Topic 2: Before there were containers, there were clouds!


The use of "the Cloud” metaphor to explain web-based, on-demand computing services like Gmail, Dropbox, Amazon EC2, etc. has been an extremely pervasive and successful marketing term.* But it could be argued the transportation metaphors power of explanation reside in their immediate concreteness. Whereas the figure of the Cloud is problematic given its push towards mystifying how the technology works. In fact, the immateriality of the metaphor elides the physical realities that drive this highly resource intensive infrastructure, in many ways obfuscating the realities of this global network. Take a side, defend the cloud, or vaporize it! Keep in mind, some basic understanding of what the cloud is and how it works will help you here :slight_smile:

*Although clouds may be the most useful metaphor of all time.


In my limited understanding the cloud metaphor works as an indication that your knowledge resources can be accessed and stored anytime and from anywhere, without the limitations of storage capacity of the particular device you happen to be using. It does not matter much to me as a user where these data are actually stored or what distance they need to travel to get to the device I happen to be using. Maybe it matters which entity is facilitating the transport… that depends if there are any conditions to this. Gmail and Evernote are external memories for me that I often access on the move. It’s also nice they don’t ‘clogg up’ storage space on my devices. What would be the added explanatory power of the transportation metaphor?



Wow, thanks for jumping in so early—this is exciting! Before I respond to your excellent point, I have to come clean here and say I just tidied up the topic a bit given my proclivity for typos and the like.

I think this idea of the cloud as anytime and anywhere to any device storage is right on. The interesting point you may is the where, what or how is not all that relevant to you. You just need to know that it is backed up somewhere else—but that in many ways is the limit of the cloud metaphor, you have no real conceptual idea of how anything is working. What’s more, it starts to become this broader, nebulous sense of cultural anxiety where we begin to invoke as a kind of technological apparatus working against us. A terrible, but telling, example is a Hollywood film that came out in the fall of 2014 called Sex Tape. The premise is simple, and I’ll quote Wikipedia here:

Jay and Annie Hargrove are a married couple, which, after having two kids, have sex at every opportunity. After Jay struggles to get an erection, Annie suggests making a sex tape. They film themselves having sex in every position listed in The Joy of Sex. When done, Annie asks Jay to delete the recording, but he ends up instead inadvertently synchronizing the video to several iPads the couple had given away over time. After failing to get it out of the cloud, they set out to get back all of the gifted iPads, leading to a series of awkward encounters and close calls.

While a pretty obvious example of the limits of Hollywood’s imagination, it’s interesting how the cloud here becomes an over-sexed white, middle class American family’s worst nightmare. The cloud has taken revenge, through the various cloud-connected mobile devices we use regularly, and they ultimately find themselves trying to destroy the data center with the web servers where the videos have been sent to prevent this tape from going viral. The movie’s entire plot depends upon two things: 1) the viewers shared anxiety that something like this could happen to them, and 2) a certain technical ignorance about what’s actually happening and how it can be solved. In the end, the couple tries to destroy the web servers only to be caught and told they could have just sent an email to have the video removed. Again, the cruz of the film being no one understands the cloud:

I know this is a long-winded response, but what struck me about this film’s response to the cloud in popular culture is the way in which the actual metaphor seems to support a willed sense of ignorance as to what’s happening with our data, a reality that is equally scary given that far worse that some imagined Sex tape would be the fact that through these cloud based services we are being tracked and our data mined and sold. I think back to an olde metaphor popularize in the early days of the web: the information super highway. That figure gave you an idea of how things moved, and in some ways it remains far more useful as a figure than the cloud.


Indeed. The cloud as the great obfuscator. Keeps us from seeing the sun. We never know that the actual place we worship is the sun, in which all our data are fused together to extend its grip on our lives. Wouldn’t it be nice if SUN computer company still existed, only to provide cloud services.

There is this view that technology in itself is neither good or bad, that only arises from how we can use it to our perceived benefit or detriment. Technology, however, gets developed for a purpose. The idea is there first. We are not good in foreseeing what will happen once the technology is there. And perhaps this is our strength and shows our bond to nature: we develop like evolution itself. Many mistakes and some successes.
Sometimes, however, it can be simple. Take the mobile phone. Would we not have been able to predict its use in less appropriate places, such as automobiles? We do not seem to be able to convey a compelling narrative on why we should sometimes be less free for the benefit of others. Speaking with my favorite philosopher, Spinoza: humankind is fully determined by natural law, but our limited understanding of cause and effect makes us believe we have something to choose.


Sorry I am so late with this. I have sort of looked at messages during the week but not had time to think about it much. I still think the Cloud is a useful way to describe something. I don’t really think about where streaming media comes from. Maybe I should but there it is.

I am gradually getting used to the idea of taking media from anywhere and assuming it relates to my environment as local. Partly this is because I now work twice a week most weeks in a basement radio studio. We borrow mp3 from where we can find it. Not exactly the same as piracy as we do have a PRS licence. YouTube is a bit more ambiguous but we assume if something is on You~Tube then it is ok to play it. We might ask or at least tweet what we are doing. @wenotno or wild Show on Facebook @PhonicFM , search on any of these on YouTube.

What is the metaphor for a conference in real time on a campus? What range of video clips would be more or less relevant? Anyone interested in a playlist? I have tried a few now on YouTube and they often work ok. Much easier than recording new video though some of that helps as linking or explanation.


I like the way you illustrate your points with clips! This is true for the cloud and other technological developments. We actually should know and understand but we don’t. Maybe we should learn it in school? I talked to someone of 55, director of a construction company. He promoted his son to be the director and how became the coach. He said he wouldn’t be able to understand the new ways of working but the younger generation does. hence innovation is coming from the youth who do understand technology advances better.