system (like a server), through a network (like the internet). An easy example is any web-based email: Using the Cloud, instead of running an email program that takes up space and computing power on my computer, I log into my account online and access my e-mail from there—all I need now is an internet connection. Neither my email nor the software needed to use it exists on my personal computer: everything is accessed online and held on servers owned by whatever company’s email program I’m using as a ‘service.’ Every time I check my email, my request for access goes through hard, soft, and middle-ware owned by Google, Yahoo, or Comcast. Content and ownership—two ideas that are conventionally centered in the objects themselves—are now exploded outwards in a network that severs the physicality of a thing from what it is.

It is actually around those two almost reactionary ideas—content and ownership—that much of the critical discussion about the Cloud is based. Who owns the content stored in a Cloud system? The answer to that question, if ever resolved, will depend on how a proliferation of variables are defined: Was the data created locally and then put into the Cloud? Was it created in the Cloud itself? What type of data is it? If you live in one country, give your data to a Cloud provider that is run out of another, who then outsources its operations to a storage provider in yet another country, which laws governing ownership should, or can, be followed?

Google’s Terms of Service state that “when you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.”4 Google has one Terms of Service for all their products, and, at base, they are not different from those of any other Cloud storage company. But the Orwellian phrasing, while allowing the company to make the moves of archives from one server to another which are necessary for large-scale Cloud computing, also gives the company built-in rights to users’ data that are in no way essential to run the Cloud.

Like Google, Facebook makes money from targeted advertising. This is targeting that depends on knowing as much as possible about users, which in itself is a substantial incentive for a company to write Privacy Statements the way they do. Facebook tells its users that, aside from the content users voluntarily give the company, “We also put together data from the information we already have about you, your friends, and others, so we can offer and suggest a variety of services and features. For example, we may make friend suggestions, pick stories for your News Feed, or suggest people to tag in photos. We may put together your current city with GPS and other location information we have about you to, for example, tell you and your friends about people or events nearby, or offer deals to you in which you might be interested. We may also put together data about you to serve you ads or other content that might be more relevant to you.”5 While just scratching the surface, recent revelations about Facebook’s secret manipulation of users’ news feeds as an experiment into “massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks” shows what curation ‘to better serve you’ means.6

Data collection by corporate entities not only dwarfs the volume of that same information requested yearly by the NSA, but actually further blurs the line between state and commercial bodies. A May 2014 report by the Federal Trade Commission about Big Data highlights the growing shadow industry of data brokers—which, according to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, generated over $150 billion in 2014.7 Data brokers keep going where Google and Facebook (seemingly) stop. Companies aggregate information sourced from government data (like political donations a person might make, or bankruptcy information), publicly available data obtained from crawling social media sites and blogs (like Facebook timelines and relationship statuses, or LinkedIn profiles), and commercial data (the type of purchase—which could be less sensitive, like a brand of toothpaste, or more sensitive, like type of medication—the dollar amount of the purchase, the date of the purchase, and the type of payment used). Brokers combine data to make inferences about people, and place them into categories, which can range from ‘Dog Owner,’ ‘Cholesterol Focus,’ or ‘Mail Order Responder,’ to ‘Urban Scramble’ (Latinx and African American with low income), ‘Rural Everlasting’ (over 66 with “low educational attainment and low net worths”) or ‘Married Sophisticates’ (thirty-something couples in the “upper middle class…with no children”).

According to the FTC report, one data broker, Rapleaf, has at least one data point associated with more than 80% of all U.S. email addresses; Corelogic has property-specific data for over 99% or U.S. residential properties; Datalogix, which has a partnership with Facebook, has marketing data for almost every U.S. household; Recorded Future predicts consumer and corporate behavior based on information from over 502,591 open Internet sites; Acxiom has information for about 700 million consumers worldwide, including 3,000 data segments for nearly every U.S. consumer. Data brokers are subject to virtually no consumer protection laws.8 Unlike in other countries, in the U.S., the arduous process of getting access to what a company knows about you often involves giving up even more ‘data points.’

All the information that is stored ‘up there’ in the Cloud exists down here, on the ground. More specifically, it lives in mega data centers containing hundreds of thousands of servers each. Today, Google has 12 such centers spread across three continents, each boasting areas in the tens of thousands of square feet.9 This groundedness means that Google has interests in host countries like Taiwan, Chile, and Ireland, and six U.S. states—interests like those of any other company that conducts business within any state’s borders, be it in oil, bananas, or data.

