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Wednesday, 3 July 2013



FaceBook's new custom-built data center, Prineville, Oregon: photo by Tom Raftery, 7 April 2011

The world gradually draws into
a global unit, knitted
together by the networks stitched
into everyone's private
There is increasingly the threat
of an objective penalty
for being excluded 

from the game,
from these networked arrangements.

At the same time
seeing these arrangements
clearly and objectively from the inside
is impossible.
Only by being cut adrift,
on the outside,
does one begin
to make out the workings
of the game -- 
to make out that it is a game
and not a "natural" state of things.

A "natural" state of things
may or may not
ever have obtained.
That no longer matters.

The thought of a "natural"
state of things troubles
and distracts.
The time of nature has passed 
like the dinosaurs.
All that is left,
effectively, is the present
drawing toward it
as a magnet attracts
iron filings
the mechanical regime
of a future
from which the players of the game,
as in bubbles
by their socially enforced subscription
to what is perceived
as an inevitable
and necessary
would not be able to escape
even if the inchoate impulse to escape
were to become a conscious motive.

Google Glass (detail)
: photo by Antonio Zugaldia, 27 June 2012


An operation engineer overseeing a Network Operations Control Room of a data center:
photo by GSmith1of2, 15 October 2006

Google Data Center

Google search cables: photo by Google /EPA (via the Guardian, 22 January 2013)

Google data center, Council Bluffs, Iowa: photo by Google/EPA (via The Guardian, 29 June 2013)

Central cooling plant, Google data center, Douglas County, Georgia: photo by Connie Zhou/Google (via Wired, 17 October 2012)

Google data center, Hamina, Finland. Some halls remain vacant -- for now: photo by Connie Zhou/Google (via Wired, 17 October 2012)

Server room, Google data center, Council Bluffs, Iowa: photo by Connie Zhou/Google (via Wired, 17 October 2012)

Google data center, Council Bluffs, Iowa, exterior view. Radiator-like cooling towers chill water from the server room down to room temperature: photo by Connie Zhou/Google (via Wired, 17 October 2012)

These colorful pipes are responsible for carrying water in and out of Google's Oregon data center. The blue pipes supply cold water and the red pipes return the warm water back to be cooled.

Google data center, The Dalles, Oregon. These colorful pipes are responsible for carrying water in and out of Google's Oregon data center. The blue pipes supply cold water and the red pipes return the warm water back to be cooled: photo by Rex Features (via The Telegraph, 19 December 2012)

File:Google Data Center, The Dalles.jpg

Google data center, The Dalles, Oregon, exterior view: photo by Visitor7, 11 September 2011

File:Utah Data Center Panorama.jpg

NSA data center, Bluffdale, Utah: photo by Swilsonmc, 21 April 2013

I had always imagined paradise as a kind of library (Borges): photo by Ryan Dearth, 30 January 2011

Bibliothek ("Paradise as a kind of library"): photo by Andreas Gursky, 1999 (via The Photography Files, 25 July 2011)


awyn said...

Juxtapositioning two blog pieces--yours today and Linh Dinh's "Postcard on the End of America" essay series yesterday: massive structures to store data, some yet to receive occupants, while some economically displaced entire families are found dwelling in tiny, cramped self-storage units, an employed but homeless office worker having to sleep at night in a park's porta-potty. When the housing of citizens' data is generously funded, but affordable housing for citizens themselves becomes a line item on the fiscal chopping block. Welcome to what may slowly be becoming the new normal.

De Villo Sloan said...

Wow Tom, I think you are at your best in this one - straightforward, sharp, clear, chilling - the wake-up call each of us needs every nano-second here in the simulacra.

Could we trust fellow humans? But sure, we'll trust the machines.

Lanny Quarles said...

beautiful use of the word 'subscription' Tom. Post-Buddhist vicissitudes of the instrumentalized desiring machine, instrument, as in its collective, oeconomic, and yet orphic sense..

kent said...

Oh my, my Tom Clark, please stay as witness as long as the string will stretch. Promise me this as I fear the promise of hope broken beyond repair.

Ed Baker said...

the deer in the garden.... will deposit deer ticks in the grass
and Lyme Disease will infect everyone who works there...

not to worry.... bugs (bacteria and virus will eventually rule.... if they don't already .



The thought of a "natural"
state of things troubles
and distracts.

Google Glass is watching, game on. . .


light coming into fog against invisible
plane of ridge, red-tailed hawk calling
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

space which is with respect
to, system as seen by

setting in place, dimension,
given associated with

orange of sun in clouds at top of ridge,
fog on horizon to the left of the point

Hazen said...

What a powerful summing up, here on the eve of our national celebration of . . . of . . . oh, never mind. “The best jail is the one you don’t see.”

Wooden Boy said...

the inchoate impulse to escape

I don't think there's hope in this but it's a human trace, the ghost of a world before.

a conscious motive

To quote that gnarled Salfordian genius Mark E. Smith, "I don't know how to use freedom". We're near scuppered.

Those pipes in primary colours are very unnerving: infantilise in order more effectively to rule.

Unknown said...

As perfect a poem as a poet, in my humble opinon, could create

I was going to say Nice or Beautiful but it's not

It is an amazing poem and a sensationally comprehensive collection of photographs. The Google colors have some kind of aesthetic that is not unpleasant - yet

Google was nicer once and may have even refused to open all its doors, some years back, to the gathering force that now sends Presidents of sovereign states on new itineraries in mid-flight.

Back around 2000, before the world totally ended, there was a bubble of trading in the stock of a company named EMC (before the "", "dot.bomb" crash of April Fools Day 2000).

