C) 5 Folders Cloud



Project developed by Christian Babski (fabric | ch)

5 Folders Cloud is a software implementation (among many possible) of the Cloud of Cards Processing Library and exemplifies its use, server and software side. It is a version of ownCloud with automated behaviors and cascades of events, in particular when linked to the 5 Connected Objects. As a matter of fact, this variation on the cloud combines a client-server architecture with a distributed, almost horizontal peer-to-peer approach.

Linked to the results of the research project’s ethnographic research on the uses of the cloud, 5 Folders Cloud translates in the form of five verbs of action the various identified motivations that seem to push users to drop files and data into this technological setup. These verbs in turn become the main functions and names of five synchronized cloud folders that serve the various files interactions. Each of these folders automates digital procedures linked to these motivations.

A Personal Cloud (evolution)

Note: “A Personal Cloud” (working title) is part of a home cloud kit, which was described in a previous post and that will be composed by four various artifacts, both physical and digital.

The kit will be distributed freely at the end of the project.


The “alternative version” of the cloud (client, interface) and the way we interact with it is still under development.

Strongly connected to the ethnographic field research that was achieved earlier during the research process regarding cloud usages, the purpose of this project is to exemplify a different way of handling or even playing with one’s data and files in the cloud, as well as to demonstrate an implementation of “I&IC’s OwnCLoud Core Processing Library” that will also be part of the final delivery “cloud kit”.

“A Personal Cloud” is also in tight connection with the objects controllers project, “My Data Controllers” (working title as well), because these networked objects will directly interact with the files and data contained in it.



A version of OwnCloud developed with the help of “I&IC’s OwnCloud Core Processing Library” and containing five root folders, each with a singular automated behavior.

“A Personal Cloud”: a home cloud kit for personal data (centers) / “reappropriate your dataself”!

We’re entering the final straight of the research project Inhabiting and Interfacing the Cloud(s) and we can give at this point a first glimpse of the four design artifacts we are working on at the moment. They will constitute the main outcomes of our joint experimental effort (ECAL, HEAD, EPFL-ECAL Lab) and a kind of “personal cloud kit” (explained below). These creations will be accompanied by two books: one will present the results of the ethnographic research about “the cloud”, the other will present the design research process and its results – both in pod/pdf.

We already pointed out in the recent post “Updated Design Scenario” where we were heading. Since then, the different projects were better identified and started to get shaped. Some got eliminated. Prototyping and further technical tests are running in parallel at the moment.



From the original “final scenario” sketch to …


… a “Personal Cloud Kit”, composed of various physical and digital modular artifacts.


What emerged reinforced from the main design scenario is that we seek to deliver four artifacts (some physical, some digital, some combined) which themselves will constitute the building blocks of what we’ll call “A Personal Cloud Kit”. All four parts of this kit will be openly accessible on a dedicated website (e.g. in a similar way to what OpenDesk is doing).

The purpose of this “home kit” is to empower designers, makers and citizens at large who would be interested to start develop their own cloud projects, manage or interact with their data or even to set up small scale personal data centers at their places (homes, offices, garages …)

I&IC ethnographic research wrap-up

It is time to wrap things up with the field research we conducted with a series of workshops.

Practically, the material we produced in the first year of the project is based on two main sources. On the one hand, we spent a year and a half collecting messages, discussions, exchanges and arguments online – mostly on forums/on-line platforms related to cloud computing. On the other hand, using this interview guide, we conducted a series of discussions with various profiles of nomadic workers (musicians, VJs, journalists, consultants, third space/fab lab users) to understand how they used cloud computing systems.



Sasha Pohflepp with Nicolas Nova, Patrick Keller and media design students at the end of his workshop at HEAD – Genève.
Image pulled from the post “I&IC workshop #6 with Sasha Pohflepp at HEAD” (15.01.2016)


This material was complemented by a workshop with Media Design students, under the supervision of Sascha Pohflepp, focused on the gestures people adopt with such platforms.

The analysis of this material enabled us to highlight a set of lessons to feed the design of alternative perspectives related to platforms and objects to support the “personal cloud”. These design alternatives are further developed in Patrick Keller’s post about the design research wrap-up.

OpenCloud (Academic Research) Mesh

Note: When we had to pick an open source cloud computing platform at the start of our research, we dug for some time to pick the one that would better match with our planned activities. We chose ownCloud and explained our choice in a previous post, so as some identified limitations linked to it. Early this year came this announcement by ownCloud that it will initiate “Global Interconnected Private Clouds for Universities and Researchers” (with early participants such has the CERN, ETHZ, SWITCH, TU-Berlin, University of Florida, University of Vienna, etc.) So it looks like we’ve picked the right open platform! Especially also because they are announcing a mesh layer on top of different clouds to provide common access across globally interconnected organizations.

This comforts us in our initial choice and the need to bridge it with the design community, especially as this new “mesh layer” is added to ownCloud, which was something missing when we started this project (from ownCloud version 7.0, this scalability became available though). It now certainly allows what we were looking for: a network of small and personal data centers. Now the question comes back to design: if personal data centers are not big undisclosed or distant facilities anymore, how could they look like? For what type of uses? If the personal applications are not “file sharing only” oriented, what could they become? For what kind of scenarios?



Reblog > Decentralizing the Cloud: How Can Small Data Centers Cooperate?

Note: while reading last Autumn newsletter from our scientific committee partner Ecocloud (EPFL), among the many interesting papers the center is publishing, I stumbled upon this one written by researchers Hao Zhuang, Rameez Rahman, and Prof. Karl Aberer. It surprised me how their technological goals linked to decentralization seem to question similar issues as our design ones (decentralization, small and networked data centers, privacy, peer to peer models, etc.)! Yet not in such a small size as ours, which rather look toward the “personal/small” and  “maker community” size. They are rather investigating “regional” data centers, which is considered small when you start talking about data centers.