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  • 1.
    Velkova, Julia
    et al.
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    Plantin, Jean-Christophe
    London School of Economics and Political Science, UK.
    Data centers and the infrastructural temporalities of digital media: An introduction2023In: New Media and Society, ISSN 1461-4448, E-ISSN 1461-7315, Vol. 25, no 2, p. 273-286Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    While data centres are predominantly studied via their spatial and territorial dimensions, we investigate this critical part of the contemporary Internet infrastructures via its temporalities and their multiple mediations. With this introduction and the articles of this special issue, we collectively complement existing scholarship on critical data studies and media infrastructure by investigating the role that data infrastructure plays in shaping the temporalities of data. Focusing on data centres, the contributors analyze the vast infrastructural assemblage that supports such temporalities. The concept of timescapes (after Barbara Adam) guides us to organize the contributions to this special issue along the analysis of three infrastructural timescapes of data—socio-economic, elemental, and transitory—to reveal new facets of the politics of time in the data economy.

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  • 2. Parks, Lisa
    et al.
    Velkova, Julia
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    De Ridder, Sander
    Introduction2023In: Media Backends: Digital Infrastructures and Sociotechnical Relations / [ed] Parks Lisa, Velkova Julia, De Ridder Sander, University of Illinois Press, 2023Chapter in book (Refereed)
  • 3.
    Ortar, Nathalie
    et al.
    LAET - Laboratoire Aménagement Économie Transports.
    Taylor, A.R.E.
    Oxford Centre for the History of Science, Medicine and Technology.
    Velkova, Julia
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    Brodie, Patrick
    UCD - University College Dublin [Dublin].
    Johnson, Alix
    Macalester College.
    Marquet, Clément
    CSI i3 - Centre de Sociologie de l'Innovation i3.
    Pollio, Andrea
    African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town.
    Cirolia, Liza
    African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town.
    Powering ‘smart’ futures: data centres and the energy politics of digitalisation2023In: Energy Futures: Anthropocene Challenges, Emerging Technologies and Everyday Life / [ed] Simone Abram, Karen Waltorp, Nathalie Ortar and Sarah Pink, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2023, p. 125-168Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Everyday life as we knew it is increasingly challenged in a world of climate, social, health and political crisis. Emerging technologies, data analytics and automation open up new possibilities which have implications for energy generation, storage and energy demand. To support these changes we urgently need to rethink how energy will be sourced, shared and used. Yet existing approaches to this problem, driven by engineering, data analytics and capital, are dangerously conservative and entrenched.

    Energy Futures critically evaluates this context, and the energy infrastructures, stakeholders, and politics that participate in it, to propose plausible, responsible and ethical modes of encountering possible energy futures. Imagining anthropocene challenges, emerging technologies and everyday life otherwise through empirically grounded studies, opens up possible energy futures.

    Energy Futures proposes and demonstrates a new critical and interventional futures-oriented energy anthropology. Combining the theories and methods of futures anthropology with the critical expertise and perspectives of energy anthropology creates a powerful mode of engagement, which this book argues is needed to disrupt the dominant narratives about our energy futures. Its contributors collectively reveal and evidence through innovative ethnographic practice how new knowledge about imagined and possible energy futures can be mobilised in engagements with emerging technologies, anthropocene challenges and everyday realities.

  • 4.
    Velkova, Julia
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    Retrofitting and ruining: Bunkered data centers in and out of time2023In: New Media and Society, ISSN 1461-4448, E-ISSN 1461-7315, Vol. 25, no 2, p. 431-448Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The political economy of the “cloud” depends on the continuous transformation of physical space to support the flow of digital commodities. Retrofitting disused infrastructure has been one of the strategies of data center operators to gain cheap access to such space. Tracking the temporal story of a retrofitted bunker in Helsinki, Finland, its conversion into a data center, and its subsequent dismantling, this article advocates for a processual perspective on data centers that does not take for granted their endurance and solidity, but instead sees them as processes of constant assembly and disassembly that interfere with multiple temporalities. I show how data center retrofitting intersects with and reforms multiple layers of historically entangled urban systems, while ruination stresses the fragility and provisional nature of these transformations, allowing to raise questions about the politics and ethics of data center dismantling that articulate data centers as a relevant object for discard studies.