EMC created data storage centers, probably similar to the ones in your collection of images on this post. EMC created enough storage to equal what one analyst compared to the surface of the moon. There was not, it was said, anywhere near enough data to store in what EMC had created nor was there likely to ever be so much data or a purpose for storing it were it to accumulate. As that analysis got around people on the street decided that there would not be enough customers to make EMC profitable so the stock lost all of its value and the investors (pension funds, mutual funds, especially) were fleeced again. However the ACTUAL storage servers and units remained and someone, possibly including the folks who underwrote and sold EMC on the way up, we can imagine some likely entities, bought all that useless (at the time) data storage capacity for next to nothing in bankruptcy proceedings.

Thanks Tom for putting it all together for us again. Was wondering what you have been up to.


Derek (under the Dominoes)

Ed Baker said...

here is a bit re: Honeywell....

I was operating IBM equipment in 1962-64 (EAM, 1401, 7070) at night and going to college during the day...

they sent me to Programming School for Machine Language and COBOL

I was sent over to Honeywell to "secretly" learn how to operate their huge system...

seems like Honeywell sold out to Nippon and a French company.... then "disappeared"... NOW ? here we are;

well, now to GOOGLE "live stream of Egypt" looks like the military took over and the prime minister is running things ..

sure is good we supported those Free Democratic Elections

now they are cheering Morsi's being OVERTHROWN..

this is all very funny.... as the Egyptian military has U.S arms ? but we supported Morsi ? I'm very confused, which is not like me at all !!!

Who's in right field and who's of first ? and I don't give a damn !

Hazen said...

Derek is on to something: vacant servers, and insufficient “data” to feed the binary beasts; now add in a beady-eyed State obsessed with “security” (it’s own, not ours), and the result is greater corporate profits and increased social control using the latest electro-Panopticon. It wouldn’t be the first time that the State has jumped in to indemnify derelict “investors” from their foolish and criminal escapades. Reality isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Unknown said...

I'd like to reiterate my comment that "Network" is "As perfect a poem as a poet, in my humble opinon, could create".

Harris Schiff

For more about EMC see "What's Eating EMC", Forbes 2001 -

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Devastating, period.

TC said...

So now, as the bombs bursting in air remind us once again of What the Thunder Said... what makes anybody think those deer are for real?

Who's got the questions to which there are only these drifting phantom simulacra of answers, exploding softly in the night?

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
-- But who is that on the other side of you?

The self-storage units of the street doorways are being fought over every night. Even the dim memory of privacy must be closely guarded. Proprietary instincts may be anachronistic. But still the mechanism repeats itself, must and will.

And when the territorial skirmishes subside at the witching hour, the prayers in those paper-thin cardboard-fortified doorway office spaces are very very quiet, very very still, vespers as yet unheard in the operations rooms of the rapidly exfoliating infantilised primary-coloured-pipe-cooled regional brain-traffic-control centers.

Metadata collection skips the content and redirects straight to the real harvest, the expanding of the power of the hidden control function.

What the Glass sees is you. What you've never before seen, and probably still won't.

And next, the musical question for the ringtone on your as yet undetected googly neural data-tracking implant bug: How can I unsubscribe?

The old folks who once underwrote America by offering belief and in so doing unwittingly colluded in the accumulation of the processes of inattention and denial which eventually made possible the extraction and storage of their personal information for unknown purposes are all hiding under the table trembling now, trying not to make a peep lest the Alien turn in their direction.

And the young folks, who knows what they think.

(Is "Awesome!" a thought?)

What is that sound high in the air
Murmur of maternal lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes swarming
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
Ringed by the flat horizon only...?

Of course some did actually see all this coming... perhaps The Wasteland was actually more than mere Episcopalian doom phantasy... remembering that for many years after that, acute clarity of [extra-]social perception was routinely dismissed as mere paranoia.

''A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on.

"A psychotic is a guy who's found out what's going on.

"Paranoia is just having the right information.

''Just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.''

William S. Burroughs

TC said...

And... song to which WB usefully refers (re."I don't know how to use freedom"):

Mark E. Smith and The Fall: "Frightened", from Live at the Witch Trials, 1979

Someone's always on my tracks
In a dark room you see more than you think
I'm out of my place, got to get back
I sweated a lot, you could feel the violence

I've got shears pointed straight at my chest
And time moves slow when you count it
I'm better than them, and I think I'm the best
But I'll appear at midnight when the films close

'Cause I'm in a trance
And I sweat
I don't want to dance
I want to go home

I couldn't live in those peephole places
They might get to know my actions
I'd run away from toilets and faces
I'd run away to a non-date on the street

Cause I'm in a trance
And I sweat
I don't want to dance
I want to go home

I feel trapped by mutual affection
And I don't know how to use freedom
I spend hours looking sideways
To the time when I was sixteen

Cause I'm in a trance
I'm frightened
Amphetamine frightened

I go to the top of the street
I go to the bottom of the street
I look to the sky, my lips are dry

Unknown said...

U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement - New York Times, 4 July 2013 -

"Law enforcement officials need warrants to open the mail, although President George W. Bush asserted in a signing statement in 2007 that the federal government had the authority to open mail without warrants in emergencies or in foreign intelligence cases."

The article is worth reading in its entirety.

Also in this Independence Day issue:

U.S. Border Agency Allows Others to Use Its Drones

Let's celebrate Ted Berrigan Day and remember his departure on 4th of July (f/k/a Independence Day) 1983


Nin Andrews said...

I agree with all the comments. Really great blog pieces.
An aside . . .

I am reminded of how --when my son was graduating from CMU in computer science, his friends would laugh--well, if we can't get a job, the CIA wants us.