Cities as Infrastructural Sites of Digital Capitalism
Over the last decade, the growing need for data storage and server cooling has prompted the exponential growth and migration of global cloud infrastructure to energy rich cool climate countries - Sweden, Norway and Denmark among them. This has triggered expectations of a new industrial era in many geographically remote and demographically weak regions and especially in their urban centers. Those cities are currently reimagining their industrial futures as commando posts of digital capitalism, promissing new opportunities for work, economic wealth, urban growth and prosperity. Politicians, municipalities, business developers and other local actors all are eager to grasp the opportunity of turning a ‘hot’ profit from the cold climate which is now an emerging natural resource.
This research took its starting point in the ethnographic case study on the implementation of Cloud infrastructure and Data Center industry in the Swedish city of Luleå. The project Farming Data, Forming the Cloud: The Environmental Impact and Cultural Production of Information Technologies was funded by The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences (2014-2018) and investigated the social and environmental effects, which the new industrial development had within this specific urban context. In particular the study analyzed, how the implementation of data centers has triggered a re-scaling of cities and states’ territories, shaping new geographies in relation to global data economies. It showed, how Swedens „steel city“ Luleå was reimagined as an IT competence hub and relocated itself from the national periphery to the center of the global Cloud. Aiming to better understand the Internet’s materiality, and to address the risk of an energy crisis of information, this project also problematized the emergent inequalities between the smart centers and infrastructural peripheries in the digitalized world.
In continuation to this study, Astas’ current research focusses on how visions and imaginaries of digitization and IT-innovations shape the post-coal future scenarious in small cities in Germany.
Researcher: Asta Vonderau