Hu T.-H. (2015). A Prehistory of The Cloud


We may imagine the digital cloud as placeless, mute, ethereal, and unmediated. Yet the reality of the cloud is embodied in thousands of data centers, any one of which can use as much electricity as a midsized town. Even all these data centers are only one small part of the cloud. Behind that cloud-shaped icon on our screens is a whole universe of technologies and cultural norms, all working to keep us from noticing their existence. In this book, Tung-Hui Hu examines the gap between the real and the virtual (sic) in our understanding of the cloud. (…)


Note: while we do not necessarily follow Mr. Hu in all is assertions, we found it very interesting to digg into the potential past of this physical and digital construct (the cloud), even so it obviously mingles its own past with the one of the Internet, and previously with telegraph/telephone lines and railways that served as the initial paths for these “lines”.

Very interesting is also the part that presents the invention of the “user”, coming from an initial idea of sharing a common resource. It indeed seems that the “user” emerged from the ideas and technologies of “time-sharing”, then “multiprocessing”, when a single mainframe computer could remain stuck by a single user’s computations for hours or even days, sometimes for no results (error in the code).

I&IC Workshop #5 with random International at ECAL: work in progress


Our workshop with Dev Joshi from rAndom International is going on well during the week, with different ideas cast into the direction of digital shadows, traces and footprints.

The students are encouraged to produce objects, although it has been suggested that they take advantage of space as well (installations), as the workshop takes place in a large studio (cinema studio at ECAL).

Reblog > The cloud

Note: after a Summer “pause” mostly dedicated to a mid-term exhibition and publication of our joint design-research, we are preparing to dive again into the I&IC project for 18 months. This will first happen next November through a couple of new workshops with guest designers/partners (Dev Joshi from Random International at ECAL and Sascha Pohflepp at HEAD). We will take the occasion to further test different approaches and ideas about “The cloud”. We will then move into following steps of our work, focused around the development of a few “counter-propositional” artifacts.

But before diving again, I take the occasion to reblog an article by James Bridle published earlier this year and that could act as an excellent reminder of our initial questions, so as a good way to relaunch our research. Interestingly, Brindle focuses on the infrastructural aspects of the cloud (mostly pointing out the “hard” parts of it), which may in fact become the main focus of our research as well in this second phase. Scaled down certainly…


Via Icon (thanks Lucien for the reference)




There’s something comforting about the wispy metaphor for the network that underpins most aspects of our daily lives. It’s easy to forget the reality of its vast physical infrastructure

“Pictures of Clouds”, 1995

I found this quite funny yet revealing diagram related to the paper “A brief history of cloud computing” (already mentioned earlier on this blog), by Maximiliano Destefani Neto. It describes the time, back in 1995 according to Mr. Neto, when “Pictures of Clouds” started to appear in technical drawings about networks and the then emerging network computing (grid computing started to be a buzz word around the same time).

The purposes of these schematic “clouds” were to synthesize “too complicated for non technical people to understand” parts of the infrastructure into one image/logotype. It was the icon of the cloud! And it revealed to be a clever choice, because it probably helped to keep the whole infrastructure “blurry”, “hidden”, “invisible” or “un-understandable”… “It happens in the cloud“, this fuzzy technological arrangement and therefore you don’t really need to explain it.




Now in 2015, we’re almost fully immersed into these “clouds”. Literally living in them, through them, … but they still remain blurry!

A few images for a brief history (of computing) time

Note: a aet of images I’ll need for a short introduction to the project.

From mainframe computers to cloud computing, through personal computer and all other initiatives that tried to curve “the way computers go” and provide access to tools to people who were not necessarily computer savvy. Under this perspective (“access to tools”), cloud computing is a new paradigm that takes us away from that of the personal computer. To the point that it brings us back to the time of the mainframe computer (no-access or difficult access to tools)?

If we consider how far the personal computer, combined with the more recent Internet, has changed the ways we interact, work and live, we should certainly pay attention to this new paradigm that is coming and probably work hard to make it “accessible”.



A very  short history pdf in 14 images.

Stockholm 1982: The Hot Line

In September 1982, the youths of Stockholm had discovered a specific way to meet each other: they used a bug in the routing of the city’s phone cabins to communicate through group calls, for free. This story is relevant as an ethnographical example of the influence of communication technologies on the behaviour of social groups, specifically through their misuse.


Via Magnus Eriksson