Grounding the Cloud
AbstractThis dissertation explores the dynamic relationship between material formations of data and the processes of data-driven urbanization within an increasingly planetary context. In this pursuit the project articulates the deeply territorial operations of tech corporations such as Google and frames their spatial footprints and urban projects within an inherently expansionist logic. In developing a contextual-spatial understanding of the landscape of data, this work addresses the grounded materiality and geographic specificity of data infrastructures on one hand, and the influence of the centralizing logic of “the cloud” on practices and processes of spatial production on the other hand. This work is enacted through three main lines of investigation: First, deconstruction of the ideologies, concepts, and politics underlying the sociotechnical construction of “the cloud,” as an emerging global organizational model that operates through platforms of data extraction and mediation. Second, clarification of the role of accidents, errors, and disruptions in unearthing the hidden forms and agendas of global infrastructures of data, as well as a historical contextualization of this hidden form within the long process of under-grounding urban infrastructure since the turn of the 20th century. And third, tracing the inherently global geography of data that materially, socially, and territorially grounds the forms and processes of data extraction and monetization of urban data within processes of advanced capitalism. These investigations bring together perspectives and methods from media studies, communication geography, critical urban studies, cartography, urbanism, and architecture to bear upon some of the most pressing issues facing cities and their citizens as they transition towards emerging paradigms of cloud-driven urbanism.
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