Nubecene: What’s in a Name?

Fiber optic cables are thinner than human hairs

In recent years, geologists have come to a consensus that human activities have so markedly impacted planetary systems that we have inaugurated a new epoch of our own design, one with chemical signatures that are visible in the tissues of the Earth’s crust, in the waters that cover its surface and in the atmosphere that shields us from radiation and regulates our climate. They call it the Anthropocene. Since then, scholars of many varieties have debated about the term, criticizing it on grounds that only industrial capitalist societies and practices are to blame for the current state of the planet, introducing additional terms like Capitalocene or Plantationocene to setup a clearer locus for who or what is causing the degradation of the Earth system. Donna Haraway urges us to look below to the chthonic, terran depths and to welcome and ponder what it means to thrive on a dying planet. This blog urges us to look up to the clouds, to the astral plane of silicon surfaces and invisible networked infrastructures that cast their tendrils over land and sea to connect the peoples of the world via the internet and an array of impenetrable black boxes known as “Cloud” services.

Data centers are IT facilities that store and process internet content including this blog.

Nubecene strives to situate and unravel many of the technical aspects of the “Cloud”, and point to how developments in the information technology sector impact us socially, politically, ecologically and biologically. Nubecene points to a set of transformations on a planetary scale that information technology is precipitating. I draw from the Latin root for cloud, “nube”, to refer to a novel epoch (“cene”) that runs parallel to those proposed by others but is more specific in its insistence that information technology is transforming our planet, our species, and our ways of life in a magnitude unprecedented in the history of technology. Nubecene brings together the voices of scholars, artists, technicians and activists who are trying to describe how information technology is changing us and our world for better or worse.

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