research design laboratory

TVNM: Facebook Data Storage Centers as the Archive’s Underbelly

As the quintessential digital archive, Facebook no longer requires an introduction; its user-base is currently estimated at one billion profiles. On the front end, it is the epitome of the postmodern living archive. Its underbelly, however, remains much less explored and theorized. What kinds of servers are required to host such large amounts of “free” information, offering up data so rapidly, across so many platforms? Taken together, these pragmatic questions inform an important theoretical intervention: these dislocated centers—existing in “enterprise zones” and arctic hideaways—not only effectively blind us to the potential environmental costs of our everyday obsession with self-archiving but also demand a serious revision of the preservation ideals that underpin the archive. This article offers up a series of provocations about data storage centers, as the archive’s underbelly, with the intent of reconnecting Facebook to the bodies and machines that enable it and the ideals that inform it.
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