Browsing by Subject "data centers"
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ItemBeyond the Screen: Uneven Geographies, Digital Labour, and the City of Cognitive-Cultural Capitalism(tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society, 2017) Mahmoudi, Dillon; Levenda, AnthonyIn this paper, we demonstrate that an examination of the socio-environmental impacts of digital Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) remains a fruitless enterprise without “materializing” digital labour. We suggest a two-part approach to materializing digital labour: first, connecting political economic analyses of digital ICTs to the co-evolution and geography of planetary urbanization and technological change, and second, examining the relationships between immaterial, digital labour and the material industrial production system. In the context of broad changes in technology, social life, and urbanization, many scholars have theorized a shift towards a third phase of capitalism, beyond mercantilism and industrialism, based in immaterial, digital, and cognitive labour. We introduce the literature on cognitive-cultural capitalism and third-wave urbanization as markers of contemporary capitalism, producing uneven socio-spatial arrangements across the global-urban system. Synthesis of media and communication studies and political economies of urbanization suggests that both capital accumulation and the social lives of (planetary) urban residents are increasingly mediated and structured by online, digital ICT platforms. We show that digital ICTs are sophisticated manipulations of nature that require and illuminate new ways of thinking about digital labour, and more broadly, of immaterial labour. We suggest that the immaterial labour associated with digital ICTs is actually material labour responsible for increasing the velocity of capital circulation, as a moment of production and an appendage of the growing complexity of third-phase capitalist industry and urbanization. The materiality of cognitive, cultural, and symbolic labour reaches beyond the city, invades the lifeworlds of a planet of urban residents, and excretes concrete, silicon, bits, servers, and energy waste producing an urban landscape beyond the city. Through an examination of data centres, we show the necessary relationship between the third-wave urbanization and its planetary reach into rural, pristine Oregon. Data centres in Oregon and the broader Pacific Northwest highlight the uneven geography of “clean” digital labour focused in large urban technopoles; the potentially harmful, material, and socioenvironmental impacts of data centres in rural areas; and the necessary and dialectic relationship between the two for cognitive-cultural capitalism. We argue that third-wave urbanization, and the concurrent and co-produced technological advancement in digital ICTs and digital ItemSilicon Forest and Server Farms: The (Urban) Nature of Digital Capitalism in the Pacific Northwest(2019-06) Levenda, Anthony M; Mahmoudi, DillonAccess to inexpensive hydro-resources, such as hydro-electricity and water for cooling, cheap land, and proximity to undersea networks have created a spatial sweet spot for big tech companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon in the Pacific Northwest. These factors are leveraged as ‘natural’ reasons for the growth of the data center industry in the region, often accompanied by promises of new jobs and a rhetoric of economic transition from forestry to data. In reality, broader social and environmental implications are neglected in deference to companies that sell visions of big-data-driven economic growth for local communities devastated by crises of capital. Allusions to resource economies and ecological metaphors paint data centers as a natural evolution in resource economies while maintaining a veneer of environmentally sustainable development. While data centers do offer some moderate benefits for local communities, they also facilitate the uneven development of digital capitalism by providing the storage and processing power for data extractivism. In this essay, we argue that the growth in data infrastructures (fixed capital) is driven by the central features of an uneven development of digital capitalism wherein the appropriation of nature, and as Marx refers to in the epigraph from the influential Fragment on Machines, social knowledge, are forces of production for the accumulation of capital. We advance this argument in three parts. First, we argue ‘nature’ is produced and mobilized by large firms in their site selection and construction of data centers and data infrastructures. In short, nature is reduced to the nature that digital capital finds useful: cheap energy, cheap water, cheap land, and green imagery. Second, we argue this production of nature is at once a production of fixed capital representative of digital capitalism (data centers, fiberoptic cables, etc.). We describe this process as a ‘layering’ of infrastructures. Third, we argue these processes are linked to urbanization and cognitive dispossession as a generalized strategy of accumulation. We show how digital capitalism is tethered to urbanization, or what Scott (2011b) calls ‘third-wave urbanization’. Urbanization here refers to the actual unfolding of physical infrastructure in the secondary circuit of capital (Harvey, 2006) and the ‘urbanization of the general intellect’ (Merrifield, 2012, 2013) which creates the conditions for data extractivism and cognitive dispossession (Negri, 2018; Wyly & Dhillon, 2018). Capital accumulation is dependent on both building a data infrastructure (to sink capital and avert crises) and exchanging, surveilling, and/or abstracting events and statuses to extract data (to produce profits through service provision, advertising, selling data profiles, etc.).