The Cloud is an airily deceptive name connoting a floating world far removed from the physical realities of data.
The Gathering Cloud by J. R. Carpenter is a great interactive work that uses Luke Howard’s Essay on the Modification of Clouds from 1803 to meditate on the digital cloud. The The work “is a hybrid print- and web-based work by J. R. Carpenter commissioned by NEoN Digital Arts Festival 2016.”
The Gathering Cloud draws attention to how the cloud we put our data in is physical and the electricity consumed is real. There is structure and thunder far away.
The Cloud is just someone else’s computer, that’s what the coffee mugs and fridge magnets say. But what does that mean? How much does The Cloud weigh? (Plate no. 1)
One of the sources linked to is a New York Times article by James Glanz from Sept. 2012 about Power, Pollution and the Internet that estimates,
Most data centers, by design, consume vast amounts of energy in an incongruously wasteful manner, interviews and documents show. Online companies typically run their facilities at maximum capacity around the clock, whatever the demand. As a result, data centers can waste 90 percent or more of the electricity they pull off the grid, The Times found. …
Worldwide, the digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants, according to estimates industry experts compiled for The Times. Data centers in the United States account for one-quarter to one-third of that load, the estimates show.