We come from mentioning the physicality of some infrastructures, they really on land, minerals, material resources to function, the same applies to our data, software access information, contacts, events, preset alarms, passwords, overall everything we want to keep somewhere within our multi-dimensional and for that matter multi-temporal reach.

The cloud provides a solution to storage and accessibility not to just one type of data but to overall our entire functionality, with connectivity we gain the possibility to access our information from everywhere, we also gain unawareness and inability to filter what to hold on to and what to dispose of, we lost track of what we’ve kept dragging and even worst what we’ve been keeping somewhere around the data landscape – which is in a grey zone of the private and public domain [1].

With the lack of awareness of the physicality of data as compared to the weight of ten books or the space a thousand photos would take of our intimate spaces, it is hard to understand data accumulation as an issue, especially since digitalization provided certain relief from waste and space overload. How much are we storing and for what purposes? And where does this data goes? As before mention digitalization may have solved some waste and storage issues but it’s not ethereal it is as physical as it gets, as any other infrastructure, and in this one, in particular, there’s an accelerated growing directly link with our production and consumption of data. So then again I raise the question, is it really everything essential?

We are directly accountable for the creation of exponential data centers, massive physical infrastructures with over the top energy consumption whose sole purpose is to store data that could be otherwise kept somewhere unidimensional with limited access rather than the cloud or moreover don’t exist at all, it’s important to take into account also data accumulated into what is known as Big Data. Companies profit from our detachment of data physicality and keep on magnifying such alienation by offering more abstract space in the cloud to storage a lifetime of pure digital waste. [2]

Therefore, we are part of a capital cycle where we keep on expanding limits and accepting terms and conditions while paying monthly fees for this “space” with no understanding of what this implies or where the actual space is located, even worst, who does it really belong to [3]- such type of contracts is unthinkable outside this sphere. They keep on pushing us to fill those new limits with false pretenses of “the unlimited” but there is a limit to our resources and to how many data centers our lands can hold before they turn natural landscapes into ghost-cities with more electricity consumption of those of proper habited countries, this matters especially having in consideration that there are still cities that don’t have this resource at all, is it then worth thinking of such investments while others still live on total darkness? [3]

Some of us as individuals try our best to reduce our footprint by buying local, eating vegan, even buying second-handed but then again we are not aware of the implications of our lack of memory, our inability to recollect phone numbers, addresses, authors, or even appointments, not to mention the countless pictures and videos just to pick one for the day’s post. At what cost, are we accumulating there in the “ethereal” causing the exhaustion of resources, populating the world with shallow electrified buildings.

We are at a point were data accumulation is as serious as material waste, data centers are the starting point of our digital wastelands but we as individuals can not change the damage we can and must raise consciousness about digital waste and try to avoid unnecessary accumulation of data and try to make the companies change their policies and agendas because it is up to them to limit the data landscapes and put restrictions within their own policies because there is no such thing as “unlimited” not when it comes to our land or resources.

– Francesca Bogani Amadori

References :

[1] Cloud Power. Dulin,O. 2016.

[2] Volume of big data in data center storage worldwide from 2015 to 2021.

[3] Apple confirms it uses Google’s cloud for iCloud. Novet, J. 2018.

[4 ]1.3 billion are living in the dark. Lindeman, T. 2015.