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  • 5.
    Mayer, Vicki
    et al.
    Tulane University, New Orleans.
    Velkova, Julia
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    The social mapping of hyperscale data center regions: placemaking, infrastructuring, curating2023In: Media backends: digital infrastructures and sociotechnical relations / [ed] Lisa Parks, Julia Velkova, Sander De Ridder, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2023, Vol. Sidorna 141-159, p. 141-159Chapter in book (Other academic)
  • 6.
    Mayer, Vicki
    et al.
    Department of communication, Tulane University, new orleans, Louisiana, USa.
    Velkova, Julia
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    This site is a dead end? Employment uncertainties and labor in data centers2023In: The Information Society, ISSN 0197-2243, E-ISSN 1087-6537, Vol. 39, no 2, p. 112-122Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Would technological changes increase the need for human workers or eliminate them altogether? This uncertainty has produced an unresolved tension, from the industrial revolution to the rise of the information society. The data center industry has been largely invisible in public debates about this question. Yet the same tensions exist within the industry itself: Will automation create data center jobs or kill them? In this article, we work inside the “black box” – the data center, to examine uncertainties faced by those who work there. We do so through interviews and observations, first, of data center managers and executives at international trade expos, where anxieties about the shortage of data center workers but also their irrelevance were palpable. Then, we turn to a remote data center in Finland, where security guards and technical operators negotiate employment uncertainties through the biopolitics of their labor. In both sites, the uncertainties about data center employment are manifest and embodied, even if they are expressed and experienced in different ways. On both the top and bottom levels of data center hierarchies, people are discomfited by the possibility of their own redundancy. At the same time, they present the sunnier sides of data center work when they talked about their efforts to resolve ongoing issues of worker shortage, the lack of diversity in data centers, and the routines that could easily slide into boredom or anomie. We situate our findings on the long arc of capitalist transformations and discuss the insights they might provide for today’s data-driven economy in general.

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  • 7.
    Velkova, Julia
    et al.
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    Magnusson, Dick
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    Rohracher, Harald
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    Smart Thermostats and the Algorithmic Control of Thermal Comfort2022In: Everyday Automation: Experiencing and Anticipating Emerging Technologies / [ed] Sarah Pink, Martin Berg, Deborah Lupton, Minna Ruckenstein, London: Routledge, 2022, p. 171-183Chapter in book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Automated decision-making (ADM) tends to be discussed as a process of delegating and automating decisions from people to machines in the context of automation. This chapter shows instead how ADM can function as a mediating algorithmic logic that manages and generates new relationships between actors, and economies of value that may not pre-exist or are in the process of being automated. We develop this argument drawing on empirical work from an experiment with ADM in Sweden that sought to optimise and steer heat provision in everyday life through ‘smart’ thermostats. Our approach is informed by science and technology studies and perspectives on socio-technical experiments, considering them as generative of new environments and social relationships. We show how experiments with ADM where algorithms take decisions about the steering of thermal provision in everyday life can redefine the understanding of control, and power relationships between energy companies, data-driven economies, and people brought together through a common concern about temperature. 

  • 8.
    Brodie, Patrick
    et al.
    Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, Concordia University, Montréal, Canada.
    Velkova, Julia
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    Cloud ruins: Ericsson's Vaudreuil-Dorion data centre and infrastructural abandonment2021In: Information, Communication and Society, ISSN 1369-118X, E-ISSN 1468-4462Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The past decade has seen the accelerated growth and expansion of large-scale data centre operations across the world to support emerging consumer and business data and computation needs. Built out rapidly, these emergent digital infrastructures carry the promise for new local industrial futures, all while their paths to obsolescence are shortened. Their lifespans are dependent on financial speculation, shifting corporate strategies, and advances in consumer technology. In this article we track the promise and afterlife of an abruptly abandoned data centre constructed by the global telecom giant Ericsson in Vaudreuil-Dorion, a town near Montréal, Québec, Canada, in order to expand emergent debates about digital ruination. Employing site visits, press reports, and qualitative interviews with architects and staff involved with the data centre's development in Sweden and Canada, we propose ‘cloud ruins’ as a sensitising concept to capture some of the specific meanings and material articulations that the abandonment of global data infrastructures may evoke in local contexts. Simultaneously familiar and novel, cloud ruins anticipate an emergent landscape of post-digital ruination that unfolds in the built environment in peripheral communities, part of the global logistical cities from within which our contemporary understandings of digitalisation are produced.