While the locations of the centers are public, not much is apparent about what the insides look like. It is known, however, that the storage infrastructure of the centers is composed of standard shipping containers, stacked two high in rows, each container carrying 1,160 servers. This has been public knowledge since 2009, when Google revealed their server design—or as Ben Jai, the designer himself, called it, “our Manhattan project.”10

enter image description here

[A server farm whose hundreds of units make up part of the material life of the Cloud. The maintenance of farms like this one have enormous costs, environmental and otherwise. (NeoSpire.net / Flickr)]

And this is exactly what the word ‘Cloud’ attempts to obscure: the physical dimension of what is going on here. In referencing yet another type of cloud (a mushroom-shaped one), Jai recalled a different instance in which language was used as a wedge between lived reality and representation: during the construction of the atomic bomb. Use of the codenames “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” was more than a security measure during the Manhattan Project. As Giorgio Agamben writes, if terminology is the properly poetic moment of thought, then no terminological choice can ever be neutral.11 The bomb’s domesticated names were screens that allowed the few dozen men that knew about them before Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and the rest of the world, afterwards—to think about and carry out their work on a different register that that implied by the bombs’ ‘proper’ military and scientific designations.12

Science and culture are more than co-produced: they are falsely-partitioned parts of the same whole. The same goes for language and thought. The problem is that partition is too often the first step of concealment: After all, what does it mean to make a Little Boy, instead of a uranium gun-type fission bomb? What does it mean to use a Cloud Service, instead of plugging into a remotely-accessed, corporately-controlled aggregate data management system? The Cloud exists, always somewhere above me, as neutral as the air I breathe.

But climate change has long been forcing us to see what has always been an inconvenient truth: no air—no nature, no word—has ever been neutral. Nor can they be isolated from their surroundings The political structure of and surrounding the Cloud is as real as the mined metals that make up my computer. The conversation surrounding Big Data too often excludes Big Data’s physical aspect—and this is the case, even though the whole thing pivots on material devices. Or as Katherine Hayles has written, today there is a real tendency towards a “conceptualization that sees information and materiality as distinct entities,” allowing for “the construction of a hierarchy in which information is given the dominant position and materiality runs a distant second.”13 Meaning, Big Data sees itself as dimensionless, despite the name: even though a network can cover the whole globe, it remains a kind of skin on top of it, not part of it.

In fact, discussion is too often limited to words like information, data, and content. It’s like talking about the Internet without mentioning the millions of fiber-optic cables that compose it, where they are, and who made them. This means that the iPhones, tablets, GPS systems, and laptops that house our information have become so integral to our lives—so much a part of contemporary ‘nature’ for the very small percentage of the world’s population that has access to them—that they’ve become background to the larger, invisible drama of content. Yet even clouds are made of molecules. The material world is still the scale at which so much abuse takes place.

‘Data’ is one of the empty words central to the Cloud. It could mean a report for work, an email to mom, or a baby picture. Or, even emptier still, it could refer to metadata—data about data—which can actually be more informative than content itself.14 The tendency to talk about the Cloud as existing without material form turns it into something as pliably empty as our idea of nature. Just as we treat climate legislation as a separate concern from, say, immigration law, we compartmentalize our concerns about how data is obtained, and what is done with it. We treat human rights abuses at Foxconn factories as a different conversation than the one about who has ownership of a .doc file uploaded to Apple’s iCloud. They’re part of the same whole, as surely as the back and front ends of a Cloud system are linked.

The unspecific “Cloud” obscures, for example, that the devices it lives in are dependent very specifically on miners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A June 2014 report by the Enough Project (an anti-genocide group originally out of the Center for American Progress) on conditions for miners in the DRC testifies to continuing—although lessened—neocolonial practices that entail child labor, child soldiers, and endless days of underground digging by laborers. Miners are exploited by both the electronics companies who use them in their ‘3T’(tantalum, tin, tungsten) and gold supply chains, among them Apple, Dell, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard; and warlords responsible for the rapes and killings that continue in the country’s long, continuing conflict.

