An aerial view of the Apple data center in Maiden, North Carolina.

An article titled “Where the Internet Lives: Data Centers as Cloud Infrastructure” begins with a description of Google’s headline for released images of their data centers. The pictures showcased “slick, artful images of buildings, wires, pipes, servers, and dedicated workers,” with the headline “Transparency” (71). The set-up sounds exactly like what it is- an advertisement, but we all know that advertisements come with fine print. 

Interestingly, these photos of the data center attempted to showcase the “physical” internet when consumers usually think about the internet as something abstract. Many people do not think about the logistics of the internet; it’s just thought of as some type of tool, which reminds me of our class discussion about what we imagine technology to be. We imagine that technology is labor saving, but when technology has malfunctions, we actually spend more time being unproductive. Google attempted to make their consumers feel special by letting them in on some secrets, when the pictures were just aesthetically pleasing and did not reveal much information at all. From the pictures, people can deduce what the facility looks like, but they still do not know what goes on inside or where it is located. Two main questions remain: where is this cloud and what exactly is it? 

The article also describes how companies advertise themselves as “environmentally responsible.” For example, Google released a photo of a bicycle, and captioned it as the “transportation of choice around the data center” (73). The bicycle was essentially a distraction; we all know that these data centers require tons of resources and energy. The article states that “the resulting energy needs of “the cloud” are indeed astronomical,” and “data centers have become increasingly targeted by environmental activists for their enormous consumption of (nonrenewable) energy” (82-84). The consumers were supposed to believe that bicycles counteract the amount of energy consumption, right? The photo of the bike also led me to think about how we imagine technology to be disembodied. The picture showed a bike in the middle of a data center, without a rider. Why isn’t a human shown on the bike? People are the consumers of the internet, and yet we are left out of the picture. If these companies were really “transparent,” consumers would know a lot more about them, and they would tell the full story about their data centers. It seems like they think that consumers can’t handle the truth.