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Captives of the Cloud: Part II

Continued from “Captives of the Cloud: Part I”

Is the future of the world the future of the internet?

—Julian Assange

The cloud is the informational equivalent to the container terminal. It has a higher degree of standardization and scalability than most earlier forms of networked information and communication technology. From social networking to retail, from financial transactions to e-mail and telephone, these and many other services end up in the cloud. Surely, the internet already was a wholesale for all types of information and media formats. As Milton Mueller notes, these “used to be delivered through separate technologies governed by separate legal and regulatory regimes,” while now having converged on the internet and its protocols. In the cloud, such “digital convergence” goes even further: data becomes more effectively and thoroughly harvested, analyzed, validated, monetized, looked into, and controlled than in the internet; its centralization is not just one of protocol, but also of location.

Many writers in recent decades have grappled with a seemingly borderless information society rooted in physical territories, and finding words for this condition has been key to most serious writing about information networks. For example, the term “space of flows” was coined in the 1990s by the Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells. It describes the spatial conditions of the global movement of goods, information, and money. According to Castells, the space of flows is

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