Both parties use the mines as a source of business. The Enough Project report is about the effect of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed in 2010, on the sourcing of so-called ‘conflict minerals.’ While the report is fairly optimistic about the resultant demilitarization of the 3T’s, it is not about gold. Gold, which, besides its heavy use in the jewelry industry, functions as a conductor in computers and smartphones, which means that its extraction continues to fund armed groups in DRC, not to mention societal and environmental degradation.15

And then, further up the assembly line: In February 2014, Apple conducted its eighth annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report. In it, the company says it “confirmed in January 2014 that all active, identified tantalum smelters in our supply chain were verified as conflict-free by third-party auditors.” As if answering years-long calls on unbelievably low wages, cage-like living conditions, crippling workloads, excessive overtime, forced pregnancy tests, use of student labor disguised as ‘work experience placements,’ humiliating punishments, and employee suicides, the Progress Report states that each worker “has the right to safe and ethical working conditions. So we audit deep into our supply chain and hold our suppliers accountable to some of the industry’s strictest standards. In fact, we care as much about how our products are made as we do about how they’re designed.”16

Yet an audit, according to Sean Ansett, the chief sustainability officer for Fairphone, is “just a snapshot of what’s going on a particular day or series of days at the factory, rather than the whole movie.”17Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) and other groups have been conducting their own ‘audits’ for years, and are less optimistic than Apple. Just one example from the press release SACOM released to counter Apple’s most recent Progress Report: “Apple praises its success in driving its suppliers to reach an average of 95 per cent compliance of their 60-hour workweek. The concept of ‘average’ is vague. The exception of ‘unusual or emergency circumstances’ is indeed a loophole of the policy, denying that the root cause of the problem is Apple’s zero inventory policy. In addition, Apple is still ignoring the weekly work hour limit of 48 hours maximum as required by Chinese Labor Law. From our investigation in 2013, we discovered at least one Apple supplier required workers to sign overtime work application on the first day of the employment training, as a way to produce ‘legitimate’ evidence to fulfill Apple’s audit requirement.”18

But production goes on. The decision to outsource the manufacture of electronics to countries without enforceable labor laws has meant giant profits for Apple in the past two decades. For Apple and others, workers at the companies “that want to do business with us” are part of a new, ‘flexible,’ global workforce whose speed allows for quick turnaround times for new products. Outsourcing means that production happens closer not only to these ‘flexible’ ‘partners,’ but also to the people, materials and ecosystems that the gadgets are literally made out of, as in the DRC. Globalization has made a world in which state surveillance of citizens’ online activity in China is the other half of corporate surveillance of consumers’ online activity in the industrialized West.

Data has a material life, and material consequences. It is not an end product sui generis, and cannot be orphaned from the vast and complex network of mining operations, lawyers, assembly lines, lobbyists, human rights abuses, advertisers, exploitative labor, shopping bags, industrial waste, political manipulation, and environmental damage that give it its form. As the very existence of countless data brokers makes apparent, ‘content’ isn’t so empty that it can’t be bought and sold.

Emptying-out isn’t a process unique to the Cloud, though. This is irrefutably the age of cyber capitalism, and digitized abstraction is the order of the day. Cyberspace allows capital flows to cross and disregard borders in new ways. Capital itself has changed shape: land capital no longer reigns, as it did during Luke Howard’s time, and even industrial capital has less of a grip on markets today as weightless, invisible financial capital. As such, the World Wide Web can be seen as both a symptom and the pivot point of contemporary globalization. Money—a pretty empty concept to begin with—is further abstracted into stocks bought and sold in less than a second. I can buy anything online and never take my eyes off a screen, much less see a dollar bill. Or, more abstract still, derivatives and other complex financial products that many economists would be hard-pressed to fully explain can be bought, sold, and traded in a not-so-transparent yet cloud-like haze of futures, options, forwards, hedging, credit default swaps, speculation, and collars—just like they were in the financial crisis of 2008, and continue to be today. As Dan Schiller wrote one year before the new millennium we live in now, despite Internet Age assurances of greater transparency and community, “digital capitalism has strengthened, rather than banished, the age-old scourges of the market system: inequality and domination.”19

The Cloud, then, contains within it incarnations of contemporary capitalism, too. Capitalism is also supposed to be both natural and innovative; both the manifestation of an intuitive drive towards self-betterment, and the vehicle of the cutting edge of techno-civilization. We talk about free markets as ‘free’ and self-generative when it is convenient for them to be such, and treat them as fragile constructions that must be actively maintained and protected when it comes time to determine trade regulations. A Powers of 10-esque image of a photo from my first day of college stored somewhere in a vast Google server farm in Douglas County, GA, could be replaced by a picture of one of the gigantic shipping containers Google houses their servers in, this time on a ship in a Hong Kong port. Ninety percent of all the world’s goods travel by sea in those very same massive containers, each averaging 20 x 8 ft. They help make a world in which, as Rose George writes, “shipping is so cheap that it makes more financial sense for Scottish cod to be sent ten thousand miles to China to be filleted, then sent back to Scottish shops and restaurants, than to pay Scottish filleters.”20

enter image description here

[Shipping containers docked at Spido Harbor, the Netherlands. Each 20 x 8 -foot container is a component in a vast network of global trade that would try to make the harm it engenders as invisible as these containers' contents. (steeedm / Flickr)]

Crew members of the Empire State Building-sized ships that transport the goods that fill our lives aren’t told what it is they’re carrying; just if it needs to be refrigerated or not. I know about the amount of data that I’ve ‘shared’ in the last day, but I don’t really know what that data was. Never before has emptiness weighed so much.


