May 29th, The Internet Must Be Defended

“The Internet Must Be Defended”: Data Centers and the Sovereignty of Data

Tung-Hui Hu, University of Michigan

May 29th, 4-6pm 1246 SSH (STS/CSIS Room)

Why do we constantly invoke the specter of foreignness (e.g. China, Iran, Nigeria) when discussing hacker/spammer threats to the ‘free’ Internet? The answer can be found in the massive data warehouses at the heart of the cloud, which cost up to $1 billion each to build and may consume 100 MW, enough to power a small city of 80,000 people. These data centers–and their anachronistic cousins, the data bunkers–may enable online data to be placeless, but they only reinforce an unseen spatial logic within the cloud. Even as data bunkers allow networks to be divided into logical zones of inside and outside, they raise the threat of those that might be ‘outside’ of network society. The zoned logic of the data bunker, I argue, may be traced to an unexpected precedent: the race wars of the 19th century.

Tung-Hui Hu is an assistant professor of English at the University of Michigan, where he is co-organizer of the Digital Environments Cluster. Recent or forthcoming publications include articles on real time (Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies of Media and Culture), digital poetry (Acts + Encounters/UCSC Poetry and Politics series), and mobile networks (Media-N: Journal of the New Media Caucus). For 2013-2014, he is a visiting scholar with the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.