To the Cloud: Big Data in a Turbulent World. By Vincent Mosco.


  • Mihaela Popescu


In a scholarly milieu eager to understand and perhaps use big data analytics,
it is refreshing to encounter a book that shifts focus (despite the title) to the
political economy and cultural representation of the infrastructures that are central
to the big data movement. Consumers increasingly take for granted cloud
services, such as word processing applications, on-demand access to one’s photos,
and the synchronization of files across devices. Meanwhile, the needs of governments
for massive but secure data storage and computation encourage stronger
ties with the commercial cloud industry, with worrisome implications. In To the
Cloud, Vincent Mosco illustrates and raises legitimate concerns about the disconnect
between ephemeral cultural representations of “the cloud” as “invisible”
and the consequential materiality of the cloud industry—“physical structures that
make significant material demands on resources and that call to mind the factories
of the earlier era” (37). Specifically, Mosco argues that the current hegemonic discourses
about “the cloud” portray it as a technology of “infinite promises” (33) via
a variety of channels, thus occluding the potential for harm and any consideration
of alternatives.