Author Archives: Alexander Taylor

Alexander Taylor is a PhD Researcher with the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. He is currently conducting an ethnographic study of extreme data storage practices, exploring how the infrastructures, technologies and materialities of data storage intersect with imaginations of dystopian digital futures in the data centre industry.
An artistic rendering of the magnetic fields of the earth and the sun during a solar mass ejection event

The Heliopolitics of Data Center Security

From Cyberattack to Solar Attack The small-scale cyberattack, characteristic of the late-twentieth century, has long dominated discourses and practices of data center security. Lately, however, these fears are increasingly giving way to concerns over large-scale, existential risks posed by solar activity. Increasing numbers of data centers are going to extreme measures to protect their facilities from solar flares, solar energetic particles and Coronal Mass Ejections – collectively referred to as “space weather”. As data centers are put into circulation with what Georges Bataille famously called the sun’s “superabundance of energy” (1991:29), the act of protecting digital-industrial infrastructure takes on strangely mythical dimensions. In this post, I would like to briefly explore the business end of the mythical dispositif that arises from the surreal and distinctly Bataillean meeting of data centers and the sun. (read more...)