Works Cited

Agamben, Giorgio. State of Exception. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Ansett, Sean. Quoted in “Is Apple Cleaning Up Its Act On Labour rights?” by Duncan Jefferies, The Guardian, March 5 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/apple-act-on-labour-right.

Apple.com: “Supplier Responsibility: 2014 Progress Report,” pages 5 and 4, http://images.apple.com/supplier-responsibility/pdf/Apple_SR_2014_Progress_Report.pdf.

Assange, Julian, Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Müller-Maguhn, and Jérémie Zimmermann. Cypherpunks. New York: OR Books,2012.

Booth, Robert. “Facebook Reveals News Feed Experiment to Control Emotions,” The Guardian. June 29, 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/29/facebook-users-emotions-news-feeds.

Bafilemba, Fidel, Timo Mueller, and Sasha Lezhnev. “Armed Groups Cede Control of Mines in Eastern Congo,” Enough Project Investigative Report. June 10, 2014. http://www.enoughproject.org/news/armed-groups-cede-control-mines-eastern-congo.

Cohn, Carol. “Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals,” in Exposing Nuclear Phallacies, ed. Diana E. H. Russell. New York: Pergamon Press, 1989.

Cole, David. “Can the NSA Be Controlled?,” review of The USA Freedom Act in The New York Review of Books, Volume LXI, Number 11. June 19, 2014.

Facebook.com: “About: Privacy: Data Use Privacy: Information we receive about you: How we use the information we receive.” Accessed May 31, 2014. https://www.facebook.com/about/privacy/your-info.

George, Rose. Ninety Percent of Everything, in the book review by Maya Jasanoff, “A Passage from Hong Kong,” New York Review of Books, Volume LXI,Number 6. April 3, 2014.

Google.com: “Terms of Service: Your Content in our Services.” Accessed April 14, 2014. http://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/terms/.

Google.com: “About: Data Centers: Inside Look: Locations.” Accessed May 31, 2014. http://www.google.com/about/datacenters/inside/locations/index.html.

Hamblyn, Richard. The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.

Harvey, David. Paris: Capital of Modernity. London: Routledge, 2005.

Hayles, Katherine. How We Became Posthuman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

LaFrance, Adrienne. “Why Can’t Americans Find Out What Big Data Knows About Them?,” The Atlantic, May 28, 2014. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/05/why-americans-cant-find-out-what-big-data-knows-about-them/371758/.

Latour, Bruno. We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993.

“Markey, Rockefeller Introduce Data Broker Bill to Ensure Accuracy, Accountability for Consumers,” February 12, 2014. Press release from the website of Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), http://www.markey.senate.gov/news/press-releases/markey-rockefeller-introduce-data-broker-bill-to-ensure-accuracy-accountability-for-consumers.

Ramirez, Edith. “Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability,” the Federal Trade Commission, May 2014, pages 25, 26, 29, 38. http://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/data-brokers-call-transparency-accountability-report-federal-trade-commission-may-2014/140527databrokerreport.pdf.

SACOM: “Campaigns: Electronics: Apple’s CSR report is just another fairytale for workers,” March 1, 2014, http://sacom.hk/statement-well-polished-apple%E2%80%99s-csr-report-is-just-another-fairytale-for-workers/.

Schiller, Dan_. Digital Capitalism: Networking the Global Market System._ Cambridge: MIT Press. 1999.

Shankland, Stephen. “Google Uncloaks Once-Secret Server,” CNet. April 1, 2009, http://www.cnet.com/news/google-uncloaks-once-secret-server-10209580/.


