Cloudy Streams: Grounding the Environment in Digital Media Infrastructure
Department of Communication, Media and Film
University of Windsor
Leslie M Meier
School of Media and Communication
University of Leeds
The focus of this paper is the seemingly invisible infrastructure that powers modern streaming practices. We critically examine the data server and the cloud computing sectors, focusing on the environmental implications of reliance on resource-intensive digital infrastructure. In so doing, we highlight the antagonism between models of economic and environmental sustainability as they each offer competing notions of space and time. Building on David Harvey’s concept of ‘flexible accumulation,’ we develop the notion of ‘platform accumulation’ to conceptualise the changes that have accompanied the rise of platforms and the streaming infrastructure that underpins them - shifts we understand as an acceleration and intensification of capitalist circuits of production and consumption. In this era of high-def streamable content, the infrastructure that drives the smooth functioning of on-demand, ‘always on’ content is playing an essential role in the digitalisation of the media industries. Our goal is to better understand the ecological costs associated with this increasingly indispensable, yet largely invisible, digital infrastructure.