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Border images, border narrativesThe political aesthetics of boundaries and crossings$
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Johan Schimanski and Jopi Nyman

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781526146267

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.7765/9781526146274

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PRINTED FROM MANCHESTER SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.manchester.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Manchester University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MSO for personal use.date: 25 June 2022

Capturing clouds: imagin(in)g the materiality of digital networks

Capturing clouds: imagin(in)g the materiality of digital networks

(p.65) 3 Capturing clouds: imagin(in)g the materiality of digital networks
Border images, border narratives

Holger Pötzsch

, Johan Schimanski, Jopi Nyman
Manchester University Press

This chapter examines the problem of territoriality and borders in the digital age through an investigation of the materiality of data clouds as well as their artistic representation by the US artist and activist Trevor Paglen. Starting from the ambiguity of the idea of capturing clouds, the chapter addresses social and political implications of the increasingly ubiquitous technology of cloud computing. What and how do data clouds capture? Are these clouds themselves captured both in physical infrastructure, ownership, state conduct and through artistic responses to their inherent dynamics? Following Amoore’s distinction between two different geographies of data clouds, the chapter addresses issues of territoriality, power and digital borders by asking where the capturing clouds behind the US National Security Agency (NSA) bulk surveillance materialise, and where such clouds fundamentally challenge spatial notions of state sovereignty and borders. Through an analysis of the artworks of the US photographer and activist Trevor Paglen that visualise the materiality of NSA surveillance, the chapter shows that Paglen reconnects the apparently fluid and ephemeral nature of digital technology and surveillance with its often classified material and institutional basis.

Keywords:   borders, border studies, border aesthetics, digital borders, technology, data clouds, National Security Agency, territoriality, sovereignty, Trevor Paglen, visual arts

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