Notes


  1. Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 32.
  2. Richard Hamblyn, The Invention of Clouds: How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001), 11.
  3. Think David Harvey’s discussion of the streets of post-Haussman Paris as manifesting the politics of modernization, or even some radicals’ insistence at the time that the new boulevards had been made wide so as to make it harder for protesters to erect barricades and easier for troops to maneuver. Or Julian Assange’s description of personal computers as not built to be understood, because you can’t get inside of them to actually know how they work. As he says, most laptops’ bottoms don’t even come off. For more information, see: David Harvey, Paris: Capital of Modernity, (London: Routledge, 2005), especially 212; and also Julian Assange, Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Müller-Maguhn, and Jérémie Zimmermann, Cypherpunks, (New York: OR Books,2012).
  4. “Google: Terms of Service: Your Content in our Services,” last modified April 14, 2014, http://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/terms/.
  5. “Facebook: About: Privacy: Data Use Privacy: Information we receive about you: How we use the information we receive,” https://www.facebook.com/about/privacy/your-info. Accessed May 31, 2014.
  6. Robert Booth, “Facebook Reveals News Feed Experiment to Control Emotions,” The Guardian. June 29, 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/29/facebook-users-emotions-news-feeds.
  7. “Markey, Rockefeller Introduce Data Broker Bill to Ensure Accuracy, Accountability for Consumers,” February 12, 2014. Press release from the website of Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), http://www.markey.senate.gov/news/press-releases/markey-rockefeller-introduce-data-broker-bill-to-ensure-accuracy-accountability-for-consumers.
  8. Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman, “Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability,” the Federal Trade Commission, May 2014, pages 25, 26, 29, 38. http://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/data-brokers-call-transparency-accountability-report-federal-trade-commission-may-2014/140527databrokerreport.pdf. (See also, for a summary of the report:Adrienne LaFrance, “Why Can’t Americans Find Out What Big Data Knows About Them?,” The Atlantic, May 28, 2014. http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/05/why-americans-cant-find-out-what-big-data-knows-about-them/371758/.)
  9. “Google: About: Data Centers: Inside Look: Locations,” http://www.google.com/about/datacenters/inside/locations/index.html. Accessed May 31, 2014.
  10. Stephen Shankland, “Google Uncloaks Once-Secret Server,” CNet. April 1, 2009, http://www.cnet.com/news/google-uncloaks-once-secret-server-10209580/.
  11. Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008),4.
  12. Carol Cohn has written extensively about the paternal and other male-gendered vocabulary scientists and statesmen used to talk about the bombs that destroyed thousands upon thousands of lives and continue to destroy to this day. Examples include General Leslie Grove’s cable to Henry Stimson at Potsdam after the first successful atomic bomb test: “Doctor has just returned most enthusiastic and confident that the little boy is as husky as his big brother;” or Stimson’s note to Churchill: “Babies satisfactorily born.” Perhaps more obviously put are William L. Laurence’s descriptions of the Trinity test as “the first cry of a new-born world,” and the assemblage of Fat Man the day before it was dropped as like watching the bomb “being fashioned into a living thing.” For more information, see Carol Cohn, “Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals,” in Exposing Nuclear Phallacies, ed. Diana E. H. Russell (New York: Pergamon Press, 1989), 18.
  13. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 12.
  14. Or to quote NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker, “Metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need content.” Or former NSA and CIA director General Michael Hayden: “We kill people based on metadata.” (David Cole, “Can the NSA Be Controlled?,” review of The USA Freedom Act in The New York Review of Books, Volume LXI, Number 11. June 19, 2014.
  15. “Armed Groups Cede Control of Mines in Eastern Congo,” Enough Project Investigative Report by Fidel Bafilemba, Timo Mueller, and Sasha Lezhnev, June 10, 2014, http://www.enoughproject.org/news/armed-groups-cede-control-mines-eastern-congo.
  16. “Apple.com: Supplier Responsibility: 2014 Progress Report,” pages 5 and 4, http://images.apple.com/supplier-responsibility/pdf/Apple_SR_2014_Progress_Report.pdf.
  17. Sean Ansett quoted in “Is Apple Cleaning Up Its Act On Labour rights?” by Duncan Jefferies, The Guardian, March 5 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/apple-act-on-labour-right.
  18. “Campaigns: Electronics: Apple’s CSR report is just another fairytale for workers,” March 1, 2014, http://sacom.hk/statement-well-polished-apple%E2%80%99s-csr-report-is-just-another-fairytale-for-workers/.
  19. Dan Schiller, Digital Capitalism: Networking the Global Market System (Cambridge: MIT Press. 1999), 209.
  20. Rose George, Ninety Percent of Everything, in the book review by Maya Jasanoff, “A Passage from Hong Kong,” New York Review of Books, Volume LXI, Number 6. April 3, 2014.

Go Back | ← Previous | Next →