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  • 9.
    Libertson, Frans
    et al.
    International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
    Velkova, Julia
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    Palm, Jenny
    International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, Lund University, Lund, Sweden.
    Data-center infrastructure and energy gentrification: perspectives from Sweden2021In: Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy, E-ISSN 1548-7733, Vol. 17, no 1, p. 153-162Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Which societal functions should be prioritized when the electricity grid reaches its maximumcapacity? By using Sweden as an example, this policy brief discusses the societal negotiations that arise around capacity deficits of the electricity grid. By introducing the term energy gentrification, we aim to highlight the potential dangers of failing to recognize that energy also constitutes a societal resource, and like any other resource of the built environment, it is exposed to the risk of exploitation if left unprotected. We propose energy gentrification as an analytical perspective, through which negotiations and potential conflicts can be studied when grid owners must prioritize who should be connected to the grid. In relationto previous research on gentrification, we identify several parallels to the Swedish caseof data centers, such as the relative prioritization of global versus local capital, the competition over resources, the allusion to promises of job opportunities and regional development for justification, and the trade offs between common goods versus private interests. The perspectiveof energy gentrification offers a useful approach for inquiring into the ethical dimensions of energy policies and for highlighting the bureaucratic nature of energy policy decision-making. The policy brief concludes by proposing opportunities for future research.

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  • 10.
    Velkova, Julia
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    Radiant Infrastructures: Media, Environment, and Cultures of Uncertainty by Rahul Mukherjee. Durham: Duke University Press, 2020. 288 pp., $26.95 (paperback). ISBN: 978-1-4780-0806-42021In: Television and New Media, ISSN 1527-4764, E-ISSN 1552-8316, Vol. 22, no 6, p. 721-723Article, book review (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    n/a

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  • 11.
    Taylor, A.R.E.
    et al.
    Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, United Kingdom.
    Velkova, Julia
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    Sensing data centres2021In: Sensing (In)Security: sensors as transnational security infrastructures / [ed] Nina Klimburg-Witjes, Nikolaus Poechhacker & Geoffrey C. Bowker, Mattering Press , 2021, p. 287-298Chapter in book (Other academic)
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  • 12.
    Velkova, Julia
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    Thermopolitics of data: cloud infrastructures and energy futures2021In: Cultural Studies, ISSN 0950-2386, E-ISSN 1466-4348, Vol. 35, no 4-5, p. 663-683Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This article develops the notion of a thermopolitics of data to describe an ongoing infrastructural integration of the platform economy with energy politics through the mediation of heat. Building on fieldwork conducted at a data centre owned by a major Russian digital platform that, since 2016, has been the main source of heating for the Finnish town of Mäntsälä, the article analyzes the ways in which the materialities of heat and data get mobilized by different actors to produce a new object—the data centre as a thermal urban infrastructure. Situating these processes in a history of shifting scientific and popular understandings of future fuels, and of the relation between information and energy, the article extends emergent scholarly literature on the cultures of thermal manipulation that underpin digital media. An enquiry into the thermopolitics of data illuminates the ways in which bodies and spaces are silently integrated and infrastructurally organized to simultaneously function as objects of quantification, commodification and differentiation, and the provisioning of thermal regulation and human care for these practices. In the formation of these relations, new regulatory, ethical and epistemological questions about the relationship between data, agency and energy arise.

