A Prehistory of the Cloud by Tung-Hui Hu

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Synopsis

We may imagine the digital cloud as placeless, mute, ethereal, and unmediated. Yet the reality of the cloud is embodied in thousands of massive data centers, any one of which can use as much electricity as a midsized town. Even all these data centers are only one small part of the cloud. Behind that cloud-shaped icon on our screens is a whole universe of technologies and cultural norms, all working to keep us from noticing their existence. In this book, Tung-Hui Hu examines the gap between the real and the virtual in our understanding of the cloud.

Hu shows that the cloud grew out of such older networks as railroad tracks, sewer lines, and television circuits. He describes key moments in the prehistory of the cloud, from the game "Spacewar" as exemplar of time-sharing computers to Cold War bunkers that were later reused as data centers. Countering the popular perception of a new "cloudlike" political power that is dispersed and immaterial, Hu argues that the cloud grafts digital technologies onto older ways of exerting power over a population. But because we invest the cloud with cultural fantasies about security and participation, we fail to recognize its militarized origins and ideology. Moving between the materiality of the technology itself and its cultural rhetoric, Hu's account offers a set of new tools for rethinking the contemporary digital environment.

 

About Tung-Hui Hu

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Tung-Hui Hu is the author of three books of poetry, The Book of Motion (U. Georgia, 2003) winner of the Avery Hopwood Award; Mine (Ausable, 2007) winner of the Eisner Literary Award; and Greenhouses, Lighthouses (Copper Canyon, 2012). He teaches at the University of Michigan and is a member of the Michigan Society of Fellows. In addition to receiving an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, Tung-Hui Hu holds a PhD in Film from the University of California, Berkeley.
 
Published August 21, 2015 by The MIT Press. 240 pages
Genres: Computers & Technology.
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