A while ago I organised a panel discussion around the working concept of “spaces in-between”, an attempt to put a name on what is left out of the pure binary logic of algorithms and pretentiously “objective” data-driven inferences. At the time I was mainly thinking of social implications. What happens to us as individuals and groups when our interactions and our sense of self are dominated by quantification and efficiency? Which spaces of liberty are left to express the complexity of humanity? Now reading recent news I can’t help thinking of that working concept again to describe how technology interacts with the spaces we live in, and namely how its invisibility expresses economic and political tensions.
Indeed, Germany disclosed its goal to become the EU main cloud provider (and incidentally leverage it to catch up with its delay on AI 🤹🏼♀️): the project is named Gaia-X, it is supported by France and quite timely with Ursula Von der Leyen digital sovereignty priority. So far the main cloud players are US-based and they are the default option for most EU businesses, especially startups. No real next generation of EU businesses can be put in place until this hemorrhage of data does not stop. It’s also a lot of money: a recent projection is that Europe’s public cloud market is expected to grow at a 22% rate until 2023. 📈
Meanwhile, Amazon is preparing Sidewalk, a new wireless standard relying on low bandwidth 900 MHz spectrum, with longer range and better building penetration than Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. In parallel, it also released a rich new range of all-encompassing devices, which paired with Sidewalk will build a nice self-contained ecosystem. #IoTArmageddon (On a linguistic note, this is not the first tech project that utilises the term “sidewalk” to build something that is totally the opposite of the randomness, public role and freedom granted so far by this piece of urban infrastructure. 🙄)
Microsoft, instead, is releasing Dynamics 365 Connected Store, a combination of computer vision, cameras, and IoT sensors to track customers inside stores and personalise recommendations based on their browsing and buying behavioural data. Another piece in the real-life cookies puzzle.
The physical proximity of the cloud infrastructures (check out also the latest issue of Culture Machines about the nature of data centers); the range and security of autonomous discussions in which interconnected objects engage; the degree of liberty (although the notion is shrinking to un-surveillance) in the commercial public spaces we frequent daily; even the way these projects are named. These are all different levels of everyday geopolitics challenges. It’ not “in the cloud”, it’s here and now and it requires all our attention.