Tung-Hui Hu - “The Victorians Built Magnificent Drains”: Waste, Leakage, and the Cloud

Prof. Tung-Hui Hu, University of Michigan Department of English and 
2014 Visiting Scholar, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University

“The Victorians Built Magnificent Drains”: Waste, Leakage, and the Cloud

In the 1980s, computer scientists noticed a new phenomenon: overly “social” or “promiscuous” users threatened to infect other users with computer viruses. Borrowing from epidemiological models of disease, and, more generally, comparing the user population to that of an overcrowded city, they transformed the risks of sharing computer resources—error, data leakage, unclean memory, crashed programs, and the like—from a set of catastrophic failures to an ongoing problem to be managed (and even, in today’s sharing economy, embraced). This talk examines the ideologies of privacy and 'digital hygiene' (Jussi Parikka) that constructed the modern user over the last 50 years. As I suggest, the best antecedent for understanding today’s cloud—and the mechanism of power that it represents—may not be the telephone, radio, television, or any other media technology. Rather, it is that ancient technology which keeps each household's private business private: the sewer.

Tung-Hui Hu


Event details
Monday, March 17, 2014 - 2:30pm - 3:30pm
BCNM Commons, 340 Moffitt Library