Capturing clouds
Imagin(in)g the materiality of digital networks
in Border images, border narratives
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This chapter examines the problem of territoriality and borders in the digital age through an investigation of the materiality of data clouds as well as their artistic representation by the US artist and activist Trevor Paglen. Starting from the ambiguity of the idea of capturing clouds, the chapter addresses social and political implications of the increasingly ubiquitous technology of cloud computing. What and how do data clouds capture? Are these clouds themselves captured both in physical infrastructure, ownership, state conduct and through artistic responses to their inherent dynamics? Following Amoore’s distinction between two different geographies of data clouds, the chapter addresses issues of territoriality, power and digital borders by asking where the capturing clouds behind the US National Security Agency (NSA) bulk surveillance materialise, and where such clouds fundamentally challenge spatial notions of state sovereignty and borders. Through an analysis of the artworks of the US photographer and activist Trevor Paglen that visualise the materiality of NSA surveillance, the chapter shows that Paglen reconnects the apparently fluid and ephemeral nature of digital technology and surveillance with its often classified material and institutional basis.

Border images, border narratives

The political aesthetics of boundaries and crossings

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