Mi / 10:00 – 11:30

Data Centers–Edges of a Wired Nation

Monika Dommann, Universität Zürich

Online (Zoom) & Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen (KWI), Raum 106, Goethestr. 31, 45128 Essen

In this session, Monika Dommann (University of Zurich) will discuss her work on data centers and crypto based on a prepared reading of two chapters from the book Data Centers—Edges of a Wired Nation (Lars Müller, Zurich, 2020). After a brief introduction on her long-term research on data centers, blockchain, and the politics of digitalization, we will discuss the chapter “Gondo White Gold, Crypto Gold: Alpine Hydropolitics”, in which Domman explores (with Max Stadler) the new dream of digital gold: the “mining” of cryptocurrencies, and its connection to socio-ecological conflict.  The second chapter we will discuss is “Zug – Crypto Valley after Vitalik Buterin”, which shows how a small town, by building upon the expertise of local commercial and tax law films, is seeking to position itself internationally in the new field of blockchain technology following the decline of the local industry.

Please email Sage Anderson for access to the text, or find the book in the KWI library.

Book abstract: Often hidden in plain sight, data centers are the backbone of our Internet. They store, communicate, and transport the information we produce and access along invisible pathways. Unlike industrial plants, Data Centers—Edges of a Wired Nation shows how data centers come entwined with an iconography of generic, bland, and sterile architectures: placeless, inconspicuous, anonymous structures—buildings, cable ducts, junction boxes and landing sites that could be anywhere, generating a “cloud” that is both everywhere and nowhere. Bringing together photographic works, essays, and case studies, the book explores the mutual, typically fraught entanglements of place, past, and digital infrastructure, taking Switzerland as their example.