December 2011

Information is always there. It is only the medium that changes.


So what is so ridiculous about it anyway? Why IS it impossible? Or why is it (un)necessary? Why does every professional I talk to about it react with such pessimism and a look “why in the world…?”

The more I think about it the more I realize that it is purely because no one has ever considered it…

Data centers are dull, cold, noisy spaces. They are infrastructure (Or are they? Is a car an infrastructure, or is it an object defining a “self”, a tool, a religion?) – why would you ever expose them?

First of all, “dull and noisy” is an issue of design and can be dealt with in design terms.

More importantly, though, it is a question of why do we hide what we cherish? Data runs the world (Kitchin, Dodge), but why do we hide it? More specifically, if the “Net” is largely a public space in its nature, and anyone has access to it – to parts, at least – why does it have to reside in bunkers?

The most intriguing part for me personally, though – architecturally – data centers are chunks of pure “matter”. If a data center is a Black Box (Milgram) – impermeable volume filled with “stuff” we do not see – why not exploit the spatial possibilities offered by it?


What is it about Black Boxes anyway?…

Kaaba. Image:

(The previous question was rhetorical; no irony in relation  to the above picture implied)

Today’s urban data center architecture (I am not talking about any non-urban data centers: a building in the middle of a corn field can look however; a building in the middle of a city might want to relate) is an architecture of leftovers and “re-purposement”. One gets a feeling that, just like the train stations of the XIX century or first skyscrapers, urban data centers “don’t know what to look like”: they try to accommodate a revolutionary new technology by squeezing it into known forms, not knowing how to deal with it.

Find a Data Center in this picture! Image:

Previously, data centers have not been designed to be public spaces. Concerns were many. Privacy. Security. But with the growth of both the pure bulk of information and resulting increase in demand for space, as well as the growth in the complexity of network structure, data centers are paradoxically becoming very secure. We used to hide them because we were scared someone would find that one critical node and blow it up, but by now there are so many nodes that even if someone tried, they would have a hard time doing it: most of them still remain securely hidden and backed-up. Rhizome at its  best.

Rhizomatic systems. Image:

The only security concern is the security of the data itself, but that has nothing to do with the physical positioning of servers. Data is everywhere, fragmented and dispersed. Try find it.

In fact, it is pretty interesting that even the highest echelons of the data-producing and managing circles – mammoths like Facebook, Amazon and others are becoming more and more open about where and how their stuff is stored. Some make them into design marvels already now. Some even brag about it out right.

I guess the attitude is changing…

//to be continued

Finally found one of my favorite Village VOICE magazine comics (issue: July 6th, 2011)!

This was the comic that made me question, if our technological progress will really make us into “pure energy beings” at some point (see my post on “Gadgets”). Check it out: