Panel 4

Chair: Sarah Atkinson

  1. THE GATHERING CLOUD:  Interdisciplinary Approaches to Addressing the Environmental Impact of Cloud Storage (J. R. Carpenter, Plymouth University)
  2. Ecological Images and the Politics of Pixels (Nicole Sansone, Goldsmiths)
  3. Ghost in the Archive: Following Digital Traces in the Ephemeral (Mayu Iida, Goldsmiths)

THE GATHERING CLOUD: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Addressing the Environmental Impact of Cloud Storage

J R. Carpenter

This paper will expand upon the intertwined topics of art, writing, language, weather, and climate change presented in The Gathering Cloud an award-winning hybrid print and web-based work by J. R. Carpenter [http://luckysoap.com/thegatheringcloud]. This work aims to address the environmental impact of so-called ‘cloud’ storage by calling attention to the materiality of the clouds in the sky. Both are commonly perceived to be infinite resources, at once vast and immaterial; both, decidedly, are not. In the web iteration of this work, fragments from British meteorologist Luke Howard’s essay “On the Modifications of Clouds” (1803), as well as more recent online articles and books on media theory and the environment, are pared down into hyptertextual hendecasyllabic verses. These are situated within animated gif collages composed of images materially appropriated from publicly accessible cloud storage services. The cognitive dissonance between the cultural fantasy of cloud storage and the hard facts of its environmental impact is bridged, in part, through the constant evocation of animals: A cumulus cloud weighs one hundred elephants. A USB fish swims through a cloud of cables. Four million cute cat pics are shared each day. A small print iteration of “The Gathering Cloud” shared through gift, trade, and mail art economies blurs boundaries between physical, digital, and social networks of exchange. A larger print book iteration published by Uniformbooks situates the work in a broader critical context further challenging formal and disciplinary boundaries between media, art, history, science, poetry and essay. Each of these iterations aims to address the enormity of climate change in human terms we can understand and act upon.

J. R. Carpenter is a UK-based artist, writer, performer, and researcher working in the intersecting fields of Performance Writing, Digital Literature, and Media Archaeology. Her pioneering web-based works have been exhibited, published, performed, and presented in journals, galleries, museums, and festivals around the world. She is a winner of the CBC Quebec Writing Competition (2003 & 2005), the QWF Carte Blanche Quebec Award (2008), the Expozine Alternative Press Award for Best English Book for her first novel, Words the Dog Knows(2008), the Dot Award for Digital Literature (2015), and the New Media Writing Prize (2016). She is a Fellow of the Eccles Centre For North American Studies at the British Library and a member of the Scientific Committee of Labex Arts-H2H, University Paris 8. She lives in Plymouth, UK. http://luckysoap.com


Ecological Images and the Politics of Pixels

Nicole Sansone

Working with geospatial digital images often requires working with archives of satellite images. Yet when speaking with the scientists, engineers, and programmers dealing with these materials, you will rarely hear them speak of the images themselves. Instead, they refer to time stacks—archives of individual pixels, decades deep. Additionally, often these time stacks play a crucial role in the production of cloud-free earth images. These heavily manipulated, cloud-free earth images form the starting point for producing scientific knowledge, and the fact of their editing gets absorbed into the scientific process. This paper will perform two tasks. One, it will survey and evaluate environmental metaphors as expressions of computational operations. Does the cloud as metaphor for networked servers misrepresent, or occlude, crucial information about this process? If so, then in the context of ecological research, what are the political impacts of such misrepresentation? Two: this paper will address the way that the pixel makes ambiguous the boundary between aesthetics and archive in the context of digital ecological images.

Nicole Sansone is a curator; PhD researcher in the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths; and Associate Lecturer in Media & Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London. Her doctoral thesis, titled “Sites of Sky: Reading Landscape Aesthetics in an Age of Virtual Ecologies,” addresses the sky as a key figure, medium, and site through which to understand the entanglement of aesthetics, epistemology, and media. Previously, Nicole has served as curator for IMT Gallery; assistant curator for the GE Corporate Art Collection; and as art curator and advisor for the art consulting firm g a macura inc. In March 2017 she was co-organizer of the international conference “Simulation and Environments: A critical dialogue between systems of perception and ecocritical aesthetics.” She is the guest editor of Sluice Magazine’s forthcoming Art and Alternative Economics issue.


Ghost in the Archive: Following Digital Traces in the Ephemeral

Mayu Iida

This paper is a part of my PhD project on a hauntological analysis of digital archives on the Fukushima nuclear disaster that occurred on 11 March, 2011. Given Jacques Derrida’s famous remark on the inextricable relationship between the archive and the archived, the contemporary media landscape has come to challenge the contingent making of “what is archivable” thanks to the proliferation of technologies of memory and preservation. On the other hand, the increasing role of digital technologies to retrieve, store and share information does not necessarily envisage our dream of “total memory,” that which complements human forgetfulness. Rather, digital technologies have become a constitutive part of processing memories, invoking constant negotiations with multiple temporalities as well as what has been lost in the digital transaction of data, which may or may not leave intelligible traces. With the digital archive as a contested site of knowledge and memory production, it is particularly important to attend to platform-unique archival decisions to delineate what is to be remembered and forgotten. Such an ephemeral aspect of the digital archive would then require critical interventions to detect, observe and associate dispersed and often unorganised data in danger of disappearing at any time. With the example of the Japan Disasters Digital Archive (JDA), one of the biggest user-oriented online archives dedicated to the aggregation of disaster-related information, I am going to explore the modes of erasure, displacement and disappearance of digital traces in the construction of the JDA in terms of how they would re/configure our understanding and interpretation of the archived event. Accordingly, I look into the latent structures of informational traces that open up for the hauntological imaginary with regard to the reworking(s) of the recent past through digital archiving praxis.

Mayu IIDA is a PhD student in the Department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research interest lies primarily in feminist technoscience, affective politics and hauntology. Her PhD project explores the modes of haunting in the construction of post-disaster digital archives, with a specific focus on a multiplicity of temporality and narrative modalities that permeate through the making and preservation of digital memories.