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  • 13.
    Bolin, Göran
    et al.
    Södertörn University, Södertörn, Sweden.
    Velkova, Julia
    University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.
    Audience-metric continuity? Approaching the meaning of measurement in the digital everyday2020In: Media Culture and Society, ISSN 0163-4437, E-ISSN 1460-3675, p. 1-17Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This article argues for an expansion of existing studies on the meaning of metrics in digitalenvironments by evaluating a methodology tested in a pilot study to analyse audienceresponses to metrics of social media profiles. The pilot study used the software toolFacebook Demetricator by artist Ben Grosser in combination with follow-up interviews.In line with Grosser’s intentions, the software indeed provoked reflection among theusers. In this article, we reflect on three kinds of disorientations that users expressed,linked to temporality, sociality and value. Relating these to the history of audiencemeasurement in mass media, we argue that there is merit in using this methodologyfor further analysis of continuities in audience responses to metrics, in order to betterunderstand the ways in which metrics work to create the ‘audience commodity’.

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  • 14.
    Velkova, Julia
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    The Art of Guarding the Russian Cloud: Infrastructural Labour in a Yandex Data Centre in Finland2020In: Digital Icons: Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media, ISSN 2043-7633, Digital Icons: Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media, no 20, p. 47-63Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    This visual essay discusses digital labour in a Yandex data centre located in Finland.Drawing on a combination of visual ethnography, elicitation interviews and participantobservation that took place in Yandex’ only data centre located outside Russia between 2018and 2019, I show how the labour of maintaining a crucial part of Russian internet consumptionand data practices is contingent on the creative work of everyday inhabiting and humanisingthe industrial space of the data centre. With feminist art critique Lucy Lippard’s(1974/2010), and anthropologist Mary Douglas’s (1991) ideas of home, I suggest how workin the data centre rests upon mobilising traditionally feminine domestic crafts and hobby artwork such as gardening, cooking, and waste reuse as mode of critique and ultimately, atransformational rehabilitation of a space designed to cater for the machines rather than forthe people who care for machines.

  • 15.
    Velkova, Julia
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Technology and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    The ethics of reciprocal communication2020In: Media activist research ethics: global approaches to negotiating power in social justice research / [ed] Sandra Jeppesen, Paola Sartoretto, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020, p. 157-173Chapter in book (Refereed)
  • 16.
    Velkova, Julia
    et al.
    University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.
    Kaun, Anne
    Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden.
    Algorithmic resistance: media practices and the politics of repair2019In: Information, Communication and Society, ISSN 1369-118X, E-ISSN 1468-4462, Information, Communication & Society, ISSN 1369-118X, 1468-4462, p. 1-18Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    The article constitutes a critical intervention in the current, dramatic debate on the consequences of algorithms and automation for society. While most research has focused on negative outcomes, including ethical problems of machine bias and accountability, little has been said about the possibilities of users to resist algorithmic power. The article draws on Raymond Williams’ work on media as practice to advance a framework for studying algorithms with a focus on user agency. We illustrate this framework with the example of the media activist campaign World White Web by the Swedish artist and visual designer Johanna Burai. We suggest that user agency in relation to algorithms can emerge from alternative uses of platforms, in the aftermath of algorithmic logics, and give birth to complicit forms of resistance that work through ‘repair’ politics oriented towards correcting the work of algorithms. We conclude with a discussion of the ways in which the proposed framework helps us rethink debates on algorithmic power.

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  • 17.
    Velkova, Julia
    University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.
    Data Centres as Impermanent Infrastructures2019In: Culture Machine, E-ISSN 1465-4121, no 18Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    We are used to assuming that media infrastructures are made to last. This essay argues for taking impermanence as a point of departure in order to understand data centres’ power to reshape global and local peripheries into temporary nodes for value extraction, as well as the ways in which data centres influence the topography of global internet connectivity. By contrasting the discourses through which data centres are often represented in the media against their design and the wasteful materialities that underpin their operation, the essay opens up temporality and impermanence of data centres as a new theme for critical intervention that extends earlier discussions on the environmental impact of data centres, and their politics of territoriality.

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